tv classics

The DD Files: ‘Hum Log’ versus ‘Buniyaad’

Both shows are landmark depictions of the Great Indian Family.

If you were to pick two shows that defined Doordarshan in the 1980s, they would most certainly be Hum Log and Buniyaad. Both serials were about the Great Indian Family, but in its scope, writing and emotional appeal, Buniyaad was the Mahabharat to Hum Log’s Ramayana.

Hum Log came first. By the end of July 1984, middle India was hooked on to the life and times of the luckless and lustreless family led by Basesar Ram (Vinod Nagpal). The characters of Hum Log included subservient and self-sacrificing women led by Bhagwanti (Jayshree Arora), Basesar’s wife, and unemployed young men nurturing audacious dreams. Its themes covered the thwarting of ambition due to lack of encouragement and resources and dowry. More than 40,000 letters were posted to the makers of the 157-episode series, which was written by the eminent Hindi novelist Manohar Shyam Joshi and directed by P Kumar Vasudev. Viewers laughed and wept with the characters with whom they identified completely.

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The first episode of ‘Hum Log’.

Only seven years later, the families that were shedding copious tears over Bhagwanti’s silent and endless suffering were discussing incest and adultery with the Forresters in The Bold and the Beautiful and gaping at endless legs between satin sheets. Which could explain why a rerun of Hum Log that was compressed into 52 episodes and telecast in 2000 wasn’t half as successful.

Hum Log was inspired by Information and Broadcast Minister Vasant Sathe’s trip to Mexico, where he watched a popular television show that educated as well as entertained. Every episode ended with the affable actor Ashok Kumar in a sharp suit and dark glasses explaining the theme of the day and prodding viewers to think about what they had just watched. The show did generate progressive conversations about the empowerment of women, education and equal opportunities, but it also evoked a complete sense of identification with its pitiable characters that ultimately proved stifling both on and off the screen. The actors – most of them from the Delhi theatre scene – were mobbed on the streets and received marriage proposals. Others like Seema Bhargava (Gunvanti, the eldest daughter) were so stuck in their self-sacrificing moulds that their television careers nearly died with the show.

Divya Seth, as the attractive middle daughter Rupvanti who dreams of a film career, was suitably chastised and stripped of her ambition – just the viewers wanted it to be. There was no end to Bhagwanti’s suffering because that’s how the audiences wanted to see her. And before we blame Ekta Kapoor for unleashing the saas-bahu scourge on television, let’s give credit where it is due – the fantastic Sushma Seth, who plays the sharp-tongued and hard-to-please matriarch with a soft corner for Rupvanti and contempt for her servile daughter-in-law Bhagwanti. The conflicts between the women were mostly one-sided and without the claps of thunder and dramatic crash zooms that was de rigeur two decades later.

Hum Log whetted the appetite for more family sagas – and in 1986, there was another epic written by Manohar Shyam Joshi on the small screen. Buniyaad was directed by Ramesh Sippy and was, in many ways, an improvement on its predecessor. The series was better filmed – the sets and framing were superior and realistic – and the story of several generations of a Pakistani Hindu family that migrated to India during the Partition was better fleshed out. One reason could be the fact that Sippy’s family had moved from Karachi to Mumbai in 1948, and the director identified closely with the material. The agony of Haveli Ram (Alok Nath), who grapples with his decision to leave behind his ancestral home, is chillingly real.

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The first episode of ‘Buniyaad’.

The ensemble cast featured some of the finest actors of the day – Anita Kanwar, Kanwaljeet Singh, Mazhar Khan, Soni Razdan and Kiran Juneja. The masterful writing and robust production not only recreated the pre-Independence-era mansions and later the refugee camps and middle-class homes, it also straddled generations and mirrored their changing worldviews brilliantly.

If Hum Log expanded the audience for Indian television, Buniyaad owned it. The Partition had been fruitfully explored by literature but except for stray instances on the screen (Dharamputra, Garm Hava), the historical tragedy hadn’t been adequately explored in popular culture. The unrelentingly dark Tamas would arrive two years after Buniyaad went on air.

Wisely enough, the makers of Buniyaad didn’t attempt to re-interpret the classic. It would have been sacrilege.

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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.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

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.

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

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

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.