tv classics

The DD Files: ‘Hum Log’ versus ‘Buniyaad’

Both shows are landmark depictions of the Great Indian Family.

If you were to pick two shows that defined Doordarshan in the 1980s, they would most certainly be Hum Log and Buniyaad. Both serials were about the Great Indian Family, but in its scope, writing and emotional appeal, Buniyaad was the Mahabharat to Hum Log’s Ramayana.

Hum Log came first. By the end of July 1984, middle India was hooked on to the life and times of the luckless and lustreless family led by Basesar Ram (Vinod Nagpal). The characters of Hum Log included subservient and self-sacrificing women led by Bhagwanti (Jayshree Arora), Basesar’s wife, and unemployed young men nurturing audacious dreams. Its themes covered the thwarting of ambition due to lack of encouragement and resources and dowry. More than 40,000 letters were posted to the makers of the 157-episode series, which was written by the eminent Hindi novelist Manohar Shyam Joshi and directed by P Kumar Vasudev. Viewers laughed and wept with the characters with whom they identified completely.

The first episode of ‘Hum Log’.

Only seven years later, the families that were shedding copious tears over Bhagwanti’s silent and endless suffering were discussing incest and adultery with the Forresters in The Bold and the Beautiful and gaping at endless legs between satin sheets. Which could explain why a rerun of Hum Log that was compressed into 52 episodes and telecast in 2000 wasn’t half as successful.

Hum Log was inspired by Information and Broadcast Minister Vasant Sathe’s trip to Mexico, where he watched a popular television show that educated as well as entertained. Every episode ended with the affable actor Ashok Kumar in a sharp suit and dark glasses explaining the theme of the day and prodding viewers to think about what they had just watched. The show did generate progressive conversations about the empowerment of women, education and equal opportunities, but it also evoked a complete sense of identification with its pitiable characters that ultimately proved stifling both on and off the screen. The actors – most of them from the Delhi theatre scene – were mobbed on the streets and received marriage proposals. Others like Seema Bhargava (Gunvanti, the eldest daughter) were so stuck in their self-sacrificing moulds that their television careers nearly died with the show.

Divya Seth, as the attractive middle daughter Rupvanti who dreams of a film career, was suitably chastised and stripped of her ambition – just the viewers wanted it to be. There was no end to Bhagwanti’s suffering because that’s how the audiences wanted to see her. And before we blame Ekta Kapoor for unleashing the saas-bahu scourge on television, let’s give credit where it is due – the fantastic Sushma Seth, who plays the sharp-tongued and hard-to-please matriarch with a soft corner for Rupvanti and contempt for her servile daughter-in-law Bhagwanti. The conflicts between the women were mostly one-sided and without the claps of thunder and dramatic crash zooms that was de rigeur two decades later.

Hum Log whetted the appetite for more family sagas – and in 1986, there was another epic written by Manohar Shyam Joshi on the small screen. Buniyaad was directed by Ramesh Sippy and was, in many ways, an improvement on its predecessor. The series was better filmed – the sets and framing were superior and realistic – and the story of several generations of a Pakistani Hindu family that migrated to India during the Partition was better fleshed out. One reason could be the fact that Sippy’s family had moved from Karachi to Mumbai in 1948, and the director identified closely with the material. The agony of Haveli Ram (Alok Nath), who grapples with his decision to leave behind his ancestral home, is chillingly real.

The first episode of ‘Buniyaad’.

The ensemble cast featured some of the finest actors of the day – Anita Kanwar, Kanwaljeet Singh, Mazhar Khan, Soni Razdan and Kiran Juneja. The masterful writing and robust production not only recreated the pre-Independence-era mansions and later the refugee camps and middle-class homes, it also straddled generations and mirrored their changing worldviews brilliantly.

If Hum Log expanded the audience for Indian television, Buniyaad owned it. The Partition had been fruitfully explored by literature but except for stray instances on the screen (Dharamputra, Garm Hava), the historical tragedy hadn’t been adequately explored in popular culture. The unrelentingly dark Tamas would arrive two years after Buniyaad went on air.

Wisely enough, the makers of Buniyaad didn’t attempt to re-interpret the classic. It would have been sacrilege.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Some of the most significant innovations in automotive history made their debut in this iconic automobile

The latest version features India's first BS VI norms-compliant engine and a host of 'intelligent' features.

The S-Class, also known as Sonderklasse or special class, represents Mercedes Benz’ top-of-the-line sedan line up. Over the decades, this line of luxury vehicles has brought significant automotive technologies to the mainstream, with several firsts to its credit and has often been called the best car in the world. It’s in the S-Class that the first electronic ESP and ABS anti-lock braking system made their debut in the 20th century.

Twenty first-century driver assistance technologies which predict driver-behaviour and the vehicle’s course in order to take preventive safety measures are also now a staple of the S-Class. In the latest 2018 S-Class, the S 350 d, a 360-degree network of cameras, radars and other sensors communicate with each other for an ‘intelligent’ driving experience.

The new S-Class systems are built on Mercedes Benz’s cutting-edge radar-based driving assistance features, and also make use of map and navigation data to calculate driving behaviour. In cities and on other crowded roads, the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC helps maintain the distance between car and the vehicle in front during speeds of up to 210 kmph. In the same speed range, Active Steering Assist helps the driver stay in the centre of the lane on stretches of straight road and on slight bends. Blind Spot Assist, meanwhile, makes up for human limitations by indicating vehicles present in the blind spot during a lane change. The new S-Class also communicates with other cars equipped with the Car-to-X communication system about dicey road conditions and low visibility due to fog, rain, accidents etc. en route.

The new S-Class can even automatically engage the emergency system when the driver is unable to raise an alarm. Active Emergency Stop Assist brings the car to a stop if it detects sustained periods of inactivity from the driver when Active Steering Assist is switched on. If the driver doesn’t respond to repeated visual and audible prompts, it automatically activates the emergency call system and unlocks the car to provide access to first responders.

The new Mercedes-Benz S 350 d in India features another notable innovation – the country’s first BS VI norms-compliant car engine, in accordance with government regulations to control vehicular pollution. Debuting two years before the BS VI deadline of 2020, the S 350 d engine also remains compatible with the current BS IV fuels.

The S 350 d is an intelligent car made in India, for Indian roads - in the Mercedes Benz S-Class tradition. See the video below to know what drives the S-Class series by Mercedes Benz.

To know more about the 2018 S-Class, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mercedes Benz and not by the Scroll editorial team.