Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The return of Malgudi

The late nineties witnessed some great entertainers on the only television channel in India. Lifeline, Buniyaad, Fauji, Ramayana and the Mahabharata were some of the serials that culminated in high TRP ratings, thanks to enthusiastic and curious family members at home. The serials were successful since Doordarshan was the only mode of visual connection to the outside world available at that point of time. It is altogether a different matter that these teleserials were of very high quality with deep meanings and good moralistic values. There was a lot to gain from the small media and it served as an inspiring influence in the daily lives of the common man. As Mahaa..Bhaa..rat resounded in living rooms, the traffice in the outside world ceased to exist, what with everyone lying in the comforts of the living room to watch the effects of virtue over evil. It was quite a big event for everyone to see the mythological tales retold by grandparents over the years on the television. The barbers were perturbed by this sudden revolution, as in a short span of time after this, each of them procured television sets to get back their sunday customers.

If Ramayana and Mahabharata caught the attention of each and everyone, there came unannounced Malgudi Days, directed by Shankar Nag. The simple and effectively written short stories written by RK Narayan was essayed beautifully into teleserials spanning many episodes, maintaining the same feel as one gets after reading the book. The serial was shot at Agumbe, about 200 kms from Bangalore. It is easy to get carried away when one is directing such a serial, but Shankar Nag knew exactly what had to be done, and got all the basic elements of direction to absolute perfection, as episode after episode witnessed an enthralling mixture of high quality setting juxtaposed with brilliant acting and delightful sketching (courtesy: RK Laxman). Master Manjunath, as Swami, wearing the Khadi cap was the talk of the town for many many years later. Agumbe, with the small population, and urbanised rural village setting served as an ideal place to bring to life the countryside of Malgudi. The houses, the characters, the roads, the shops, the countryside, the post office, Albert Mission school, the playground, Memphi hills, Sarayu river and other such important landmarks were infused with life. These places served as a perfect backup to amply support RK Narayan's vision. It was the simplicity of the star cast along with the basic rusticity that caught on with the viewers. There was nothing of the sort of bigger-than-life image portrayed in the serial, the unnecessay gloss and sheen so much seen in today's serials was totally put away with. In fact when Shankar Nag approached RK Narayan with the idea, RK Narayan was not at all convinced with the idea and gave him the rights for only a few episodes. Later, after seeing some episodes, he voluntarily gave him the rights to recreate the settings on the small screen. The serials were discontinued after the sad demise of one of India's most upcoming directors, and together with it an end of an era in movie making.

It is more than 15 years since the last episode of Malgudi Days was made, and today after such a long span, I read articles that Kavitha Lankesh has taken this arduous task of continuing with Malgudi days. It is not an easy task to go ahead with the rich legacy left behind by Shankar Nag, but being a reputed director, definitely one can expect quite a lot from Kavitha Lankesh. It remains to be seen how well Malgudi can be recreated by her.

To stay in tune with the latest in Malgudi, visit here.


  1. i did not know that they are planning to revive malgudi days, thats interesting.

  2. Whatever you say but that days won't be back