it was only a tv soap and yet.

today, thanks to a television soap i went looking for sara aakash, a movie made years ago, and found basu chatterjee, k k mahajan… and so many other things about the new wave of indian cinema, which started it seems somewhere in the late sixties. i was growing up, nearing ten, then into the teens those days.

almost any movie that comes to mind during my continuing love affair with a serial these days, is from those days. sixties up to mid seventies. no idea what was different about the things on screen then, but something was.

it clung to memory, skin, heart, ear.

whether they were the so called “art films” or “commercial” ones. i remember at 13 or something, my friend, my brother and i saw mirinal sen’s padatik. didn’t understand a thing, didn’t even know it had ended, we actually asked someone, is it over? the rather grown up human being looked at these three kids all confused and lost and said, yes, want to see more?

yet something stays in me.

might have simply been k k mahajan’s different way of looking through a camera. but one didn’t have to go arty to get art. hare rama hare krishna. zeenat aman swaying, haze of smoke, dum maro dum, dev anand looking at this crazy zany girl with a need, a love, a question in his eyes. that was i think 1971 or ’72, the film never left me. phoolon ka taaro ka, a brother who loves his sister and tries to shield her. beautiful music. feelings you can touch. i watched hare rama again recently, still fabulous, the depiction of hippie life almost realistic. and zeenie baby even now the epitome of cool.

so many movies and songs that felt different, fulfilling somehow, making bits and parts of me.

what was it that made the movies of that time different? they were not exactly deep ones with all their masala and dhishum dhishum and the usual filmi stuff, but they touched something in me. maybe it was my age, maybe there was something real about them despite all the strangeness including running around trees singing songs (what marvellous songs, aah).

often one didn’t know the name of a film maker or a lyricist or a music director, cinematographer, whatever. now when i google them and see their names, read their stories, i realise, many of them were people who had something to say, their lives and experiences informed their creative expression, they wanted to make money, but there was much more to them than that. the sell and spin was less, the art was certainly more, and the risk taking. maybe that’s why their work lingers in the mind.

it’s recalled out of nowhere and illuminates something in the present. yes, commercial, money making, mass, whatever you call the product, it does bring light and often immense joy.

and now that i think of it, the movies of guru dutt from the fifties, of bimal roy and a few others… balraj sahni always made a mark… they too had this quality. that thing in them that makes contact. doesn’t let go.

why am i going on about this?

well, because of that same serial really. iss pyaar ko kya naam doon? a typical serial with a lot of things neither deep nor sensible. pretty badly put together at times, story gone haywire finally. really tacky production values. yet i sat through 397 episodes of it, one i left out, (the second last one because i just couldn’t bear the nonsense drama any more). and now am watching it all over again.

because after years and years, i felt i found something rare and precious.

that feeling of those days. something real, something that sticks. many people, especially writers, music director, directors, caste of actors contributed to this i am sure; sanaya irani, the female lead, was lovely, unforgettable.

but for me it was ultimately because of an actor who has that seventies’ feeling about him.

he is all of himself and unyielding before our world’s spin machinery. and who he is informs his performance giving it substance. giving it soul. how it stays in me. no matter how inane the medium. it’s been an experience to watch barun sobti on the telly, dragging me right into a soap of all things and here i am.


i wrote this one a while ago, sometime in 2013. edited it slightly for this post. iss pyaar ko kya naam doon? has been dubbed into english and arabic and shown in the uk and the middle east. it’s been telecast with subtitles in the uk, usa, turkey, russia, and several other places. the show ended in 2012 after a one and a half year run and 398 episodes. there are fans from brazil to romania to australia and beyond. if you have a blog on the show as i do, you’ll get visitors from india, south east asia, and the middle east, of course, but don’t be surprised if you see hits from kenya, portugal, south africa, south korea. i believe iss pyaar ko is being subtitled in french. i’m not surprised really.

barun sobti has not been very visible since iss pyaar ko. he is trying to make a career in films. i wish him luck. he deserves great success. one of his films is scheduled for a world premiere in london this week. i am, like many, most excited.

 pictures and video credit uploaders on the net. the last visual is an edit by me.

indrani’s index

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  • Reply
    Anu kapoor
    September 5, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Very aptly put Indi! Your thoughts and sentiments echoed much of what most of us obsessed with this soap feel. And yes, the movies of the sixties and seventies were classics, the makers were passionate about their art and it reflected in their creations which were kinda honest and relatable…very much like ippknd…

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      September 5, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      hi anu, great to see you. thanks… so true, honest creations, passionate makers, slightly mad too, relatable. wonder what barun would have done with an ittefaq or kalyug or junoon. 🙂

  • Reply
    lalita arya
    September 5, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    Hi Indi, I got very excited when I saw the pic of Khushi & Arnav on fb under Writersbrew. I thought there was going to be another serial-story on your website. Anyway, your thoughts on Indian cinema are shared by me. We do not always know how much they shaped our thinking and paths we took. For us in the diapora Bollywood was our window into Indian culture, history, art & living. We never missed a movie and sometimes would go twice if was a good one. When I moved to India and watched the soaps it was marvelous, even though I was then immersed in the whole Indian thing. IPKKND had its moments and I too like half the world fell in love with both Khushi & Arnav. Like you I do watch some of my favorite episodes and even remember memorable lines like Anjali told her brother- Apne bitaa huea kal ko apne aaj par haavi mat honay dena – or some such.. Though I spoke Hindi I had to ask the meaning of ‘haavi’ and was fascinated with the philosophy of that statement. Sanaya is a genius – even after IPKKND closed so abruptly (bad, bad Barun!) she went to give us Rangrasiya, until the boring directors killed her off. Stupid, stupid. I don’t know why some writers think that a woman’s life ends with marriage or with her first child. Incredible!! Then she went to Jhalak dkhalaaja and made a name with her dancing skills. We kept researching Barun and I got excited when his movie Main aur Mr.. Right opened in the cinema in a new Mall in Dehradun. I was shocked the only people in the cinema were my friend & me.. What happened? Why? He is an awesome actor – his face seems to convey any expression. He was so funny in that movie. I wish him the best. I could pages & pages on this but I will stop now. Thanks for writing “It was only a TV soap”.

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      September 6, 2016 at 12:13 am

      you too, lalita? awww. haavi… exactly. now what does that mean? do tell. i loved ramanchi. and the cool handling of dialogues, each character with his or her own way of speaking and ohhhh the asr lingo… too good. barun really is a fascinating actor and i saw a pirated version of main aur mr riight, he was so good. the film was just not marketed well i guess. deep pockets. that’s what the game is reduced to looks like. sanaya can be so spectacular at times, and the two of them together… unbelievable. though i had promised myself i would not mope about the two of them not doing anything together, i am breaking my promise big time these days. i don’t watch soaps. not even the best ones. i watch films once in a while. the way this soap just came out of the tv and got me in one fine diwali evening was something else.

      interesting what you say about the effect of those movies on us. really, we’ll never fully assess their impact. they were just so much part of us and how the h did we figure out no no no you don’t run around trees and sing songs. hahha. i feel like saying “barkhurdar!” and giving ahearty laugh while tightening the sash of my silk dressing gown.

  • Reply
    rhea sinha
    September 6, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Really it was only a tv soap.. And look what it lead to Indi di… Sending my luck to mix with yours so Devi maiyya and nand kissore take care of the actor who looks brilliant in your edits.

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      September 6, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      hi rhea, nand kissore, dm, and those toot-ta tara, they really better do something about the situation. yeah, look what it lead to. you never know what will take you where. thanks and in your edits too he isn’t utna bura.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2016 at 1:23 am

    I saw this retweeted and it felt like that person was saying a big YES!
    Always a pleasure to read nandkissore

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      September 8, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      hi ladkikijhi, very congratulations and thank you. yeah, i saw the rewteets, entirely thanks to the two. note, i very sweetly stuck to official shots… trying to be sane is just so much harder around them. also my sweet mano.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Ah, trust these two to brighten up the mood. Thanks Indi, for the pic of these pagal two, up there. It felt refreshing reading the write up again. Did I comment on it then? Don’t remember. But even if I’m repeating, I must say, very well written. 🙂

    And thanks to IPK, for giving us something to cherish forever. 🙂

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      September 8, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      thanks, durga… yeah, one shot from sp, no edit, no nothing, and it’s got you feeling sort of happy. jadoo, these two. who can blame the nasha. thanks so much, glad you had fun.

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