One of the most iconic sitcoms of all time, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, starring Shafi Inamdar, Swaroop Sampat, Rakesh Bedi and Satish Shah, was written by acclaimed writer Sharad Joshi and directed by Kundan Shah, Manjul Sinha and Raman Kumar. The show went on to become so popular that it even started affecting the business of films, as it used to be aired late on Friday nights. It started in 1984, and was on air for 61 episodes. Its uptempo title track, sung by Kishore Kumar, is still remembered by many.
The serial revolved around a married couple, Ranjit Verma (Shafi) and Renu Verma (Swaroop), who had the latter’s unemployed annoying younger brother, Raja (Rakesh) living with them. Satish played a different character in every episode, and was always the highlight of each one. “Not everyone had TV sets back then, so a lot of people used to watch the show in their neighbours’ houses. Once a woman walked up to me and said, ‘My husband says that if you want to fight with me, fight like Renu, because she is so adorable when she fights,’” says Swaroop.
She also believes that the success of the show wasn’t a fluke, as everyone who worked on it knew that they had worked towards making a superior product. “The director and the scriptwriter worked hard, so that it could all be smooth sailing. Even though people feel that working on a comedy show is easy, we used to work really hard. Initially, the media thought that we (the cast) had nothing better to do, so we were doing TV. It was looked down upon at that time,” says Swaroop.
Rakesh adds that once the show became popular, everyone realised “the power of TV”. “After the first three episodes were aired, the show became quite successful,” he says, adding, “I didn’t know Shafi and Swaroop, even though I was familiar with their theatre work. But all of us gelled very well, and that reflected in our work.”
However, working on the show wasn’t a cakewalk. “I actually used to get tanned because of the harsh lights that were used on the sets. We would do one scene eight times, and then select the best one. We used to work long hours. In fact, once I had to travel to Japan for an ad shoot, so we shot for 36 hours straight to keep the episodes ready,” says Swaroop, adding that since she was the only woman on the sets, she used to get pampered a lot.
Talking about his character, Rakesh says, “Sharadji told me that every household has a Raja. He’s that one relative who annoys you, but you have to put up with him. He could be an uncle or a brother.” He also reveals that even though he was asked by many people to make a remake of the show, he feels that “every show has its time and age, and you can’t recreate it after that”.
The actor was an important part of the show, as he played different characters in each episode — from a lawyer, a friend of the family, to even a total stranger. He earned immense popularity for his versatile acts on this serial.
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