Udaan: Flights of fantasy

The long weekend over Christmas brought a much needed respite for me. I've been working very hard and am totally worn out. So I decided that I would spend Christmas relaxing and taking it easy. And being an inveterate TV buff, what better way to do that than to watch some telly. (I use the word telly a little loosely since I watch movies and shows on YouTube also.) 

I surfed through various channels but nothing caught my fancy. Imagine my delight then when I chanced upon an episode of Udaan. For those of you who might not remember, this was a series that was telecast on #Doordarshan between 1989-1991. It tells the story of Kalyani Singh, a woman IPS officer and her trials and tribulations. It was written and directed by Kavita Choudhary (remember Lalithaji of the old Surf ad? "Surf ki kharidari mein hi samajhdari hai"). All thirty episodes are available on YouTube. Although the quality is not good in places. 

As I watched those long forgotten episodes, I recalled how much I  loved this serial and how eagerly I looked forward to each episode. It was telecast at a time when I was growing up, forming my own aspirations and longing to fly towards my own future. I even briefly entertained the idea of joining the civil services, much to my father's delight. Of course that idea came to naught pretty soon. 

Udaan is special for many reasons. It tells the story of a woman struggling against the odds to make her mark in what is generally considered a male domain. The narrative is strong and evocative without being jingoistic. Kalyani is  not the vengeance seeking Rekha of Khoon Bhari Maang (a film that released around the same time that the serial was aired). She is your everyday woman, strong and vulnerable at the same time. Facing challenges just like we did - trying, failing, succeeding - learning about herself a little more along the way - just like we did. 

And of course when love touched her life, what joy it brought us all. Shekhar Kapoor as Harish Menon, the DM of Sitapur is absolutely fantastic-bringing  his own brand of charisma and sexiness to the role. His chemistry with Kalyani worked very well. The sparks fly between them, nuanced by the fact that within the government system he was her superior and hence proprieties had to be strictly maintained. He calls her ‘Ms. Singh’ and does not hesitate to reprimand her when she makes a mistake. At the same time, he seeks out her company and leaves the viewer in no doubt of his interest in her. And when he asks her to marry him, of course there was nothing else to do but melt into a puddle and beg her to just say yes! 

They don’t make serials like these anymore. The tsunami of crap that Ekta Kapoor has unleashed on the Hindi serial viewing audience is outrageous. Kalyani has been ousted by the Tulsis and Parvatis of large joint families. And Harish Menon has been toppled by the Mr. Walias and Mr. Bajajs of recent times. There are no women IPS officers anymore. Just housewives scheming against one another. And IAS is no longer a good career choice for leading men, who prefer to go by the grand title of business tycoon. 

Perhaps it is just as well because then one would not get the chance to delight in watching these serials of yore and wallow in the nostalgia of how much happiness they gave us. 

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