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Reality may have entered the mainstream soaps only recently, but it was Doordarshan with true-to-life dailies like Hum Log, Buniyaad and Rajni, comic capers like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, and epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat that ruled our living rooms before the sky revolution.

tv Updated: Oct 28, 2009 15:28 IST

Reality may have entered the mainstream soaps only recently, but it was Doordarshan with true-to-life dailies like Hum Log, Buniyaad and Rajni, comic capers like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, and epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat that ruled our living rooms before the sky revolution.

On Sunday mornings, when Ram and Laxman set out in the jungles and the Kauravas and the Pandavas settled scores, mobs would gather outside TV showrooms and cabbies refused even long distance fares.

Ratings were in double digits, sometimes crossing the 50 points barrier.

Today, five decades later, Doordarshan’s reach is limited to small towns and remote interiors. In the metros, it is the satellite channels that rule the TRP charts. Yet, the national broadcaster remains unchallenged as far as numbers go.
In terms of popularity too, the overwhelming response to the above mentioned shows and more remains unmatched. Which is probably why in its 50th year, DD has returned with a bang on home entertainment.

A quick checklist:

Alif Laila
Available in a pack of 50 VCDs (Rs 1,399) on Moserbaer
This Arabian Nights fantasy adventure ran over two seasons, 143 episodes in each season. The dialogue was in Urdu yet the show found a following.
Lead actor Shanawaz Khan became a household name. A cool buy for your kids.

Shri Krishna
Available in sets of 2 VCDs IN a set (Rs 750), 4-5 sets, on Moserbaer
Swapnil Joshi made his debut as the young Krishna in this show that ran in two parts, one on Doordarshan in 1993, the other on Zee in 1999.
The first part covered 156 episodes, each episode running into 55 minutes. Part 2 comprised 52 episodes running into 49 minutes each.
The older Krishna was played by Sarvadaman Bannerji, his only claim to fame.
If mythology is your idea of entertainment, go for it. Never mind if you were tuned into Jai Shri Krishna on Colors recently. That one only covered Krishna’s life till Kansvadh.

Vikram Betaal
Available in a pack of 9 VCDs
(Rs 900)
The show was based on the popular book, Betaal Pachhisi. It was initially aired on Doordarshan at 4 pm on Sunday. A bad slot yet it garnered 50 points TRPs almost every week during its run.
The show had 25 episodes, each detailing one story with a moral. Dipika and Arun Govil were discovered while making this show and cast as Ram and Sita in Ramayan.

Bharat Ek Khoj
Available in a pack of 20 DVDs
(normal format) for Rs 20,000 or
9 DVDs (compressed) for Rs 13, 000
This is one of the most expensive DVDs released by Doordarshan. The show was based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s book, Discovery Of India.
It spanned 53 episodes highlighting the different aspects of Indian culture and life. It was among the most loved non-fiction shows on DD ever.
A must-have DVD (though expensive) for those with children in need of history
lessons. Orders for it are even placed by noted historians.

Akbar The Great
Available in a pack of 20 VCDs
(Rs 600) or 10 DVDs (Rs 1,499) on Moserbaer
This was one of actor-producer-director Akbar Khan’s better works. It can be traced back to 1988. Over 200 professionals were employed to create the sets and the
The show easily boasts of having the maximum number of extras and animals to make for authentic looking sequences that recreated history.
Akbar The Great ran for a year-and-a-half. Museums had lent their Mughal era properties to Khan to add appropriate flamboyance to his epic extravaganza.

Available in a pack of 24 VCDs
(Rs 2,799) or 8 DVDs (Rs 2,999) on Pen Video
Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi not only directed the show but played the title role too, sitting in the middle of political backstabbing between 340 and 320 BC. Spread over 47 episodes, it was made in 1990 and was lavishly praised for its authenticity and artistry. At the same time, it also faced criticism for its pro-Hindutva subtext, a charge that Dwivedi strongly refuted.

Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi
Available in a pack of 22 VCDs
(Rs 999) or 11 DVDs (Rs 1,299) on Shemaroo
The show was written by Sharad Joshi, a popular figure in contemporary Hindi literature, and dealt with the hassles in a common man’s life.
It ran over two seasons, every episode of 30-minutes duration. Aired every Friday, it apparently affected the box office collections of films. A great buy.

Malgudi Days
Available in a pack of 18 VCDs
(Rs 1,200 approx) on BIG Home Video
The show had a recent re-run on a leading Hindi entertainment channel. If you’ve missed it, then add this mega pack to your collection.
The stories are still as engaging as they were then and sure to be a favourite with your kids too.

Dekh Bhai Dekh
Available in a pack of 9 DVDs
(Rs 1,275) on Captain Home Video
This one was about a joint family living in Mumbai that was Bombay in the 1990s. The show was presented by Jaya Bachchan and directed by Anand Mahendroo. It was a riot with Shekhar Suman, Farida Jalal, Navin Nischol and Bhavana Balsavar at their hilarious best.
The show is now being turned into a movie by Shekhar Suman and will feature him along with son Adhyayan. Before that happens and kills all the fun, go catch the classic comedy on DVD.

The Sword of Tipu Sultan
Available in a pack of 12 DVDs (Rs 1, 575)
On ultra
Made by Sanjay Khan, the show depicts the fierce battle, and the resulting intrigues, treachery and the adventures in the time of the great ruler of Mysore.
The principal character was Mahadji Scindia.
Produced and directed by Sanjay Khan who also played the title role, it had music by Khayyam and toplined Shahbaaz Khan, Pariksheet Sahani, Farida Jalal, Tom Alter, Irfan Khan, Mrinal, Kartika Rane and Mukesh Khanna amongst
others. While shooting for this show, a major fire broke out on the sets. Khan among several others was badly burnt. While he was recuperating, his brother Akbar Khan kept the show going. A great history lesson on the small screen.

Tenali Rama
Available in a single DVD pack (Rs 200)
The show covered only 12 episodes. Yet, TS Nagbharna’s folksy adventure enjoyed one of the most successful runs on Doordarshan.

Based in south India, revolving around the great wit, Tenali Raman, it was a lesson in morals for kids back in the ’80s. It works even today in the 21st century. A regional channel still airs re-runs to a rapt audience.