tv series

The DD Files: Kalyani Singh in ‘Udaan’ remains our favourite heroine in khaki

The 1989 series, directed by and starring Kavita Chaudhary as a police officer, is an unmatched story of female empowerment.

It has been 27 years since Udaan was first telecast on Doordarshan. That no other female character since then has managed to match up to the charisma of Kalyani Singh says as much about the serial’s impact as it does about television’s regressive turn.

The 30-episode series was based on the life of Kanchan Chaudhary Bhattacharya, the country’s first female Director General of Police and the second Indian Police Service officer after Kiran Bedi. Bhattacharya was played by her sister, Kavita Chaudhary, who wrote and directed the series.


Udaan was a rage for all the right reasons. Here was a serial that your parents actually wanted you to watch in the days when TV-watching time was carefully rationed. There was something epic, almost reminiscent of Mother India, in the struggles of a man with a wife and two children who walks out of his misogynistic father’s mansion to give flight to his daughter’s dreams. But it was Kalyani’s journey – from being heartbroken at being ill-treated by her grandfather to fighting for her father’s dignity and winning – that resonated deeply with audiences.

Udaan was possibly one of DD’s finest productions. Every scene was carefully crafted. From the locations to sets, the lush fields to the middle-class homes and police chowkies, everything was as real as the performances. Playing her sister in the show, Kavita Chaudhary poured her heart into the role of Kalyani. And it showed.

Do check out the sequence in which Kalyani, who is running pillar to post to get justice for her father who has been assaulted over a property dispute, looks admiringly at a woman Indian Administrative Service officer, who commands tremendous respect from the men who are her peers and juniors.


Kalyani later confesses to her family that she has had enough of being tossed around like an “aam admi”. She wants to be special and regain honour for her family and herself. She vows to return to the same places – the police stations, the court rooms and the minister’s offices, but as a person of significance and power.

Later, after impressing her seniors with her sincerity and determination, Kalyani struts through that same corridor as though she owns it. When men rise up to salute her, Kalyani suppresses a smile, the secret of which is yielded to the audiences that are by now rooting wildly for their favourite icon.

Udaan was many things all at once. It was the real-life story of a woman who had broken the toughest glass ceilings and of a charming little girl in braids who fights gender discrimination both blatant and insidious and grows up to be a woman of true grit. It was about parents who sacrificed their creature comforts and happily embraced hardships to build a future for their daughter. And it was also about values that middle-class India was fiercely proud of but was struggling to hold on to in the 1980s. It was a story of familial bonds and corrupt systems, of personal triumph and resilience.

That was the power of Udaan. It made you laugh and cry with the protagonist without the high-pitched histrionics, sound effects and visual wizardry that is de rigueur.

Udaan’s phenomenal success rode on the slender but strong shoulders of its lead actress, who rocked the khaki uniform. But it also soared on the back of some excellent writing. The dialogue, even at its most quotidian, had a lyrical ring to it and carried significant heft. When Kalyani’s mother speaks of being embarrassed at welcoming her wealthy sister-in-law at their decrepit home, her husband says, “Those who wish to meet us because of where we live can stay away. Those wish to meet us because of who we are, are always welcome.”

Udaan was not just about Kalyani’s ambition. It also featured Shekhar Kapur as an IAS officer and her love interest. In a patriarchal society, here was a man who treated her as an equal and sent many impressionable young women into a swoon when he proposed to her in a jeep.

There have been several attempts at creating similar characters inspired by exemplary stories of women achievers. The upcoming Prakash Jha film Jai Gangaajal, starring Priyanka Chopra as police officer Abha Mathur is only the latest example. For the generation that is unfamiliar with Kalyani Singh, Abha Mathur may be crowned with labels such as “empowering” and “fierce”. Will the character’s reel journey evoke the same kind of emotions as Kalyani Singh’s? Despite all the progress made since 1989, there has been little or no change in what women are fighting for and against.
For some of the TV serials from the 1980s that have been featured in The DD Files, see here, here and here.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900


If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.


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