Cult classics

Why no one can ever deny having watched ‘Sooryavansham’

The 1999 family drama, starring Amitabh Bachchan, has amassed a cult following through its relentless television reruns.

You have either watched Sooryavansham or are too cool to admit it. The determination with which the 1999 production has been repeatedly telecast on television channel Sony Max has spawned its own set of memes and trolls.

A family drama starring Amitabh Bachchan in a dual role, Sooryavansham was released at a time when the actor was trying to reinvent himself. After the success of Mukul S Anand’s Khuda Gawah in 1992, Bachchan decided to take a break from films. But his comeback release Mrityudaata (1997) flopped. Major Saab (1998) and Lal Baadshah (1999) too did not propel Bachchan back into superstardom.

Directed by E VV Satyanarayana, Sooryavansham is a remake of the Tamil blockbuster Suryavamsam (1997), starring Sarath Kumar and Devayani. Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) and his son Heera Singh (Bachchan again) don’t see eye to eye. Pratap Singh is the head of the local panchayat. Heera is an uneducated young man who has no calling in life.

Radha (Soundarya) falls in love with Heera and marries him against the wishes of their families. Heera is thrown out of his house. Radha and Heera work hard to prove themselves. Soon Heera is the head of a transport company and his wife becomes the district collector. Pratap Singh realises his folly and welcomes them back into his family in the end.

Play
Sooryavansham (1999).

Sooryavansham is by no means a great movie, especially given Bachchan’s illustrious career, which is filled with such gems as Zanjeer (1973), Abhimaan (1973), Sholay (1975), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Don (1978), Silsila (1981) and Agneepath (1990). The movie did not have a healthy theatrical run, but it has since amassed a cult following since its relentless reruns on television. Everyone has seen it, but no one remembers why. Sooryavansham is the kind of melodramatic entertainer that redeems itself by appearing on the idiot box, which is overflowing with inane content that is mostly unwatchable.

Could the film’s small-screen popularity have something to do with the Sony channel’s repeated broadcasts? Or is it because Sooryavansham is the kind of wholesome entertainer that brings the family together?

In May 2015, on the sixteenth anniversary of the film, Bachchan tweeted, “Many still watch this film repeatedly. It has a personal connect with many!”

Amitabh Bachchan as Heera in Sooryavansham (1999).
Amitabh Bachchan as Heera in Sooryavansham (1999).

The story is hardly unusual, and the father-son conflict has been a common subject of several Bachchan starrers. In Deewar (1975), Bachchan’s character Vijay has to live with the shame of having the words “Mera baap chor hai” (My father is a thief) tattooed on his forearm. As a result, Vijay neglects his education and turns into a hardened criminal. In Trishul (1978) and Shakti (1982), Bachchan plays characters who rebel against their fathers.

In Sooryavansham, the opposite idea is explored. Bhanu Pratap is ashamed of his uneducated son, who has to prove his mettle. The lack of an emotional bond between the two men gives the story its domestic resonance. The movie is redeemed by Bachchan’s sound and fury as the old man and his meek turn as the young man. Sooryavansham also has enough tearjerker moments to keep families glued to their television set over a weekend sit-down dinner.

Bachchan was 56 years old during the making of Sooryavansham. The fight sequences are brief, and the song and dance routine is kept to a minimum. Apart from Bachchan’s commanding presence as the patriarchy, the raillery between Kader Khan and Anupam Kher, in supporting roles for comic relief, keeps the drama from sagging.

Rekha dubbed for the voices of Soundarya and Jayasudha, who played Heera’s mother, in the Hindi version. Rekha and Bachchan had never worked together after Silsila. Sooryavansham gives moviegoers the cheap thrill of hearing her in double roles – as Bachchan’s wife and mother. It’s one more excuse to connect so many of the dots that fans love to form at the movies.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.