I still remember how much I waited for the four amazing television shows on Doordarshan. Those days were simply the most glorious days of Doordarshan-
- Vyomkesh Bakshi
- Bharat Ek Khoj
- Malgudi Days
‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ was aired for quite a long time. This was first aired in the year I was born. There were 53 episodes, each for a day of the week. 53 episode television series that dramatically unfolds the 5000 year history of India from its beginnings to the coming of independence in 1947. It is a series of explorations into the different periods of Indian history and was made in 1988 by the writer, director and producer Shyam Benegal. The serial is based on a book written by Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India.
This series was telecast on Doordarshan. Actors included Om Puri and Roshan Seth. Pandit Nehru was portrayed by Roshan Seth, who had previously portrayed Nehru in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi in 1982. With an amazing pictorial presentation of Roshan Seth and enchanting tough voice of Om Puri making the serial one of the best TV series aired in India along with Malgudi Days. Categorizing it with documentary, it is the best documentary aired in India along with Surabhi. It portrays the Indian history with some fictional stories to make it more interesting. The timeline and the historical records it provided was a good source of knowledge about Indian history.
This series has been telecast many times on Doordarshan and is a must for any one who wants an initial dive into Indian history. Although, it misses out on caste and class struggles in India, It has a characteristic Shyam Benegal style of concentrating on mental conflicts rather than showing war details or opulence of courts. Costumes of all the ages have been captured very efficiently and some of the episodes are my favorite like one on civil disobedience in 1930, quit India in 1942 , Shivaji 1 (It is the only televised account of Shivaji in which his conflicts with local Hindu chieftains are shown).
There were some episodes with more philosophical value rather than historical like one in which India law on parentage is illustrated by a boy being branded shudra though his mother was a vaisya, his biological father a Brahman and his adopted father was a kshatriya king or the one involving Ashoka’s brother and how he turns to become a Buddhist monk. It is evident that more emphasis is placed on social and economic moorings.
Now this may be depiction of Portuguese Mughal conflict for trade interests or an episode where small songs for each of six seasons were sung in traditional tones. I remember the days when it was being telecast and not many had heard of it and had any inclination for it as well. But those of us who did watch it- it was a lifetime experience, from Om Puri intro voice to the actors enacting the days and era gone by- it was mesmerizing for kids like us. What separated it from the Ramayana and Mahabharata of the days was the bare and realistic approach to the facts- It had no pomp or grandeur and there lied the strength of the director.
Timeless Nostalgia…..Continues 🙂