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‘Baawre’: Bringing alive the quaintness of Lucknow

A ‘nazm’ to start with, a quintessential love story, picturesque old-world charm of Lucknow in the background and a ‘sutradhaar’ to guide you through—this is the ambience that greets your eyes as you sit before your television set watching ‘Baawre’.

Recently launched, Life OK’s ‘Baawre’ is an interesting experiment. What is even more interesting is how this concept took birth. While most television soaps are focused on commercial success, here comes a story from the heart of writer Neelesh Misra that aims to redefine the art of storytelling itself.

Nilesh Misra

Nilesh Misra

A lyric writer from Lucknow, Misra started his own company Content Project by selling off his apartment in Delhi and launched a rural newspaper ‘Gaon Connection’. It was a small meeting with Star India CEO Uday Shankar in December 2012 that gave birth to the concept of ‘Baawre’.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, Misra said, “I stayed away from television because I was scared of it. I met Uday and told him that it was tedious and murky. He said all I had to do was come to the right place. It was then that we started working closely with Star Network to create something which was close to my radio world.”

Once the basic idea of the story got sorted, it was decided that the show would best reflect the values that Life OK stands for. A second meeting with Life OK’s general manager Ajit Thakur also proved to be fruitful, as Thakur was already a fan of Misra, having listened to Misra’s radio storytelling show ‘Yaad Shehar’.

Ajit Thakur

Ajit Thakur

“We had the basic idea sorted as Misra was the creative producer. But we realised we also needed a younger producer to understand other nuances, who we got in Sunshine Productions’ Sudhir Sharma,” Thakur added.

But Shankar was very keen to have Misra’s trademark radio vibe on the TV show. Thus, the show does not see any of the regular drama with people shrieking at each other or falling off cliffs. A big innovation was getting Misra as the ‘sutradhaar’ to talk about how the story progresses in a unique way.

Like a walking ghost, Misra, the ‘sutradhaar’, appears at will and also helps to jump sequences and time, apart from giving his own perspective on the situation and leaving an open-ended question for the audience.

Talking about his experience, Misra said, “This is my first step as a TV storyteller, and it is challenging and daunting. For me the challenge is to bring the same flavour of my radio world onto TV. When I am on screen as narrator, I am not summarising what happened; I am giving my point of view. What I try to do is take the story back to the audience.”

Being a journalist for a long time helps him to connect the various experiences in his life to situations depicted in the show. In one scene, he relates his coverage of the Kargil war to relationships. Similarly, when he talks about Nikumbh (protagonist) and his father, he often touches on his relationship with his own father. In fact, many incidents in the show have been inspired by Misra’s own life.

Juggling several hats, the writer is also creating original compositions for the show. Moreover, the show is using ‘audio postcards’, wherein Misra reads out his best couplets in the form of a voiceover.

“I am staying away from Bollywood for a bit now. I am happy writing here without any commercial consideration of the market. For the first time, I am putting make-up. There is great chaos but I am happy,” he said.

Bawre: A view from the top

Bawre: A view from the top

Unlike other TV shows which are set in a single house, ‘Baawre’ travels back and forth between Lucknow and Mumbai and boasts an extensive outdoor schedule. This is because the story is set in Lucknow and Misra wants everything to be realistic.

In terms of the language too, the team’s attempt is to retain the flavour of Lucknow. The credit here goes to Misra’s ‘mandli’ of writers Aayush Tiwari, Mohammad Adil, Samrat Chakravarthy and a dialogue consultant back in Lucknow.

“We were working for almost a year on this project and the entire journey was very smooth. The initial task for six months was how to adapt this writing style which is new to television,” said Sunshine Productions founder Sudhir Sharma.

Abhishek Rawat

Abhishek Rawat (Nikumbh)

The story also attempts to break a lot of stereotypes through Nikumbh’s friend Azam and his love interest Shaheen who comes from a feudal Muslim family. Muslim characters on TV are made to wear kajal, a skull cap and do ‘adab’ and talk. The show doesn’t feature any of these and the Muslim characters in the show are very contemporary.

Having shot in Lucknow for a month, the show will present a different version of the city itself through locations like Baradari, Hazratganj Market, Imambada, Gomti Nagar and the Lucknow University Road.

This evokes nostalgia in not just Misra, but also the lead actor Abhishek Rawat, who plays Nikumbh and belongs to the city of Nawabs.

Recalling his shoot in the city, Rawat said, “I know how people talk there so I did not have to work on the language, but I had to understand the writing. I went through some documentaries of Mirza Ghalib and more. The show also helped me see Lucknow in a new way and there was a lot of nostalgia when we shot at various locations there. I remembered my college days when I went through heartbreak and other emotions.”

Tit-bits from the sets

  • Abhishek (Nikumbh) auditioned for the show a year ago, but as the writers were busy developing the show, he thought he lost the chance to play Nikumbh and was very depressed.
  • The character of Yamini, the female lead, is inspired by a girl Misra knows in real life but refuses to name.
  • Neelesh Misra used up all his fixed deposits for his dream project. This left his father horrified when he visited Lucknow recently.
  • One of Misra’s most famous pieces of poetry, ‘Puraane Khat’, was recited in the first episode of the show.

The script bank is now being designed in such a way that the team will visit Lucknow every three months for an outdoor shoot.

But let’s not overlook the set in Mumbai. A two-storied ‘haveli’, the set evokes a quaint charm through various elements like an ‘aangan’ (courtyard), ‘roshandan’ (ventilator) and paintings. There were over 110 people working on the show, but assembling these intricate elements was not an easy task and took two months to put together. The credit for this goes to set designer Aparna Raina, who has also worked on movies like ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’ and ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’.

'Bawre baithak'

‘Bawre baithak’

“Aparna is a close friend and she designed the set. She picked up a lot of props from Delhi and Lucknow. There are a lot of rooms we have left empty on the set which we will use as the story progresses,” stated Sharma.

BawreWhile all this paints a rosy picture in terms of creativity, it was a huge risk in terms of business. However, being a young channel, Life OK was willing to take the risk.

Thakur observed, “The show has a different taste altogether, but for a young channel like us we are open to taking risks and experimenting. Investment is not equal to quality, but this show is a little expensive than normal fiction shows.”

Misra said the real challenge lay in trying to do something radically different. “Here we are trying to write a film for TV and bring alive the richness of small-town India,” he added.

Misra expresses his love at the start of the show through these two lines: ‘Baat be baat pe ye apni hi baat kehta hai, mere andar mera chhota sa shehar rehta hai’.