Whenever I hear the words 'Doordarshan serials,' I can only think of DD's golden years in the Eighties, when it telecast shows such as Hum Log, Buniyaad, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Circus, Fauji etc. And - honest confession -- I haven't watched any of DD's fiction shows for many years now. (So have I missed out on some great programming? I'll leave it to Doordarshan viewers to answer that question for me).
I have always wondered though why DD didn't do what it had done in the Eighties - that is, get talented directors from the film industry to make interesting, quality serials for them. Well, finally that seems to have happened. Saeed Akhtar Mirza (who made - among other things - that memorable quartet of films with unforgettable names: Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro; plus TV serials like Nukkad) has just begun a new show on DD called Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan. It's just two episodes old and is an intriguing mix of fiction and reality. A foreign-educated city girl, Megha, sets off with a five-member crew to make a TV show about discovering her country - much against the wishes of her father, who runs a TV channel (and who claims no one will watch such a show; viewers only want to watch their usual dramas). But I think he was wrong.
Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan has a very simple, pared-down, documentary feel to it but I found myself drawn into Megha's journey. Her travels begin in Gujarat and as she drives down the dusty roads of the State, across the Rann of Kutch and the Banni grasslands, you become a co-passenger. You can almost feel the heat when she gets off the car, head covered with a scarf, and you can feel her disappointment when she tries to talk to a group of Rabadiyas walking down the road, only to be rebuffed. She discovers that while she may want to know about them, for them, she's an unwelcome presence (she does sound a bit brusque at times).
Megha's journey has just started but it has a lot of promise. This is not a glamorous show. But it has a real feel. (Quibble: couldn't the title have been more interesting? Just the name, 'Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan' on a static barren brown background isn't the most inviting opening).
Meanwhile, Life OK began a new reality show, Welcome - Baazi Mehmaan Nawazi Ki (based on the international series Come Dine With Me). Five TV celebrities go to each other's homes for dinner and then rate each other's food, presentation etc. Sounds innocuous but when you have participants like the nasty Ragini Khanna (whose sole aim on the show seemed to be to humiliate co-participant Nigaar Khan in every episode) and the bizarre Andy (who has the world's scariest laugh), Welcome… was more about fighting than about food. The host-cum-judge is Ram Kapoor who seemed quite out of sorts. Not enthused to watch the next lot of tiresome celebrities bitch about each other.