Widening its reach throughout the country in the 1980s, Doordarshan and its two channels used to be a rich source of both entertainment as well as enlightenment during the last century, connecting the viewers with the world of art, literature and spirituality altogether. The medium went through many substantial (undesirable) changes in the first two decades of the new millennium, but it is thankfully making a comeback with some worth-praising attempts as Wagle Ki Duniya.
Based on the vision and characters created and devised by the renowned cartoonist, R. K. Laxman, the original Wagle Ki Duniya was aired in the late '80s and was presented by Durga Khote productions. Its key episodes were directed by Kundan Shah, who had earlier directed Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron in 1983, that eventually became a cult film in the later decades. A few of its episodes were also directed by Ravi Ojha. The popular series that became favourite of the masses was written by Ajay Kartik and had music by the extremely gifted composer Vanraj Bhatia.
Representing the ‘common man’ dealing with the daily crisis faced by a middle-class family, it featured Aanjjan Srivastav as the struggling sales clerk working in a private company and Bharati Achrekar as the housewife, along with two young boys as their kids. Showcasing the common man’s problems as house-cleaning, unaffordable maid, rent, water-supply, bribe, conveyance and more it also had Salim Ghouse and Shah Rukh Khan making a cameo in two of its episodes. Establishing an emotional connect with the viewers, the series even got an extension as Wagle became a household name in just a few months.
The series was special as it was devised by Laxman, who got involved in the making and reportedly also took decisive calls in the casting. Interestingly, during a recent promotional visit in a popular TV program, Bharati respectfully recalled how Laxman even guided her how to stand as the lady of a middle-class family in a particular posture.
Such was the popularity of its lead character that after two decades, a different kind of revival was tried on Doordarshan in 2012, presenting Wagle as an investigator in a series titled Detective Wagle. But here the role of his wife was played by Sulbha Arya and the series couldn’t impress the viewers as per the expectations.
Moving ahead, this time the theme is being revived in its original form, featuring both Srivastav and Bharati as the couple playing the elders of the family led by their son (Sumeet Raghavan) working in a courier company, his wife (Pariva Paranti) looking after the house and their two young kids – a son and a daughter.
Though the overall feel and basic structure of the series remains the same, the new version titled Wagle Ki Duniya – Nayi Peedhi Naye Kissey (aired on Sony Sab), showcases the characters transformed into an upper middle-class family living in a posh society owning two flats, wherein one is especially bought for the elderly couple. As a result, the daily life problems go through a major change and the focus largely remains on the new-age issues faced by the people living in the societies, specifically catering to the multiplex kind of audience. In fact, that is indeed a clever and timely upgrade, exactly following the format currently adapted by our Hindi mainstream cinema.
Having said that, the new Wagle Ki Duniya, directed by Aatish Kapadia, still works due to its strong emotional quotient that does make you feel for the characters and the situations they get caught in. No doubt, the emphasis remains more upon the young son, his wife and the kids instead of the elderly couple, the presentation successfully manages to leave a mark as they all represent the characters, we can easily relate to. Hence, this is indeed a welcome change far ahead of the routine content being offered by the TV channels and therefore deserves to be given a chance, expecting decent family entertainment along with all worth appreciating performances.
(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)