Remembering ‘Hum Log’ in times of OTT platforms
When India’s first mega serial ‘Hum Log’ went on air 36 years ago, it immediately struck a connect with people, because it talked about their pain, joy, aspirations and not about some fictional world
We live in irreverent amnesia-ridden times where here today – gone today rules; where the past is history, the future, a mystery and present, the king! The new-gen is neither curious nor interested about some vague TV serial that grabbed popular imagination 36 years ago, self-absorbed as they are with the flashy toys that consumerism and digital age presents them, each day. However, to souls who resided in the India of the 80’s [another life?] India’s first soap was indeed a riveting game-changer at a time when Chitrahaar, Chitramala, Saturday’s regional film and Sunday’s Bollywood treat comprised our rationed entertainment menu card.
Coming to think of it, we really did sleep in another world – an innocent, simple, uncomplicated orbit where our demands were modest, expectations minimal and anything new was greeted with excitement, gratitude and joy. We were almost inclusive and pluralistic as people and our wants or needs had not been yet so overwhelmingly manipulated by market forces. We enjoyed life’s simple pleasures and bhaichara was not snootily dismissed as a corny, out-dated, obsolete term. While we certainly thrilled to the Bollywood masala and engaging middle-of-the-road fare, Hum Log’s entry as India’s first home-delivery product that flashed on our screens through 150 episodes across a year and a half, was a mind-bender!
It offered an unprecedented, daily connect with a narrative and characters, totally relatable, playing out life’s everyday pleasure and pains, joys and excitement, aspiration, dreams and disappointments in realistic fashion that reflected the social landscape, ethos and value systems of that time. Basesar Ram’s family and their life’s trajectory fascinated us. They were not actors or characters, but family. We laughed and cried and lived, each day, with them ...
There are many things that made Hum Log special. A brain child of the late (gifted writer) Manohar Shyam Joshi, directed by P. Kumar Vasudev and green lighted by (the then) I&B Minister Vasant Sathe, it hit the button, strong and hard on every prevailing prototype connected with the man-on-the-street. Alcoholic and dominating Basesar; Resilient, sacrificing but strong Bhagwanti; Unemployed elder son, Lalloo; Star-struck Majhli; Cricket-crazy Nanhe ... aren’t modern day variations of these types around even today in 2020? Hum Log was also an early social messaging vehicle, way before feminism and woman empowerment became buzzwords. Strong women characters were there, everywhere. Be it Bhagwanti, Badki, Majhli or Chutki, they all constantly struggled with their identity and status and looked to improve their journey in life, without chest-thumping or Bra-burning! They did not want to be a liability in the patriarchal scheme of things. Also, seldom has [pre or since Hum Log] any serial matched the passion, honesty and realism with which the creators crafted the low-middle class struggles of a family with each character scripting their very own journeys. Gender discrimination, Alcoholism, lack of opportunities due to social status and background, corruption, obsolete societal values ... aren’t they all prevalent even today, even if under more glossy garbs?
And of course, the clincher, Ashok Kumar’s fabulous cameo at the end of each episode! So hugely popular was his appearance – with his trademark gyaan – that he was reported to have said that “18 months of Hum Log has given me more popularity than 50 years of films!” Zillions of letters asking for advice on tons of subjects dropped by his doorstep and continued till 1998, 13 years after the soap ended!
Today, as colour TV, Home Theatre and streaming platforms invade our digitalised lives, it would be useful – even appropriate – to pause and salute the first ever TV Serial that started it all ... a joyous experience in those innocent times that had us mesmerisingly invested in the story. And quite naturally! Wasn’t it about you, me, us - Hum Log??