Buniyaad was directed by Ramesh Sippyand written by Manohar Shyam Joshi. It was first aired on Doordarshan in 1986. The 104 episodes told the story of a Punjabi family that was affected by the tragedy of Partition in 1947, and later, dealt with its aftermath over seven decades and multiple generations. The show imitated life, and that was perhaps why it appealed to thousands of viewers, many of who related to it due to their experiences during Partition.
Alok Nath, who played the role of Master Haveliram, a freedom fighter, recalls, “It was close to the India they (audience) knew back then. The audience comprised people who had gone through the trauma and devastation of Partition. They loved it, and not just here, but in Pakistan too. As an actor, I was struggling at that time. But, I had worked in another serial that Sippy Films had produced. Amit Khanna, the supervising producer, loved my work in it, and recommended me for the role of Haveliram.”
Sippy didn’t want known actors for the show. He wanted the audience to connect with the characters. So, he signed fresh faces like Nath, Kanwaljeet Singh and Kruttika Desai. Established actors like Anita Kanwar, Sudhir Pandey, Asha Sharma, Girija Shankar and Rajesh Puri added weight to the show. In fact, the negative character of Shyamlal, played by Vinod Nagpal, became so popular that it remained etched in the minds of the audience for a really long time.
The actors had to give the show a year of their lives, despite it being a weekly. “It would take three-four days to shoot an episode and dub for it,” says Nath, adding, “The initial 26 episodes were shot in 16mm. Sippy saab never cared about the number of takes, so long as he got the perfect shot. We would rehearse the scene multiple times, and the cameraman and Sippy saab would watch us. Once they were ready, we would shoot it. After every take, we would wait for his nod. It took a few minutes, as he analysed the shot in his head. It was a pleasure to work with Mr Sippy, who had so much talent and knowledge of cinema.”
Watch the first episode of Buniyaad here
The story started with 20-year-old Haveliram, who, post a leap on the show, is featured as a middle-aged man with grown-up sons. “Everyone thought I was an old man in real life (Nath was in his twenties at that time). I started getting similar roles, and was stuck in the image for a decade,” says Nath. The return of Haveliram (he goes missing during Partition) received an overwhelming reaction from the audience, proving that TV was indeed a powerful medium.
The show also had many star-crossed love stories, like Veerwali-Vrishbhaan (Kiran Juneja and Vijayendra Ghatge) and Satbir-Mangala (Singh and Desai), that brought about many twists. Singh’s role as Satbir, Vrishbhaan’s illegitimate child, got him recognition. Apparently, Sippy wanted to cast Singh in another role. But Singh felt that the role of Satbir had more potential. He even lost 10kg to look younger. On the other hand, Sippy fell in love with Kiran on the show’s sets, and married her after the series ended.
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