Sunday, May 23, 2010

Walking down the memory lane with “Fauji”

While browsing around Crosswords in Juhu, Bombay, I chanced upon the DVD of ‘Fauji’- The ‘IT’ TV show of the 80s on DD (Doordarshan for the uninformed). The show was also, as most will know the launch pad of Shahrukh ‘King’ Khan. Holding the DVD in my hands bought back flood of happy memories. And I simply had to buy it. This was in Dec last year.

And I was super excited! Told everyone who would listen that I had the Fauji DVD. And everyone wanted to borrow it. And I said I would lend it, but only after I watched it. And then it lay comfortably in my DVD drawer for months. Every time I thought of watching it, I hesitated. Like it wasn’t the right time. Like there would be a momentous occasion or an auspicious day when I should start watching it. So it lay there, for months...

Until 2 weeks ago when I was quarantined at home and needed intense cheering up. It was the first time ever that I was so ill that could barely move, was not allowed to leave the house AND no one was allowed to visit! It was awful!

Hence I decided this was the time I was waiting for to crack open the DVD and do the “uthghatan” (opening ceremony). I was apprehensive! I think that was the reason I was waiting for THE moment to watch it.

Was I toying with a beautiful childhood memory? Was I trying to recreate the magic of Fauji from that time? How would the 80s DD 13 episode serial stand up to Prison Breaks and Flash Forwards of today? I was petrified of finding out! (I know it’s silly, but it felt like messing with history).

But I decided to bite the bullet and started watching. The first things that hit me:

1) The credits were in Hindi ONLY. No English. Wow! It seemed weird to read Hindi on screen. And I could not follow a word. But the pictures of the cast were shown with the Hindi titles, so I was fine.

2) The production qualities were God awful. It looked so dated.

3) Don’t think anyone at that time had heard of the terms “fashion” or “styling”. Manish Malhotra where were you?!

4) The female cast was oh-so disappointing. I mean, no offense and I am no beauty queen. But seriously! Madhu?! She was the army doctor who starred opposite SRK as one of the female leads. Her face looks like an army truck rammed into it. (OK that sounds terrible, but it is really true).

In the 80s in India, there were hosts of lovely female stars. Could none of them have been taken for the role? My favourite was Kitu Gidwani (of Airhostess fame) and the lesser know Sangeeta Handa (or Trishna fame*), Krutika Desai (of Buniyaad fame), Swaroop Sampat (of Yeh Jo Hai Zindgai fame), Kiran Juneja (again from Buniyaad). But no, we got to see Ms. Madhu Rathod (I have no idea what her real name is, as the credits were in Hindi and I need 5 mins to read one Hindi word).

5) Shahrukh Khan used to ham** even then! (Why am I not surprised?!)

Having said that, it was an absolute delight to watch Fauji again!

And it’s amazing how much stuff I still remember after all these years (but as I have mentioned in one of previous posts, 80% of my brain is filled with Hindi cinema trivia). My favourite commando was still Varun ‘I say chaps’ Chauhan. He was so handsome! And super cool!

I adored Ms. Kiran Kochar who played the aspiring journalist and the love interest of Vikram Rai, Abimanyu Rai’s i.e. SRK’s older brother. And confession time- I had a crush on Vikram Rai. I liked him more than his over-the-top younger brother Abhi. Though I will have to admit, SRK as Abhi did have some good moments. Vikram was the stern older brother, a complete opposite of his younger foolish romantic brother. I loved the equation between him and Kiran. It was so cute! Vikram played the cool stone exterior with a heart of gold persona with such finesse.

The story was predictable- juvenile commando’s life story from training school to coming of age soldiers fighting a war, interweaved love stories which would put Grey’s Anatomy to shame, etc.

The characters were stereotype:

• The serious commando Dev who is just worried about grading

• Kiran’s boss Umesh who was there to merely aid a love triangle

• The sacrificing Muslim soldier

• The fighting Bengali couple- actually they were rather funny

• Colonel Narayanan “Koi shak yaan sawal?”

All in all, it bought back lovely memories. A must-re-watch for anyone from that generation who grew up on the steady diet of DD TV shows.

A personal memory is closely linked with Fauji. It first aired on Wed 18 Jan 1989 (the info on Wikipedia is incorrect when it says 1988). Reason I know it so well is that my little baby cousin sister, Vinky was born on that day. And my other cousin Jyoti, Vinky’s sister Heena and myself had gone to the hospital to see her and thus missed the first episode of Fauji.

I know it’s a sign of age when you revel in the bygone days. But there is no greater pleasure either :)

*Trishna is THE BEST TV show in the history of Indian Television, based on Pride and Prejudice, where Sangeeta Handa played the character of Elizabeth Bennet in the form of Rekha Anand. Kitu Gidwani starred in this too and played Lydia’s character. If anyone finds a DVD of Trishna, please let me know.

** The definition of ‘ham’ per An incompetent actor who over plays and is incapable of subtlety. An over-actor. Well, they could have simply defined it as Shahrukh Khan instead. It would have been equally (if not more) accurate.

More about Fauji :

Fauji was about commandos joining their training school. Shahrukh Khan was Abhimanyu Rai, a bright young, but naughty trainee. His elder brother Vikram is a senior training officer, who cannot behave with any leniency towards Shahrukh. In one incident, Vikram sentences Shahrukh to a rigorous punishment, but then forgets about him. When he remembers, Shahrukh is still struggling with that punishment even as he is near collapse. He takes the army training very seriously afterwards because he had fought at home with his brother for joining army before joining the army. He was having many friends and in their military words the "friends" are called as "buddies".

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  1. Wow, Thanks for writing this blog. I say Chaps, there is one more ardent fan of Fauji in this world...
    God bless...

  2. Your views capture the sentiments attached with this first of its kind serial aptly!!
    I remember how popular Fauji was in defence circles then....
    We kids wanted to grow up soon to be like Lt Abhimanyu Rai......
    Mr Khan was definitely captivating in his debut....
    Though there were many serials based on Armed Forces made later none of them created ripples like Fauji did.......There was "EK Aur Fauji" made some years later by the same gentleman Col.Kapoor...But was disappointing .........
    Laying down your life fighting for your country was thought to be cool then...........Kids dont believe much in it now........
    Times have changed now and we dont relate to the culture and lifestyle of the Army as much........
    But reminiscing about those times gives a nice feeling........Thanx!!

  3. I say chaps....glad to read your blog....I born in 86 and remember fauji... so completed watching its all episodes couple of days took me back into the time....thanks for writing about fauji.....

  4. Fauji was one of best in those days and inspiring. But madhu rathor i.e Manila avtar wa perfect for the role and kitu / swarup would not have done justice to role. Her beauty and act are best but unfortunately could not see her after fauji. Thanks for writing this

  5. Your review about SRK's character is totally wrong!! And u bloody mother fucker, how dare you comment so bad about world biggest star.. The mega star, the greatest actor of time, the legend MR. KHAN (SRK)!! He's surely the best actor in the world!!

  6. I also used to watch srk's Circus and fauji in my chilhood days . . I love Shahrukh . Recently i have watched all the episodes of fauji serial. . And i have fallen in love with army profeesion. . They are strong and desciplined , their life is very close to the nature. . They always have sympathetic attitude and help their buddies. . . They have power of unity. .. they have a sense pride in themselves. . . I had crush on Paan Malhotra in circus serial . .in my childhood days. , once when i was watching him on tv waiting for her g.f at a beach holding peacock feather in one hand. . He was looking very hansome. . At the moment i felt a breeze of love across my face. . That was first when i realised love in my life. . Really old sweet memories are really refreshing . . .

  7. i had a serious crush on Varun 'I say chaps' back then

    1. How many people you had crush on???

      The list keeps on growing!!!!!

      Aur ye koi time hai message karne ka...

      Dhang se soya karo yaar!!!!

      agar ho sake to mujhe ping karna :)

  8. I found your blog while looking for Manjula Avtar (SRKs co-star in Fauji) She was my senior in school as well as JNU. Even for that time and age, this was a very low budget production. We all know the story of how SRK landed the role. Manjula was a Fauji's wife at that time and landed this role. On hind sight it was a motley crowd. Had SRK not made it big, we would have been searching for him like other characters from the serial.

  9. Us vaat ani 14th me thi aur ham ye serial dekhate the sharukh tabhi mera favourite go Gaya meri gadi bahan varun ki fan thi par ab ye bar in Kya karta hai kaisa dikhata Google pe surch Kiya to bhi kuch info nahi milta kisi kuch pata ho to batao

  10. Hahaha u have written so clear and true about Madhu, exactly the same popped into my mind when recently I was watching fauji on YouTube. But see shahrukh has done done such an excellent romantic flirt with that girl too. But only 13 episodes are there, what exactly was the total number of episode??

  11. You said you can not read hindi but love hindi movies grown-up in bollywood trivia but still have colonial arrogance what contract and yes even after so many of year I still was Curious about who played madhu rathod and needed here in this bollywood lover pretading colonial slave and about old time technique and design it was same as today's fashion I mean Dumbo fashion always keep changing other wise we all may be dressing up like a caveman well rest may be some other time before coenting someone's look first look yourself in mirror with others eyes at list one person you will find who may flatly call you ugly mind it baby

  12. I found your blog while looking for Manjula Avtar (SRKs co-star in Fauji) She was my senior in school as well as JNU. Even for that time and age, this was a very low budget production. We all know the story of how SRK landed the role. Manjula was a Fauji's wife at that time and landed this role. On hind sight it was a motley crowd. Had SRK not made it big, we would have been searching for him like other characters from the question where is she now ? me be manjula avtar only one debut serial .......

  13. 5 min to read one hindi word !!! Seriously ???