Film-maker Amol Palekar’s TV show, Kachchi Dhoop — a story about the innocence of childhood — found a strong connect with audiences, especially kids, when it went on air in 1987.
The show revolved around the heart-wrenching tribulations of a mother and her three daughters, played by Bhagyashree (who made her acting debut with this show), Shalmalee Palekar and Purnima Pathwardhan. Written by Chitra Palekar, the TV serial touched upon topics like love, sacrifice, and the simple joys of adolescence.
“What do kids talk about, what they think about the world, their feelings and aspirations — all this and more was featured on the show. That’s why it was so well-received,” says Bhagyashree. The actor reveals that she didn’t have any time to prepare for her character, as Palekar offered her the role a day before the shoot was to begin. “I had not acted in my life, so I went on the sets with a thousand questions. It was tough initially, but it became easier since I knew Amol uncle. He was a family friend, and his daughter, Shyamalee, was playing my sister on the show. We all bonded well. The girl brigade had a great time teasing the boys — Ashutosh Gowariker and Prashant Bhatt,” adds the actor.
Ashutosh, who played Nikhil sir on the show, was selected by Palekar after he watched his performance in film-maker Ketan Mehta’s Holi (1984). “More than the character that I was going to play, I was extremely excited to be working with Amol da. I was a huge fan of his work. I had submitted completely to Amol da and Chitra tai. Both of them loved my smile,” says Ashutosh. Since he was not a trained actor, Ashutosh reveals that he used to observe others on the sets, and was guided by Palekar. “Chitra tai would tell me about the finer nuances of the character, which helped me while performing. Her writing was very tight and Amol da created a very poignant world with this family — their interactions, fights, arguments, and the maturing of the three girls,” he adds.
The actor-turned-director also says that as the show garnered popularity, it made him realise the “power of television”. “I was liked by the audience, which became evident with the response I got wherever I went. It was also my first introduction to the power of television. The number of viewers it takes for a movie to become a silver jubilee, that number saw my show in just one night. It was instant recognition. In fact, Sooraj (Barjatya; film-maker) had auditioned me for Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), hoping to cast the pair of Kachchi Dhoop (Ashutosh and Bhagyashree) in the film. But, Salman (Khan) beat me to it (laughs),” says Ashutosh.
The tremendous response to the show had overwhelmed Bhagyashree as well. She got the real taste of her popularity during a trip abroad. “I went to Washington (USA) with my parents, and while visiting a museum, a huge crowd of school kids came running towards me. They were excited to meet me, and took my autographs too,” she says.
On the other hand, remembering her interactions with Ashutosh while working on the show, Bhagyashree says that they “got along really well”. She adds, “Since he was older than the other actors, there were a lot of things to talk to him about.” Ashutosh, too, had “a lot of fun shooting with three bubbly, naughty and enthusiastic co-actors”. He says, “Bhagyashree was extremely affable, and a very good co-actor. Shalmalee was the funny one, and Pinky (Purnima) was the demanding one.”