In the age of Netflix, 4K and 4G, these tales seem to be like cock and bull story. Someone, who came to this blue planet after the Y2K, a millennial kid will listen to these tales with utter disbelief and finally see off with a smirk! Because he or she never saw a landline telephone which did not have any number of pads but dialers. A black and white TV with a pair of metal antennas is something which is found in old photographs in family albums, which too is in extinction. Camera with 36 snaps film roll and the VCRs which played the VHS tapes of movies. Those were the days of the Nineties!
That wooden box black and white TV’s are gone. Now they are replaced with wall hanging slim LED TV’s with high speed internet connectivity. But the main reason, for which people were glued to TV, was not the technological marvel. It was the contents, which were shown in that time from one and only state-run channel, BTV. Here are five TV programs which were so popular that literally streets fell empty during the show time!
The first name is ‘MacGyver’. Possibly the most popular TV show in the history of Bangladesh. Even the word MacGyver also got blended into colloquial diction! Picture of MacGyver was there in exercise books, Tiffin box, T-shirts and on so many other things. Sales of posters and view-cards with picture of MacGyver reached all time high. The series was globally a very popular one, but here in Bangladesh the frenzy took an extra mile. ‘MacGyver’ is a series based on the activities of Angus MacGyver, who is a secret agent of fictional agency Phoenix Foundation. MacGyver refuses to carry a gun, uses his genius level intellect to face any adverse situation. MacGyver has a great knowledge of science, engineering and ballistics; he uses common tools or ingredients from every day life to create something extra ordinary which serves the situation best. Richard Dean Anderson portrayed the role of MacGyver and earned an eternal place in the hearts of many.
‘Kothao Keu Nei’ is another drama series which created a nationwide phenomenon. Written by the magical writer Humayun Ahmed, the drama tells the tale of struggles in everyday life of middleclass people living in Dhaka. The story evolves around Muna, who is an orphan and lives with her uncle’s family. She does a petty job in some private office where the workload is high but the payroll is low. Her uncle often beats up his children out of frustration. The downtown alley, where this family lives, is also the den of a notorious street thug, Baker. The jeans wearing, key-chain swinging, bearded Baker is a typical petty criminal who bullies local small businessmen, rickshaw puller and take extortion money. Baker loves Muna, but Muna is engaged with Mamun, who has a white collar job. But fate played few tricks and all the characters meet their end. Baker received death penalty for murder and Muna received his body at the jail gate. The drama series had only 30 episodes with a runtime of 45-60 minutes each, but told the story in such a fabulous way that it kept people mesmerized. Suborna Mustafa played the role of Muna, Adaduzzaman Noor played Baker Bhai and Abdul Kader played his sidekick Bodi. All the actors earned plenty of appreciation for their respective roles. Noor became so popular for his role and put life in Baker Bhai in such a fabulous way that people made protests against the death sentence of this fictitious character. Such thing happened only with Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put an end to the career of Sherlock by killing him in the story ‘The Final Problem’. But after tremendous pressure of fans through mails and newspaper, Sherlock was brought back to life after 8 years. But Humayun let Baker meet his tragic end!
Probably, pizza was popularized in Bangladesh by a group of turtles. Astonishing! But the fact is quite close. The popular cartoon show ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ (TMNT) was a massive attraction for kids in the early 1990’s. After every adventure, the four humanlike turtles, named after four renaissance scholars, grabbed a slice of pizza. This Italian food was not so popular in Dhaka then. The popularity of the show gave birth to a whole new restaurant culture in Dhaka, the birth of pizza places. Like the food it showed, the cartoon series was also delicious for the eyes. Watching those four grown up humanlike turtles doing martial arts, and kicking some serious butt of Shredder and his gang was great fun on Friday morning. Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michel Angelo; the turtles were a good teacher of renaissance too!
‘Arabian Nights’ or ‘Alif Laila’, a collection of folklore from the Arabia is a treasure of the world literature. Amazing stories, full of supernatural elements, fantastic description and cliffhanger plot, ‘Alif Laila’ is a delight in every possible way. Sagar Brothers from India made the dramatizations of ‘Alif Laila’ in their own way and produced a TV series of 260 episodes for Doordarshan. Later, BTV brought the Bengali-dubbed version through syndication and aired in Bangladesh. The series also got huge popularity. The stories of genies, magical lamp, flying carpet, treasure cave, beautiful sorcerers, ugly witches, rightful princes, just kings and wondering traders mesmerized the audience with plenty of entertainment. There were dances, chimes, acrobatic, cinematic and lot of excitements. The starting music and theme song also became very famous. It was a tune which sets the tone of a joy ride and ‘Alif Laila’ was really a roller coaster ride.
Last but not the least, ‘Chayachondo’. A program consisting popular songs from Bangla films was arguably the most viewed program ever produced by BTV. The program showed popular songs from Bangladeshi cinema. During 1990’s, there was a wave of teenage love in films; directors were bringing in new pairings on the screen. Shabnaz-Nayeem and Salman Shah-Moushumi couples were the craze of the youth. Hit songs from the films were available in audio cassettes or aired in radio programs. But visuals were rare. ‘Chayachondo’ was the only way to revisit those memories! Normally, the program was aired after the 10 o’clock English Bulletin and people eagerly waited for the fortnightly program.
Macgyver got a reboot, Alif Laila is having a re-run in another channel, TMNT got two live action full length 3D films; but none of them served the same. New MacGyver is not sharp as his predecessor, Turtles look gigantic and threatening in the screen and ‘Alif Laila’ was full of cheap CGI and VFX. May be, the charm is faded with time. So, it’s better to let them live in memories, untouched!