Raising Rusty

In the mid-90s,when cable TV was still trying to find its ground in India,many of us grew up watching a young,nature-loving Rusty become a 22-year-old struggling writer.

Written by Somya Lakhani | Published: March 19, 2012 3:37:12 am

Legendary DD show Ek Tha Rusty returns with newer,maturer stories and a grown-up Rusty

In the mid-90s,when cable TV was still trying to find its ground in India,many of us grew up watching a young,nature-loving Rusty become a 22-year-old struggling writer. Titled Ek Tha Rusty,the 26-episode show on Doordarshan (DD) was based on a number of short stories written by Ruskin Bond,which were directed by Shubhadarshini Singh. So,an entire generation grew up watching nine-year-old Rusty’s bond with his father over trees,birds and mountains,to the time he spent lazing around with his granny in the hills to his running away from boarding school with Daljit and then befriending Bijju and Binya and finally,his return to India from London as a writer.

Set in the ’40s,the show had a mighty cast — theatre biggies Zohra Sehgal,Suhaila Kapoor,Raj Zutshi,Pearl Padamsee,Zarul Ahuja and Begum Para. More than a decade-and-a-half later,Rusty is set to return to the small screen as a handsome 32-year-old writer based in Mussourie. Set in the ’60s,Ek Tha Rusty 2,also being directed by Singh,picks up the show from where it had been left the last time and the viewers get to watch an adult Rusty,caught around tales of murder,jealousy,love,lust and adultery.

This time,it’s a 52-episode show,which will be aired on DD National and DD World. “I’ve wanted to work on part two for a while now but it didn’t work out. Finally,DD commissioned it and I decided it was time for Rusty to grow up,” Singh says over the phone from Mussourie,where she is shooting with the cast.

Ten short stories and novellas by Bond such as Love is a Sad Song,Who Killed the Rani?,The Sensualist,Dead Man’s Gift,Binya Passes By,Last Time I Saw Delhi,Time Stops at Shamli,Hanging at Mango Tope,From Small Beginnings and At Green’s Hotel are being made into one continuous show. The show has been shot in Deodar Hotel,Chaar Dukaan and Sisters’ Bazaar in Landour.

The cast this time includes Vipul Gupta of India Calling fame,who plays Rusty,Ayub Khan as the naïve and bitter Inspector Keemat Lal,Rahul Batra as “the sensualist”,Suhasini Mulay as Miss Bean,Priyanka Joshi as Rusty’s love interest,Susheela,and the writer’s great-granddaughter Shrishti Bond as Kamala. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a semi-biographical character and I have read Ruskin Bond while growing up,so I took it up,” says Gupta. Singh took him to meet Bond at his house and it was there that he observed his body language. “How he sleeps on the left side of the bed,his subtle sense of humour and how he talks — I have tried imbibing all this,” says Gupta. Singh adds,“When I told Ruskin about Vipul playing Rusty,he joked that he wasn’t so handsome in his thirties.”

It was Singh who picked 15-year-old Shrishti to play Kamala. “My great-grandfather is very excited since I play his girlfriend in a way. I am also thrilled because I wanted to act and it’s a dream-come-true to be part of an adapation of his books,” says Shrishti.

While the concept seems interesting and intriguing,one wonders how mature and adult content that is part of Bond’s literature,will be adapted on screen,especially on Doordarshan. For instance,The Sensualist is a rather graphic story of a hermit who narrates his sexcapades sitting in a cave — from falling for Mulia,the servant,to lusting after Samkyukta,a cousin,and a love tale attached to a prostitute. “The stories require a certain degree of intimacy to be shown and I have spoken to DD about this. We have shown a kiss or two and done it in a way that it’s not loud and unreal,” explains Singh. The Sensualist is one of Bond’s most controversial novellas and when excerpts were published in the Debonair magazine,the writer was charged with obscenity.

Ask Singh about her association with Bond’s books and the show,and she gets a bit nostalgic. “Mussorie has changed — we had shot at Savoy Hotel 15 years ago,but now there are restrictions and there’s no old-world charm that the city has retained,” she says.

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