It’s almost an hour-long drive from the city of Chandigarh to the other end of Kharar township in Punjab, down the narrow winding roads of hamlets lost in time, to a village called Bhajauli.
Surrounding us are lush green fields against a blue sky, tubewells whirring up water, and haystacks every few miles. We ask a villager, “Kya Naseeb Haveli ka raasta yahi hai (is this the road to Naseeb Haveli)?” And sure enough he knows. The show’s production team was right — “ask anyone, and they will know Doctor saab’s haveli.” For a month now, the cast and crew of Life Ok’s new show ‘Nadaan Parinde’ are camped in the middle of these fields. “That was the initial idea. To take six months out and shoot the entire serial in Punjab,” says director and producer Imtiaz Punjabi.
We look around and see the two havelis decked up like a bride. There is a wedding sequence going on and Punjabi’s team briefs the dancers and extras about their positions and reactions. Punjabi loses his cool a few times as he gives instructions on the microphone. Pegged as an edgy narrative depicting life at the border, Nadaan Parinde is the story of Sameer (Karan Rajpal) and Meher (Gulki Joshi).
While Sameer is a carefree and affable boy, Meher is his childhood friend, progressive in thought and wants Sameer to make a mark for himself. “It’s the first show I am producing based on the lives of people who live on the border. It’s a love story with a different theme,” says Punjabi.
In order to lend a realistic and authentic feel to the show, Punjabi refused to shoot it on a set in Mumbai and opted for real locations instead. “It’s a definite, concrete story, and we are shooting 260 episodes to begin with to run it for a year so we can plan the shoot,” says Punjabi, who earlier worked on shows such as ‘Parvarrish’, ‘Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin’, ‘Maryaada’ and ‘Ek Muthi Aasman’.
Interestingly, even as the show is just about taking off, Punjabi already has an idea for season two. “Well, unlike the West, our serials are not story driven as much as they are character driven, and hence they keep running endlessly,” he says, and goes back to the monitor.
The light is fading and Punjabi wants to make the most of it. The scene being canned is a high drama scene where Meher, after Sameer’s intervention to stop her marriage, is left standing alone in the mandap. The baraatis on the set are the village folk who are excited to be part of a daily soap. The dancers are relaxing in the background as their job for the day is done.
“Usually, we do get our scripts in advance, but sometimes, there are last minute changes, and we rehearse on the sets,” says Rajpal, earlier seen in shows such as ‘Surveen Guggal’, ‘Rakshak’, ‘Ek Doosre Se Karte Hain Pyaar Hum’, ‘Kya Hua Tera Vada’ and ‘Parichay’. Pushed into acting by his father, Rajpal, a cricketer, was a reluctant actor but has slowly got the hang of it.
He is excited about his stint in ‘Nadaan Parinde’ and describes his character, Sameer Atwal, “as a bholanath who is laidback and easy going till his life takes a complete turn. He is unaware that someone is keeping a close watch on him. Then there’s a transformation,” says Rajpal, adding how the show has enough of drama, mystery, love and patriotism to keep the audiences of all age-groups interested.