Banegi Apni Baat: How the show brought freshness to Indian TV
From pimples to pre-marital sex, we covered it all,” says producer-director Deeya Singh, who was in her early twenties when she made the show with her husband Tony Singh. “We would watch American shows and see that none of the Indian TV shows had a similar flavour. When we got a chance to make a youthful show, which was cute and light, but with family values and was about relationships, we went ahead with it,” says Deeya.
Banegi Apni Baat was on air for four years. It focused on college life, family drama, young romance and complicated relationships. Sutapa Sikdar joined the Singhs for this venture and wrote the script. The show starred actors such as Irrfan Khan, R Madhavan, Shefali Shah, Anita Kanwal, Divya Seth, Achint Kaur, Raman Trikha, Roshini Achreja, Firdaus Dadi, Sadiya Siddiqui, Varun Badola, Rakhee Tandon and Rituraj, among others.
It also had many kissing scenes, “which was novel”. However, Deeya says they weren’t “sensationalised”. She says, “There was so much warmth and love among the unit members. It was the best phase of our lives. The story moved forward organically, and what helped was that we chose actors who were similar to the characters. They brought their own personalities to the roles and that, in turn, added to their portrayal.” While they didn’t have trouble casting for the characters, Deeya says that for the sultry Priya’s role, they wanted a taller girl, but locked Sadiya when she nailed the part during the audition.
Sadiya can’t believe she agreed to kiss on the show. “When I was asked if I was comfortable kissing on screen, I said, ’Sure, if the guy is good-looking.’ Today, I can’t imagine giving such a reply. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the role. It had many layers, from being the popular girl in college to the woman who loses her husband and fights with her mother-in-law (Mrs Seth). The scenes with Kanwalji, who played Mrs Seth, were fabulous. People especially liked the way I said ‘Momji’. Not many know that I was called for Riya’s role initially, but they liked my audition as Priya more. I was a rebel, so I enjoyed playing Priya. I think Deeya made everyone kiss on the show,” she says with a laugh.
Raman, who played the role of the flirty playboy Rahul, saw huge fame back then. He says, “It was bold and beautiful. I was called for auditions four times. By the time I got the part, my enthusiasm had dwindled. But the show became a huge hit as soon as it went on air, and we had fun. While it was easy for actors such as Irrfan, Divya and Anitaji to act, for us, youngsters, every day was like an exam. It was a superb learning experience.”
Riya (Firdaus) and Rahul’s love story, with Priya (Sadiya) forming a triangle, caught the viewers’ attention, as did the struggle of Radhaji (Surekha) and her three daughters - Riya, Ritu (Roshni) and Richa (Shefali). Rituraj made his mark while playing Vicky, who had an on-and-off relationship with Ritu.
Sutapa was initially “hesitant” to get husband Irrfan on board, but “after he auditioned, our doubts dispersed”. Deeya was glad she cast him in the role of Kumar, an abusive father who later takes care of his sons. She also recalls Madhavan’s audition, and says, “He waited the whole day as we were shooting non-stop since lunch. But the schedule was so hectic that we forgot about him. In the end, we took his audition, and everyone loved him. He played a guy from Goa who falls for Riya.”