At a time when TV serials were shot only in studios, Dastaan was a breath of fresh air on Indian television. Set in Dubai, UAE, the show captured the city’s skyline, sand dunes and grandeur. Starring Parmeet Sethi, Ashish Vidyarthi, Navni Parihar, Nishigandha Wad and Imran Khan, Dastaan was about the rivalry between two businessmen — Karan Kapoor and Lankesh.
“The show’s novelty was its creative and crisp direction. The fabulous outdoor location, of course, added to its charm,” says Parmeet, adding that while he had done a couple of hit TV shows earlier, Dastaan made him “famous”. “My character (Karan) was complex. He had grey shades. He cheated on his wife and yet the audience rooted for him,” he says.
For one of the episodes, Parmeet and Ashish had to shoot a scene in the middle of a desert, when the temperature was 50 degrees Celsius. “That was crazy. We died shooting (smiles),” says Parmeet. But those scenes, he tells us, turned out well. “The biggest risk was the story. Had that not clicked with the audience, the show would have fizzled out. The villain (Lankesh) was popular, and that worked for the show.” Besides India, the series was also received well in Pakistan.
How it began
Parmeet and Ashish were working on a TV show, Kurukshetra, when the producer of Dastaan, Vijay Malhotra, approached them. Ashish says, “Vijay told me he saw me on TV in an episode of Kurukshetra. He knew I’d fit the role of Lankesh. We didn’t know how the show would be shot or what its scale would be. But Vijay was passionate about the project. We would stay at his villa. His cooks would make food for the unit. It was a family-like atmosphere.” Parmeet didn’t want to do another TV show at the time, as he was focusing on films. “Vijay asked me to quote my price and convinced me to come on board. I didn’t know the story when I came on board, but I took that risk. It paid off,” says Parmeet.
The crew in Dubai, however, was not trained to shoot a TV show. Parmeet says, “The head of department had to work hard as the director was new. It was all Ram bharose (in the hands of God). But the producer was hands-on and resourceful. He got us to shoot in five-star hotels, golf courses, a desert, grand bungalows, etc. Today, no one can make a show on that level.” Parmeet also recalls the day when he had to wrap up three days of shooting in one. “I shot from 9am till past midnight. We canned 27 scenes. It was a record for me,” he says.
Parmeet was admired for his good looks, which got him a huge fan following. But he didn’t understand the fame. “I couldn’t fathom the love I received. When it is happening, you don’t understand its depth. I would be mobbed in Mumbai, London, UK, and Dubai,” he says.
Nishigandha, who played the role of Karan’s ex-girlfriend, remembers shooting at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. “We cut a cake to celebrate the show’s success. Mr Malhotra said that viewers initially watched the show to see Dubai. Now, they looked forward to the storyline. The show was realistic. Working on it was a wonderful experience,” she says.