The flight of courage and conviction

  • Veteran film, TV and theatre actor Vikram Gokhle passed away yesterday. This old review of Udaan is republished as a tribute to him. He had played the role of the idealist father of the protagonist whose guidance, motivation and moral support shaped her personality.

The era of TV serials (initially called soap operas) started in India during the eighties with the telecast of ‘Hum Log’ on Doordarshan. Since Doordarshan was the only TV channel in India during that period, many other serials were also telecast on Doordarshan only following the popularity and success of Hum Log viz. ‘Buniyaad’, ‘Khaandaan’, ‘Nukkad’, ‘Raamayan’, ‘Mahabhaarat’ etc. alongwith sitcoms like ‘Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi’ and character-based serials like ‘Rajni’. 

However, none of these serials could win my heart which was as sensitive those days as it is today. However suddenly a serial started being aired on Doordarshan titled as Udaan (flight) and it’s this serial with only 32 episodes in total which silently stepped deep into the heart of Jitendra Mathur, a struggling youth; rendering a lot of positive energy and hope to him and strengthening his faith in the high values of life. Still the memories of that serial are fresh in my heart and it’s this serial only which played a major role in my attempting for the Indian Civil Services after completing my C.A.

udaan‘Udaan’ is the inspiring and touching story of Kalyani Singh (Kavita Chaudhary) living with her father (Vikram Gokhle) and mother (Uttara Baokar). Life becomes pretty hard for herself and her family when her father loses his landed property due to deceit of certain greedy and unscrupulous ones. She feels that her younger brother is given more attention and significance than her in the family because of the gender-based discrimination.

However her unbiased, clean-heart and noble father with a deep-seated faith in ethics and abilities of a human-being who follows the right path helps her in keeping her morale high. Gaining a faith from her extra-ordinary father that she is no less than a boy and can achieve any goal, she concentrates on her studies, aiming for the Indian Police Service to help those aggrieved who seek justice but do not get any cooperation from the police in that regard because the police is not sincere towards its duties. Her determination takes her to her decided goal but is it the end or the peak for her ? No! Kalyani is still a long way to go in the male-dominated society with a patriarchal mindset.

She comes across the problems of not only the old-fashioned, lazy, negligent and insensitive cops whom she has to work with but also the seniors who look upon her as a sex-object only. Rot is there in the complete system and for someone like Kalyani, it is a Herculean task to make a worthwhile effort to clean it as well as tone it up to serve the masses in the correct way. But the way Kalyani had not given up during her childhood and adolescence and made to the IPS despite financial and allied hardships, the same way she does not give up while being a part of the system.

A corrupt, inefficient and indifferent system cannot be eliminated but someone with pious intentions can try to improve it while being a part and parcel of it. Kalyani does the same. Her patience, courage, self-confidence and strong willpower show their colour in due course of time. However she is not just a dutiful and sincere cop, she is a woman also. And the woman in her falls in love with a like-minded IAS officer (Shekhar Kapoor) who starts liking her during the course of their official interaction and proposes to her after some time. However leading her life with a mission, Kalyani has to evaluate her womanly sentiments against her high ideals before taking the key decision of her life.

The serial which was not dragged like many other soap operas telecast on different TV channels in later years and was concluded after 32 episodes only. It was not made clear whether Kalyani married the love of her life. After showing Kalyani’s tryst with her destiny and her encounters with not only injustices being faced by the commonfolk due to the insensitive and unjust system but also the hardships of the poor which she could not do anything about despite all the sensitivity in her heart, the serial-maker ended it with Kalyani’s Udaan (flight) for her place of posting with the sound coming from the background underscoring the Udaan of herself in her life and career.

The serial shows the insensitive, indifferent and oppressive police, administrative and judicial system prevailing in India which is rule-bound for the underdog and the commoners but highly flexible to the benefit of the wealthy and the mighty on one hand and the struggling ahead of a lady from a modest background and with modest resources in this system solely on the basis of the teachings and motivation of her father as well as her own courage and conviction on the other. She does not want to make it big in the service just for the sake of her own career but she wants to move ahead so that she can do something meaningful for those who crave for justice, who crave for relief from their plight and who feel completely hapless and helpless in the given scenario, expecting some messiah to come to their rescue. Kalyani’s unshakable faith in her ideals and the rightness of her chosen path provides fortitude and vitality to her when almost all the odds are against her.

Kavita Chaudhary who had become famous during the eighties for her Surf advertisement by playing Lalitaji in the same and asserting -‘Surf Ki Kharidaari Mein Hi Samajhdaari Hai‘,  has produced and directed this serial with herself playing the lead role of Kalyani Singh. She has done an outstanding job both as a director and as an actor. This serial is unbelievably realistic, touching, inspiring and impressive. She got the inspiration to make this serial from the real life story of her elder sister Kanchan Chaudhary who became an IPS officer after undergoing a lot of struggle in her life (she became the first woman DGP of India in 2012). However being ignorant of the story of Kanchan Chaudhary, I used to contrast the story of this serial with the life of Mrs. Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer of India.

In addition to Kavita, all the other actors (including those actresses who have played the roles of child Kalyani and adolescent Kalyani) have also done splendidly. All the technical aspects of the serial are well in order and nowhere is there an air of artificiality. Right from the beginning of the story which is set in a village to the peak of it which is set in the corridors of the Indian bureaucracy, everything is real and believable. Almost every frame of this serial seems to have arrived straight out of the real life.

This serial motivated me to aim for becoming an IAS officer in my life and when I was preparing for the my first attempt in 1994, I had developed a desire to meet two persons after becoming an IAS officer – first Mrs. Kiran Bedi who had won the Raman Magsaysay Award those days for her exemplary work as the in-charge of the Tihaar jail and second Kavita Chaudhary whom I used to adore those days. The serial had finished on TV long back but its memories used to haunt me every now and then, especially when I visualized the fulfillment of my cherished dream.

Now this serial is available in DVD form and any youth who wants to do something worthwhile for the country through the central or the state services with a faith in the moral values and high ideals, must watch this serial which is an ocean of inspiration. Scarcity of resources doesn’t matter when your mission is noble. And where there is a will, there is always a way – asserts this Udaan (flight) of Kalyani Singh, IPS.

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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