TV shows

The DD Files: Peer into the heart of darkness with Govind Nihalani’s ‘Tamas’

The mini-series about the Partition is an unmatched feat of storytelling.

“Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.”

These were the first words from Govind Nihalani’s Tamas, which was never meant for pleasant viewing with the family gathered around the telly.

The opening sequence of the mini-series about the Partition is one of the most compelling, intense and unsettling moments in Indian television. Om Puri, in a duel with a pig he has been paid to slaughter, struggles against the grunting animal as much as he grapples with his inner demons in a story that unfolds like a never-ending nightmare. The sequence – excruciatingly long, real and surprisingly graphic in its detailing – is a fantastic showcase for Puri’s talent.


Based on Bhisham Sahni’s novel of the same name, the 1987 series remains one of the most brutally honest depictions of the Partition. Tamas continues to be one of the wonders of Indian cinema and television. Not only did the show boast of a stellar cast – Om Puri, Deepa Sahi, Amrish Puri, AK Hangal, Dina Pathak, Pankaj Kapur and Sahni, among others – but it managed to get made despite threats (the unit was not allowed to shoot in Punjab) and shown on television (it sparked massive debates, forced Nihalani to take police protection for eight weeks, and was the subject of litigation.)

Tamas was made possible by the support Nihalani received from the industry, writers, non-profit group and other progressive forces. Most importantly, Doordarshan, which had more spine than it does now.

In subsequent interviews, the filmmaker has confessed that Tamas would not have been possible in today’s scenario. “The level of intolerance is impossible today,” he said when Tamas was re-telecast on History TV18. “There are so many groups like cultural groups, religious groups and political groups, they are becoming the censors now. It is very difficult and dangerous today. They don't resort to protests only, they become violent."

Tamas is the story of a human tragedy that showed us who we really were. Even as it did not take sides, the series grabbed viewers by the scruff of their necks and left them in the heart of darkness. There was no respite, no hope, and no redemption during the 274-minute saga, which included mass suicides (particularly by Sikh women who jumped into a well with their children in their arms to avoid a Muslim mob), unrelenting bloodshed and chilling dehumanisation of everyday characters.

A word too for the gut-wrenching opening tune and the haunting background score by Vanraj Bhatia.

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Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

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1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.


2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

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3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.