In the era when radio used to be the lifeline of our country, sponsored programmes began (during the 70s) with the name of their sponsors incorporated in the catchy titles. One of those highly popular weekly programmes was “Inspector Eagle Ke Kaarnamey” featuring the lead character of the Inspector and his entertaining side-kick Havaldar Naik. The programme was sponsored by Eagle Flasks and hence the title Inspector Eagle.
Still remembered by the keen listeners of that era, it had a huge fan following and the new mystery revealed remained a widely discussed subject, the very next day of its transmission. Written by Vishwamitter Adil, it was a pioneer attempt in the particular genre, and such was its popularity that a complete feature film was later made in 1979 with the same title Inspector Eagle featuring Sanjeev Kumar in the lead along with Yunus Parvez playing Hawaldar Naik (as in the radio programme).
Written and directed by Vishwamitter Adil (taking inspiration from his earlier works), the film had music by Madan Mohan and lyrics by Kaifi Azmi. Besides, clearly mentioning its source of origin, a slide in its beginning read, “Inspired by Eagle Flask’s super-hit Radio thrillers”.
Interestingly, more than a decade later, a similar first of its kind of attempt was made on Doordarshan by writer-director Pankuj Parashar, with his detective serial Karamchand, aired during the mid-80s. The TV series had Pankaj Kapur in the title role along with Sushmita Mukherjee as his assistant Kitty, with the brilliant music composed by Anand-Milind. It became a big success post its initial episodes as it had an unusual lead character and a novel execution that was nothing less than a pleasant cultural shock for the audience.
With no other detective show being aired in that era, Karamchand soon became one of the most famous TV characters with Pankaj (the actor) getting noticed by both the people and the industry together. His unique mannerisms, style, and habit of munching a carrot saying “Shut up Kitty” became a rage and so did Kitty’s line, “Sir, you are a genius”. The viewers loved them together and the series also got an extension considering the stupendous response.
Two decades later, in 2007, the concept got revived by Sony Entertainment with the same team, except for one change of Sucheta Khanna playing Kitty instead of Sushmita. Though the comeback season didn’t become any major success, it brought back the nostalgia, making its presence felt among the other popular serials.
Coming to the lesser-known link between the two trend-setting creations, recently Parashar revealed that in an online interview conducted by Belgium-based Divya Mehta.
Talking about the link, he shared that as a kid he was very fond of the radio programme Inspector Eagle and its writer Vishwamitter Adil used to come to their house on weekends. During one of his visits, he told him that in the last episode he had easily guessed the murderer. Taking it as an offence coming from a teenager, Adil said, “Son, if you are so sharp, then why don’t you write the stories?” To this Parashar replied, “If you will pay me, I will write”. So, a deal was done and the youngster wrote eight stories for a sum of Rs. 20, out of which five got selected for the programme.
After almost a decade, when Parashar was shooting a quiz show for Alyque Padamsee, he discussed his wish to make a detective series for his company. Alyque didn’t express any excitement. However, he had to re-think when Parashar reminded him about the famous radio programme, Inspector Eagle, and informed him that he had written for it when he was just 13. Alyque laughed in disbelief, but had to give in when the director asked him to confirm that from Mr Adil. Impressed by the confidence in Parashar’s vision, Alyque asked him to shoot a pilot by choosing a catchy name for the detective. Thinking about the same, Parashar went to his friend Colonel Kapoor’s house to write the pilot. As they were discussing the name, Kapoor loudly ordered his domestic-help, “Karamchand, Do chai Lao”. Hearing that, the director said, “Let’s call him Karamchand”, and the title got decided.
Talking about the pilot episode, Parashar further revealed that it, in reality, was shot with Alok Nath as Karamchand and that too without the character of Kitty. Both Pankaj and Sushmita came later post the pilot got approved and because the director had some issues with Nath. Also, they came through the efforts of Sudhir Mishra, who was writing the series and was then married to Sushmita.
So, that’s how Inspector Eagle led to Karamchand with the common link being writer-director Pankuj Parashar. Sadly, in the present times, the original TV series is not available anywhere in the digital world but hope it would soon be there uploaded by its creators.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)