It was a very busy day in office for me today. So obviously I tried to find an escape route. HotStar, the StarPlus website, now has videos of all its old and new TV shows. I clicked on Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. And I was hit by such a strong sense of nostalgia that I came here to write, even though my very good friend has threatened to disown me if she finds out I have started watching this show again.
I remember a quiet summer afternoon, my family was taking a nap and on television a woman in complete theatrics said .. and I am paraphrasing a bit.. how can we do the puja if tulsi isn’t here… I was scornful. Why create all this fuss and act as if its the end of the world? Someone can go and get the leaf.
It turned out to be the name of the protagonist. A girl, a woman and later quite an old woman on whom multiple generations of an extremely populous country was going to dote for almost a decade. Tulsi Virani.
At the turn of the century, for dramatic effect that is what I am calling 2000, a new era of Indian television serials was ushered in by Ekta Kapoor. Kyunki.. as it was often abbreviated.. was the fountainhead of this.. for good or bad I don’t know, but I do know that a girl in her early teens watched it and now a woman in her late twenties still holds strong memories of it.
I used to find the thin Smriti Irani very pretty. Specially when she was simply dressed. In fact, when the whole country mourned the death of Mihir, I rejoiced, because the widow Tulsi, without any ornaments looked beautiful. I would lock myself in the bedroom and pull back my hair and pin it at the top leaving the rest to flow. Then wrap my mother’s dupatta around and pretend I was a television character.
It was almost most probably the first time a character was killed off, but brought back from the dead due to popular demand. There were newspaper articles that claimed many houses had no turned on their gas stoves, and no food was cooked, as Mihir Virani, was mourned.
My father lived in the city of Vadodara at that time and in summers we would visit him. I remember endless after dinner strolls where the open windows on torrid late nights all played the same song in unision. The whole colony was getting welcomed into shantivan. Grandmothers sat with granddaughters and watched. I did too, with my grandmother. I have since those years seen my grandmother loose her husband, but still find happiness in family. Just like ba was protected by her husband from having to be wordly, my dadiji was shielded from a lot when dadaji was alive. He is no more and she is gradually learning to find a way. I am basically seeing her be “ba” for our family and I hope she gets to be around just as long.
People laughed and counted ba’s age. Five generations alive in her family tree, I believe, and she was still alive. It was a miracle. As the creators loved to joke.. the love of the viewers kept her alive. She really was the sweetest and wisest.
As I clicked more episodes I was sure I most probably had only seen a couple of them. After all as per the website there are 1833 episodes of the show. And by episode 20 Tulsi was already married to Mihir.
So, I was very surprised to see I had actually seen a lot more of them, and more importantly, remember quite clearly, a lot of the characters. In much delayed retrospect I suspect it is because of this vast thread of characters that the story could last as long. Definitely it would have made sense to end it sooner, but people must have been watching, addicted to their dose of.. and here is where you sing along.. kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi..
I remember Gautumn, the eldest son. A brat and it used to be such fun to see him brought to line by Tulsi. I vaguely recollected finding him good looking. Then came Karan. He was a definite favourite. The name symbolic of course. Hiten, the actor who played Karan, won a number of awards too. And his and Nandini’s love story was another favourite.
By this time Mihir had changed into the man who also played Rishabh Bajaj. Another stalwart character from yet another long running Ekta Kapoor show, Kasauti ZIndagi Kay. Ronit Roy now comes in a number of movies. We have seen him in this TV show before. Mandira Bedi was in this show too. Many would remember her as Shanti from her Doorshan days. Almost 20 years back. Really, am I that old already?
Then I chanced upon the episode where Tulsi killed her son. Ansh, a terrible villain. Straightforward, decent Mihir and Tulsi had a fiend for a son apparently. There were a whole lot of daughter-in-law’s, daughters, sons, uncles all scattered across the landscape of the never ending show. The youngest member I can remember is Krishna Tulsi, but its all blurry by then. I was in college and whenever I returned from hostel I might sit and watch an episode with my grandmother. Those are the only memories.
I also clicked on what was an anniversary episode.. 4th I think.. The cast were entering regular houses to talk to viewers. What struck me was how they were not really treated like stars, nor with wide eyed wonder. The random families, young and old within them, all welcomed the viranis as if they were part of everyones families. Ladies with white hair gave earnest lectures on morals, kids tried to act smart and ask questions, girls giggled, boys acted cool. The betas and bahus from the cast actually touched feet of elders.
It was strange.. transported me back to a time when an entire country seem to have been brought together not by world cup cricket, but by this sudden craze of an Indian television show. IMDB rating for which is 1.6 stars.
“Rishton ke bhi roop badalte hai.. naye naye saache mein dhalte hai.. ek peedhi aati hai.. ek peedhi jati hai.. chalti kahani yahi..”
I am looking back at how many years have passed. At the new roles I have taken on in life and the song rings uncannily true. If only I could take those solitary walks in my hawai chappal again. I would eagerly and even longingly peep in through the open doors to watch a lady invite us into her house. It is after all a family I have known very closely.
Picture Cr Google.