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The veteran is at it again

Veteran director Lekh Tandon is wrapping up his last serial and penning his autobiography

A SEARCH FOR THE ROOTS A scene from "Aisa Des Hai Mera"

Obviously, your enthusiasm is high when you meet a veteran like Lekh Tandon. As far as tele-serials in India go, Tandon is indeed a pioneer. Besides his memorable movies and long association with the Kapoors, his serials such as Phir Wahi Talaash, Dil Dariya, Fauji, Daraar and Circus made for Doordarshan during those early days of television, are still remembered by viewers with praise. By the way, to him goes the credit for launching Shah Rukh Khan's career.

At 67, Tandon is back to doing what he is best remembered for — writing and directing a serial. His soap Aisa Des Hai Mera is being aired on Sony TV (Monday to Thursday, 9 p.m.). So as expected, you want him to relate his experience this time vis--vis the 1980s.

"Those days, our idea was to tell a good story, but now the thrust seems to be on camera angles and other techniques. Also, it is too costly to make a serial. The studios are expensive, the actors expect a lot of money and you have to fall in line with the channel guidelines," says Tandon. "It is not all that creative an experience any more. Perhaps, this is the last time I am making a serial."

Has the experience of directing a serial for a private channel been bitter? "No, I am not complaining. It is the way things are now. Creativity has to be sacrificed at the altar of commercial benefits most of the time," he says.

Tandon, who began his television foray with Doordarshan, is bitter about its state today: "Doordarshan, with such a reach, is the right medium to make a good serial, but who would risk endless pushing and shoving at this age? It is high time it was revamped. It was so effective once. It is a big loss for creative people."

Not amused by the soaps doing the rounds these days, the veteran, well known for movies such as Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaiye, Agar Tum Na Hote, Amrapali, Jahan Piya Mile and Professor, feels serials have to have a sense of social responsibility.

"I admit my aim as a director and writer is to entertain viewers, but at the same time I should not forget my responsibility towards society. I have to have the right base to justify my serial," he says.

In Aisa Des Hai Mera, Tandon has written and directed a yarn that begins in London and moves to Chandigarh. It is the tale of Rusty, a girl in search of her roots, and features veteran actors such as Kanwaljeet and Ranjit.


"I plan to write my autobiography. I will be putting down my experiences of meeting many greats of celluloid, starting with the legendary Prithviraj Kapoor. The book will be called `Kahan Gaye Woh Log'," he says.

Tandon's relationship with the Kapoor clan goes back to the 1930s, when he landed in Mumbai. He stayed with Prithviraj Kapoor and Raj Kapoor took him around many studios. This is what led to Tandon turning director and writer.

Besides, Tandon is writing a film script on his dog, which laid down its life for him years ago.


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