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The good old days of Doordarshan!

A nostalgic look at the days when TV was synonymous with the national broadcaster and when good content ruled the air waves

Last Sunday, good old Doordarshan turned 60. When I came across this news, I became nostalgic and went down memory lane. I recalled how important DD was to us back then in the ’80s when there was no DTH or cable or OTT players or Internet. Filled with nostalgia, I could not stop myself from writing this small piece as a tribute and celebrate 60 years of our national channel.

Doordarshan, which began as an experiment on September 15, 1959, and became a service in 1965, turned 60 on September 15, 2019.

Those were the days of no cable and DD was the only channel as a mode of entertainment.

I remember, during the early DD days, we didn’t even have a television and only one or two houses in our neighbourhood had the luxury of buying a TV set. We as children were allowed to visit our neighbours only on weekends to watch our favourite programmes. Before that, television was only part of our social study books.

Gradually, more and more houses started making television a part of their drawing rooms, a thing to show off in those days. But I am only talking about black and white television. Having a colour TV set was a super luxury and only a few could afford it. Samosa and mithai treat was given to neighbours to announce the good news of a TV set — as if a newborn had arrived in the house. That was a time when television united families in their drawing rooms.

In the initial days, at 5 pm, a striped screen appeared as one would switch on the set and patiently wait for the channel to go live. It was not a 24-hour channel then and broadcast was limited to the evening hours. Slowly, the famous DD tune would play along as the logo rotated from a hazy background and appeared on screen as people cheered and clapped. We often used to hum along the soothing music.

Over time, the broadcast timings got extended to morning and afternoon hours and years later, Doordarshan got a sibling in DD Metro.

Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan was a craze those days. On Sunday mornings, when the show aired, the roads had a deserted look. People followed it religiously and the elderly people even showed agarbatti and diya to the television when the title song played every Sunday. People wanted to touch the feet of Arun Govil and Deepika Chikhalia, who played Ram and Sita, whenever they were seen in public.

BR Chopra’s Mahabharat was another popular show those days. We all came to know about the story and characters of the epic better through the show.

The daily evening Samachar was a must watch for all as it was time to get information about city, state, country and the world. The news and anchors both were simple and sober unlike today when noise rules. Those were the days when anchors Salma Sultan, Geetanjali Aiyer, Komal.G.B.Singh, Neethi Ravindran, Rini Simon Khanna, Sarla Maheshwari, Minu and Shammi Narang were household names.

Chitrahaar was another popular programme on DD National, featuring song clips from Bollywood films. It was aired twice a week and I remember we studied extra hours so that we were allowed to have a glimpse of the Bollywood world.

A still image from Surabhi

We eagerly waited for Sunday evenings as a movie was aired every week. No one cared if it was an old movie or a recent one; we watched them all. Sometimes electricity played the spoilsport but we as children took that opportunity to play outside and the moment power came back, we shouted in chorus, and sometimes got scolded for that, but those were fun days.

Other popular shows were Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Rajni, Karamchand, Dekh Bhai Dekh, Malgudi Days, Surabhi and the list is endless. Who can forget the first daily soap operas Hum Log and Buniyaad? And Bharat Ek Khoj, the 53-episode Indian historical drama based on the book The Discovery of India (1946) by Jawaharlal Nehru? And, of course, the evergreen Duck Tales, Tom and Jerry and Mowgli!

Programmes such as Krishi Darshan were boring for us as kids but for adults, it was information and we could not even giggle about it.

Today’s ‘the’ Shah Rukh Khan became a household name with the serial Fauji and we as teenagers blushed watching him on television and it was a topic of hot discussion in school.

Then came the turn of the mega dramas such as Shanti and Swabhiman that had real good content, unlike today’s daily soaps that are stretched beyond imagination.

Today, there is no dearth of 24-hour channels but none can match the charm of DD days and only people of that generation can relate to it.

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