Katha Sagar, which started airing in 1986, featured stories by popular authors. The show received instant success, as it brought together classic literature from all over the world, and also starred some of the most popular faces from Indian television and films.
Every episode had a new story to tell from a collection that included The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant, A Cup Of Tea by Katherine Mansfield, and Leo Tolstoy’s God Sees The Truth, But Waits, and Chameleon by Anton Chekhov, among others. While the essence of the stories was kept intact, certain changes were made to suit the sensibilities of Indian viewers. There were two other shows, Darpan and Ek Kahaani, airing dramatised versions of stories written by Indian authors. That’s when producers Prem Krishen Malhotra and Sunil Mehta decided to start something like this.
Famous actors like Ashok Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, Utpal Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Om Puri, Saeed Jaffrey and Moushmi Chatterjee, among others were part of the show. Eight renowned directors, including Shyam Benegal, Kundan Shah, Ved Rahi and Satyen Bose, directed the episodes.
“We wanted to give the Hindi-speaking audience a taste of literature by adapting classic stories, written by foreign writers. I really enjoyed directing the episodes. Episodics were a novelty back then. It was challenging to narrate a story in just 30 minutes, and express a range of emotions. Half our job was already done, as we had such excellent stories. They were all powerful plots,” says Benegal.
While there were many stories that he directed in the show, Benegal’s favourite was The Last Leaf, which starred Supriya Pathak and Neena Gupta. “Some of the stories were terrifying, and others were lovely and touching. The audience loved to watch these mini-features. Katha Sagar gave a wonderful opportunity to actors as well. It became a stepping stone to the Hindi film industry for many,” he adds.
The story: Episodic stories adapted from classics written by renowned authors.
Corrigendum: In the last week’s column, Screen Savers, on the 1987 TV show, Chunauti, it was erroneously mentioned that Madan Kumar and late Sanjiv Bhattacharya directed the show. Sanjiv Bhattacharya was the solo director of Chunauti.