Indian television

The DD files: ‘Nukkad’ brought the streets of Mumbai into the living room

Sweepers, alcoholics, unemployed youngsters, cycle repairers and tea sellers were given a voice for the first time on national television.

A disenfranchised bunch of people, a nondescript street corner in Bombay and a story of luckless (but not love-less) lives. Nukkad, telecast on Doordarshan between 1986 and 1987, had all the makings of a non-starter. But thanks to the earnest writing, direction and acting, the serial from Aziz and Saeed Mirza’s stable went on to become one of the most loved shows during Indian television’s golden run. It also happened to feature in the late Kundan Shah’s repertoire. Shah joined the team in the later stages of production, bringing his signature passion and energy to the show.

Every episode, starting with the first one that was centred on Diwali, explored the little-big problems of residents of the nukkad, or street corner, in the backdrop of a rapidly changing world. In their bumbling, seemingly naive way, the multi-faith characters deal with problems that are at times commonplace and often contentious – from settling disputes between neighbours and organising a cricket match to coming to terms with death and confronting trade unionism.

Series director Saeed Mirza credits the broadcast to the vision of SS Gill, the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting at the time. Gill went against conventional wisdom and greenlit a series that used humour and sarcasm to talk about social, moral, ethical and cultural issues – something that even the mightiest production houses these days will not touch.

“The 26 characters [in the show] were really the dregs of society,” said Mirza, who credits his team of exceptional writers, for etching out each of them, such as Khopri (Sameer Khakhar), the lovable alcoholic, Guru (Dilip Dhawan), the de facto ring leader who runs an electrical shop, Maria (Rama Vij), the teacher whom Guru loves, Kaderbhai (Avtar Gill), the owner of the local restaurant hangout and cycle repairer Hari (Pavan Malhotra).


For instance, the third episode, about a politician’s visit to the neighbourhood, is a biting commentary on the ruling class. A cobbler, a beggar and an unemployed man are paid a princely two rupees to chant flattering slogans and ask the politician the right questions to make for a good media story.

The response to such envelope-pushing television was initially mixed. “When the serial was first aired, a college friend called me up to ask me what was wrong with me and why was I hell bent on destroying my career,” Mirza said. “Fifteen episodes later the same guy called me up to say, I had improved. I told him I had not changed. He had improved.”

A few associates warned Mirza about the risks of making such a subversive show, but he stuck to his guns. “It is about the Constitution,” he said. “It is inclusive. It is about the dispossessed. And the Constitution is not subversive.”


For Mirza, the responses to Nukkad worked as barometer to judge people. “We realised people would accept something if it touches them,” he said. “It was kind of a call, about secularism, inclusiveness that is outdated prehistoric today.”

Nukkad started out without any sponsors since it had no dream to sell, no aspiration to peddle. Despite the overall feel-good vibe, episodes often began or ended on a note of desperation. Eventually, the toothpaste brand Colgate found some value in the show’s premise, and other brands joined in later.

Even as they dealt with gloomy themes, the actors had a blast on the set. Actor Rama Vij, whoplays the teacher Maria, spoke of how the cast would spend hours before every episode rehearsing their lines, suggesting changes and sharing inputs. “It was mostly a grim show, but even when we were dealing with some of the toughest, most serious scenes, someone or the other would be cracking a joke or doing something behind your back, to make it impossible for you to say your lines with a sad face,” she said. “Such was the camaraderie on the set.”


Kundan Shah joined the team after his own Doordarshan series Police Station was taken off air. Police Station, produced by Aziz Mirza, was set in a typical Indian police station. “He worked like a man possessed, in a frenzy,” Saeed Mirza said about Shah. “He was a brother. He has left behind a huge, huge hole in my life.”

Would a show about sweepers, beggars, alcoholics, unemployed youngsters, cycle repairers, and tea sellers resonate with audiences today? Could we revisit Nukkad for its message of inclusiveness, humanity, equal rights and empathy for fellow human beings?

“I don’t know,” Mirza said. “We have forgotten what our Constitution stands for. Maybe we need this amnesia to function. We are so frightened of today that we cannot see the yesterday and the future is full of anxiety. How else can you explain all that is going wrong in our world?”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Why should inclusion matter to companies?

It's not just about goodwill - inclusivity is a good business decision.

To reach a 50-50 workplace scenario, policies on diversity need to be paired with a culture of inclusiveness. While diversity brings equal representation in meetings, board rooms, promotions and recruitment, inclusivity helps give voice to the people who might otherwise be marginalized or excluded. Inclusion at workplace can be seen in an environment that values diverse opinions, encourages collaboration and invites people to share their ideas and perspectives. As Verna Myers, a renowned diversity advocate, puts it “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Creating a sense of belonging for everyone is essential for a company’s success. Let’s look at some of the real benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

Better decision making

A whitepaper by Cloverpop, a decision making tool, established a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance. The research discovered that teams that followed an inclusive decision-making process made decisions 2X faster with half the meetings and delivered 60% better results. As per Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino, this report highlights how diversity and inclusion are practical tools to improve decision making in companies. According to her, changing the composition of decision making teams to include different perspectives can help individuals overcome biases that affect their decisions.

Higher job satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is connected to a workplace environment that values individual ideas and creates a sense of belonging for everyone. A research by Accenture identified 40 factors that influence advancement in the workplace. An empowering work environment where employees have the freedom to be creative, innovative and themselves at work, was identified as a key driver in improving employee advancement to senior levels.


A research by stated the in India, 62% of innovation is driven by employee perceptions of inclusion. The study included responses from 1,500 employees from Australia, China, Germany, India, Mexico and the United States and showed that employees who feel included are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, suggest new and innovative ways of getting work done.

Competitive Advantage

Shirley Engelmeier, author of ‘Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage’, in her interview with Forbes, talks about the new global business normal. She points out that the rapidly changing customer base with different tastes and preferences need to feel represented by brands. An inclusive environment will future-proof the organisation to cater to the new global consumer language and give it a competitive edge.

An inclusive workplace ensures that no individual is disregarded because of their gender, race, disability, age or other social and cultural factors. Accenture has been a leading voice in advocating equal workplace. Having won several accolades including a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate equality index, Accenture has demonstrated inclusive and diverse practices not only within its organisation but also in business relationships through their Supplier Inclusion and Diversity program.

In a video titled ‘She rises’, Accenture captures the importance of implementing diverse policies and creating an inclusive workplace culture.


To know more about inclusion and diversity, see here.

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