While TV continues to dominate the media scene, with instant entertainment, memories of the eighties, with Doordarshan dishing out remarkable cult shows like 'Hum Log' (1984), 'Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi' (1984), 'Buniyad' (1986) and 'Wagle Ki Duniya' (1988), still provide a lingering sweetness. In those days, discussions on TV serials among office-goers in suburban trains was common. Besides, a Sunday film on Doordarshan was the topic of animated discussion next day. Many artists associated with these serials have gone into oblivion and a very few continued in their field. Actor Anjan Srivastav came to instant limelight with 'Wagle Ki Duniya”' a sitcom based on character of “the common man” created by noted cartoonist, R K Laxman. It was about everyday struggles of the nervous sales clerk, Srinivas Wagle. Srivastav spoke to The Afternoon D&C. Excerpts:
What do you feel about present-day TV serials?
They are technically much more advanced. The increasing number of serials also generate more employment. I like 'Peshwa Bajirao', being telecast on Sony TV. DD’s 'Sahyadri' has maintained good quality. But in some serials, the focus is on unwanted issues. For example, there is no need of projecting Chandragupta Maurya, as a man with multiple wives. Instead, his courage, valour and bravery in founding the Mauryan Empire can always be highlighted.
What about the length of the serials?
They are being dragged too long for business. I remember the original run of 'Wagle Ki Duniya' was just six episodes, but seeing the response, it ran up to 13 episodes. It evoked an instant response from people since they could relate to it. Later it was renamed 'Wagle Ki Nai Duniya'. Even India's first soap opera 'Hum Log' (1984) was concluded with 154 episodes. Whereas nowadays we see some soaps running even beyond 2000 episodes.
What should be done?
There is no dearth of ideas, but the serial makers should keep in mind what they are communicating to the society. The serials should not be made only for the sake of entertainment.Classics based on novels of Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi Premchand and other renowned writers will go a long way in entertaining as well as conveying a good message.
Which projects are you working on now?
I have stopped working in TV serials after 2013. Now I am concentrating on the plays of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), which has completed 75 years now. We are re-enacting some of the plays like 'Bakri' (a timeless political satire), 'Ek Aur Dronacharya' (a hard hitting play dealing with the part played by politics in our educational system) etc.