The era of TV serial making in our country began with Harish Khanna, the head of Doordarshan (DD). Khanna, categorically was in favour of entertainment, educational and patriotic content. DD ably carried the responsibility of infotainment media. Patriotic TV serials were consistently shown on DD and achieved phenomenal success in meaningful and popular broadcasting.
The overwhelming response they received motivated the launch of private TV channels. However, these channels failed to make popular TV serials as compared to DD. Initially, satellite channels didn’t focus on the subject at all. With the passage of time, DD’s effort also lagged behind. DD’s efforts today are a far cry from its time of inception.
The 1985 TV series “Kahan Gaye Woh Log” can be looked upon as the beginning of the golden era of patriotic TV broadcasting. The first episode was telecast on 29 December 29, 1985. “Azadi Ki Kahani” followed suit but couldn’t leave a lasting impression. “Kahan Gaye Woh Log”, since its inception, won an overwhelming response. Then Vice President of India, Mr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, presented the foundation (Aadharshila) award for best patriotic serial to “Kahan Gaye Woh Log”.
Recollecting the serial itself is a patriotic experience. Produced and directed by film actor Dhiraj Kumar, it had big names such as Manoj Kumar, the iconic actor who immortalised the character of Bharat. The veteran played a key role in broadcasting of the serial and its immortal patriotic stories won wide recognition. Its success paved the way for production of other serials. Patriotism, along with the history of the freedom struggle was being promoted to bring about educational and cultural unity. This era proved to be a golden one with almost all serials gaining popularity.
Well-known filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee took to small screen and made “Hum Hindustani“. It was all about four women in a hospital, each belonging to a different religion. The serial showed the importance of human relations in spite of religious distinctions.
Another 1986 series, “Bahadur Shah Zafar” premiered on September 1. It took the initiative to dedicate a series to the last Mughal emperor. Well-known actor Ashok Kumar played the main character. Thanks to BR Chopra, the emperor found his due recognition. Highly encouraged by the success of the serial, Chopra further produced two more serials for DD. Bollywood’s old doyen maintained his cause for India’s cultural unity and integrity.
“Buniyaad“, written by Manohar Shyam Joshi, successfully depicted the pains and atrocities of the people of the country, post-partition. Famous filmmaker Ramesh Sippy directed “Buniyaad” and rest is history. “Buniyaad” is a milestone .
The golden era also saw the likes of Shyam Benegal conceptualizing a TV series on Jawaharlal Nehru’s popular book – “The Discovery of India”. Benegal did his job right with rigorous amounts of research and study. It was Benegal’s dedication that made “Bharat Ek Khoj” a milestone. The series is still looked upon as a great source of information on India.
Many well known actors were cast in the show such as Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi, to name few. Roshan Seth, who anchored the serial, played the character of Jawaharlal Nehru. A near look alike of Nehru, Seth very soon became a household name.
Manju Singh made “Swaraj”, an epic series highlighting the concept of self-rule. The story was about freedom fighters and their struggle. The serial, in the first attempt of its kind, recreated the high points of the freedom movement.
Balwant Gargi’s “Sanjha Chulha” and Col. Kapoor’s “Fauji” are also worth mentioning. “Fauji” focused on the lives of army men. Fauji ‘s great success empowered the nation’s sensibilities. Shahrukh Khan, one of the lead actors on the show, shot to fame with Fauji. The cast and crew won rave reviews and Khan switched to the big screen.
The golden journey of patriotic serials however continued with the likes of “Jhansi Ki Rani”, “The Sword of Tipu Sultan”, “The Great Maratha” and “Yug”.
“The Sword of Tipu Sultan“, a magnum opus by Sanjay Khan, aesthetically depicted the life and struggle of the brave Tipu. It can be looked upon as a reference point on the life of Tipu Sultan. Khan himself enacted the character of Tipu and was well supported by Shahbaz Khan, Anant Mahadevan and Pramod Moutho.
“Jhansi Ki Rani” proved significant as the serial recreated the valour of Lakshmibai. Sanjay Khan, banking on the success of Tipu Sultan made “The Great Maratha”, a storyline about Maratha warriors, a topic not touched earlier.
Sunil Agnihotri’s “Yug” can also be mentioned here. An explosion of revolutionary sentiments, Yug ran for more than three hundred episodes. The golden run of patriotic serials on DD continued with AS Bedi’s “Ye Gulistaan Hamara”, Raj Babbar’s “Main Dilli Hoon” and Gufi Paintal’s “Maharana Pratap”.
Long live our republic.