New Wagle Ki Duniya is a nostalgic trip down memory lane: Usha Laxman

Titled Wagle Ki Duniya – Nayi Peedhi Naye Kissey, the new show, featuring original cast members Aanjjan Srivastav, Bharti Achrekar as well as new entrants in Sumeet Raghavan and Pariva Pranati, started airing on Sony SAB from Monday.

Legendary cartoonist RK Laxman was closely involved with the original Wagle Ki Duniya, a slice-of-life serial around his famous creation of the common man, says his daughter-in-law Usha Laxman, who is now associated with the new version of the show.

To celebrate the birth centenary of the Padma Vibhushan recipient, whose political cartoons remain relevant even today, Usha Laxman said she started a number of initiatives to carry forward the legacy of her father-in-law and one of the ideas was to bring back the popular show for a new generation.

According to Usha Laxman, the new series is a tribute to the legend of RK Laxman.

The original sitcom that ran on DD National from 1988 to 1990 was based on characters created by the noted illustrator. Starring Aanjjan Srivastav and Bharati Achrekar, it was directed by Kundan Shah and produced by veteran actor Durga Khote.

“The new series is based on the same concept of bridging the gap between the eighties generation and the current one where the problems faced by them are similar, but on different grounds. It is more of a nostalgic journey down the memory lane,” Usha Laxman told PTI in an interview.

Titled Wagle Ki Duniya – Nayi Peedhi Naye Kissey, the new show, featuring original cast members Srivastav, Achrekar as well as new entrants in Sumeet Raghavan and Pariva Pranati, started airing on Sony SAB from Monday.

The idea for the story was a result of Usha Laxman’s discussion with people who were associated with her father-in-law, who was born on October 24, 1921 in Mysore, erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore, in one way or the other. RK Laxman’s elder brother was celebrated novelist RK Narayan, known for The Guide and Swami and Friends.

“I got on board with those personalities through my live show Conversing with the Common Man, a twice a month show. JD Majethia, who is the producer of the new series, called me and said if he can feature in one of the episodes as he had done RK Laxman Ki Duniya (comedy show in 2011).

“During the conversation, I spoke to him about the various initiatives that I was doing, including bringing out some of Dad’s written material and, of course, Wagle Ki Duniya because that was his dream project,” she said.

Majethia, who has produced classic shows like Khichdi and Sarabhai vs Sarabhai’, and Usha Laxman, who runs a social media handle called Laxman Legacy, loved the idea of bringing the show back at a time when people, home bound as they were due to the coronavirus pandemic, were nostalgic about old serials.

Writer Aatish Kapadia, Majethia’s longtime collaborator, has penned the new series.

“I’m quite hopeful that the quality will be maintained because Aatish Kapadia is a very good writer and the new Wagle couple has the old Wagle couple hand holding them. It should go on, fingers crossed, because this is the biggest tribute that all of us have put together and taking it forward for the new generation,” she said.

Recalling her father-in-law’s fondness for his popular creation, Usha Laxman said the original show was born out of a conversation that the cartoonist had with Tina Khote, Durga Khote’s daughter-in-law, who wanted to bring his daily cartoons to the small screen.

“Dad said, ‘That’s not possible because my common man does not speak’. But she said, ‘TV is a medium where it can reach the masses’. Dad promised to create something especially for her. He said, ‘I will create episodes which will have to do with things and situations happening around us with the common man featuring in it,” Usha Laxman said.

It took RK Laxman and Tina Khote two years to bring the show to the screen.

“Dad used to go to Tina’s office once a week and Kundan Shah, Ravi Ojha, Ajay Karthik, all of them used to be there. Dad would create an episode on the spot. Dad was not very good with the Hindi language so what he would narrate it in English and somebody would record it and make notes. He would just walk up and down and narrate the episode of the day.”

Usha Laxman said the iconic cartoonist would often share his excitement about the show with the family when he returned home.

“It was something where he could relax from the stress of political cartooning everyday. Dad would come home and he just could not wait to narrate the whole thing to us and he would enact it all over again. So we had an idea about exactly what we were going to see on the screen,” she recalled.

RK Laxman was closely involved in the selection of Srivastav to play the protagonist Srinivas Wagle, a bumbling sales clerk in a multinational.

“He selected Anjjan out of hundreds of people during the audition… He wanted Anjjan to play the character with more silence and the actor understood what Dad wanted from the character,” she said.

Usha Laxman said her father-in-law was fond of understated comedy.

“He always used to say, ‘You cannot create comedy, it has to be spontaneous. It has to be there in the environment… All of this came together in the original show.”

She also revealed RK Laxman was initially unhappy with the first six episodes of the show and wanted certain things to be edited or redone before they were sent to Doordarshan.

“Tina Khote told Dad, ‘Laxman I have spent a lot of money, time and effort on it’. He said, ‘No, then I am not putting it on air’. He was very stubborn and said, ‘I cannot afford my quality to go down in any way’. So the episodes were redone and ever since he was very particular about every episode that went on air.”

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