Sapno Se Bhare Naina was never a high-profile show – it had an afternoon slot, no known faces, and not much promotion from the channel either, so it isn’t surprising that it wasn’t a strong TRP-generator. It wasn’t a very flashy show either – the melodrama was very low-key, at least initially, the setting was a simple kothi not some huge bungalow, heavy saris and ridiculous amounts of jewellery were not for everyday wear and on first glance you wouldn’t even say that the hero looked handsome or the heroine gorgeous; overall the serial gave the vibe of being grounded in reality and populated with everyday people.
Unfortunately, as often happens on our small screens, somewhere in the middle the serial took a turn for the worse. The self-interested inconsiderate bahu became malicious and scheming, the hero’s cousin proposed to the heroine, the heroine’s psychotic half-sister became the hero’s fiancée, the understanding aayi turned into a dense and hard-hearted serial saas, and instead of watching a sweet, slice of life show the viewers found themselves watching a regular saas-bhabhi-bahu type tamaasha.
Despite how utterly irritating the serial became in the end though, I feel compelled to reminisce about the enjoyable bits, and so here’s five things I will always remember with appreciation about Sapnon Se Bhare Naina:
The serial’s very first promo depicted a group of young people, ensconced in shawls and sweaters, enjoying a wintry hill station night around a bonfire – Naina happily offers everyone garmagaram chai and then smiles at the camera and says, “प्यार बांटने से ही तो बढ़ता है”. The camera then pans to an unimpressed Daksh who looks away from her and into the camera to note that “अपना प्यार सिर्फ वही इतनी आसानी से बांटते हैं जिन्हें खुद प्यार की कमी हो”. The idea was intriguing, the promo well shot and the title song exuded an inviting sense of warmth.
The protagonist, Naina
What was instantly appealing about the serial when I started watching it was its female protagonist, Naina. Naina was vivacious and sweet, yet her cheerful exterior guarded a thirst for acceptance and love; this duality of strength and vulnerability drew me in.
The refreshing thing about Naina was that she dressed and acted like you’d expect a 20-something of this generation to. She was sharaarati, but not over the top, she was quick-thinking and smart, though she made her share of mistakes too, but above all she was a confident girl – one who knew how to stand up for herself and others without preaching or bhashan-baazi. She was such a wonderfully self-assured young woman in fact that though she went to Mumbai in search of a job at a wedding planning company she later decided to start her own event management company. An entrepreneurial female character on a serial …how many of those can you name? At a time when so many female characters on television didn’t seem to be qualified or have a job, it was heartening to see a character complete her college and start working to earn an income.
Naina’s affectionate nature and inability to stay apathetic meant that she couldn’t sit back and let things happen when she could do something about them. Be it taking charge of her good friend Srishti’s shaadi or wanting to help Akruti regain her self-esteem and confidence even though she was just a paying guest at Patwardhan Niwas, Naina always listened to her heart not caring whether others would thank her for it or rebuff her efforts. Understandably the latter happened quite often at Patwardhan Niwas: not everyone can accept the affection and goodwill of a stranger without feeling awkward or suspicious about it.
Thankfully though, Naina was no saint. When Akruti sabotaged her business Naina protected her instead of exposing her because she knew the consequences for Akruti would not be good, but Naina couldn’t wholeheartedly accept her apology immediately. Her reception of Akruti was cold and wary, though she let Akruti continue working for her business, till Akruti won back her trust. Part of her anger with Akruti was not even because of what Akruti had done but because her cousin brother Daksh thought Naina was in the wrong and for some inexplicable reason Daksh’s opinion had started mattering to her, though she told herself otherwise.
Having someone she trusts reject her was probably Naina’s biggest fear. It was often the cause of her retreating into herself and trying to cut herself off from others. When her stepmother Anjali came to visit her in Patwardhan Niwas Naina couldn’t show how much she cared about her lest she found herself getting rejected again, like in their last confrontation. When her fiancée Abhi let his mother berate Naina and accuse her of lying without intervening, though he knew she had done no such thing, she left Patwardhan Niwas and even refused to let Daksh back into her life, lest Daksh broke her trust just like Abhi had. Eventually she had to learn how to handle “apnon ki berukhi” without running away from them, and while I liked the concept – that after Naina found acceptance and love from her step mother and Daksh she was able to face her worst fear, it has to be said that the serial really went downhill when aayi (aka Daksh’s mother), due to Rohini’s instigations, kept misunderstanding Naina’s intentions once Naina and Daksh got married.
The Patwardhan Dynamics
Though the Patwardhans lived as a joint family – brothers Vidhyadhar and Shreedhar and their families sharing the house, it can’t be said that everyone lived together harmoniously. Two members in particular were responsible for everything that could be characterised dysfunctional about the family. Shreedhar, younger brother of Professor Vidyadhar, was a greedy and ill-tempered man whose family always lived in terror of him. His caustic and cynical attitude often caused much tension in the house. However, eventually Naina’s subtle tricks wrought a slow transformation and he became one of the more fun aspects of the serial when it was in its decline. His wry observations and comments, now that they were directed solely at those in the house that genuinely deserved the taane, suddenly became enjoyable. Rohini, Vidhyadhar and Vibha’s bahu, and wife of Daksh’s elder brother Sanket, however remained a thorn till the very end and it was her screeching, scheming ways that made the serial unbearable along with the fact that aayi never saw through them.
Aside from that though the Patwardhans were a wonderful bunch to watch on-screen. The supportive relationship between Vidyadhar’s wife Vibha and Shreedhar’s wife Shamal was lovely. They were always there for each other in a crisis. Professor Vidyadhar’s relationship with Naina was equally sweet – he was initially wary of her, thinking that she would be as rude and disrespectful as the current crop of students in his college, but slowly he began to accept her as a daughter. They may not have had major scenes together but just seeing him sitting outside on the swing with her in the morning was heart-warming enough and ofcourse when he finally took Naina’s side and told Vibha that she was blinded by Rohini’s lies you couldn’t help but cheer!
The most beautifully depicted relationship among the Patwardhans though was without a doubt that between Akruti and her dada Daksh. Akruti was always able to share her pain with her cousin brother and he was always there to protect her from her father’s harsh words. Though over the years she had become timid and meek, whenever Daksh was around not only would she light up but she even indulged in masti, be it teasing him about the unsolicited rishta of Prema, or playing pranks on him during Holi.
With Akruti Daksh was a different person too. He had to be – her life was so full of admonishments, scoldings and drudgery that the easily irritable, often disapproving and constantly sombre young man always made an effort to be light-hearted and cheerful around his sister. The “Karela Patwardhan” that was a divorce lawyer would talk to Akruti about love and rajkumars on white horses; he who wouldn’t normally crack so much as a smile when someone else joked would try to crack jokes to make her laugh. The scenes after her suicide attempt, where he was trying to get Akruti to come out of her shell, still break my heart.
Daksh’s reaction to her suicide was very well-portrayed on the show. He was furious at himself because he wasn’t around when his sister needed him the most and his first instinct was to keep her safe by sending her to Darjeeling where she wouldn’t have to hear her father’s scoldings. Naina thought differently: she wanted Akruti to forge her own identity, stand on her own feet, and face her problems – a very sensible idea ofcourse but Daksh was thinking with his heart, he didn’t want his sister to suffer so he opposed Naina’s plans to have Akruti become her assistant (fortunately, to no avail as Naina convinced everyone else).
Daksh’s unconditional affection for his sister and Akruti’s devotion for him was definitely one of the highlights of the show – he was there for her when she admitted to him that she had tried to sabotage Naina’s business and he was still there for her when the family found out that she was pregnant and her boyfriend refused to accept the child. Equally, Akruti was there for him when he realised he was in love with Naina and she was still there for him when everyone in the family refused to accept his marriage to Naina.
The Bharadwaj Dynamics
Naina’s step mother, Anjali Bharadwaj was a formidable woman. An artist, a business woman, an independent lady living life on her own terms – it wasn’t hard to see where Naina got her inspiration from. However, the one thing Anjali was not good at was thinking about her feelings or talking about them. Her husband’s infidelity, though he claimed it was only a one-night mistake, changed her. She never quite recovered from the betrayal and Naina’s presence was a constant reminder for her about the fact that she couldn’t have kids and that her husband cheated on her. And yet, is it possible to remain completely aloof from an innocent little girl who has no idea you are not her real mother? Naina’s affection and love pierced Anjali Bharadwaj’s closed off heart, though she wasn’t able to admit this to herself till her daughter left their house after she told her she wasn’t her real mother. She even tried to bring her back once – she went to Patwardhan Niwas where Naina was staying as a paying guest to call her back but when she got there she couldn’t tell the hurting Naina that she was there because she missed her not because she considered it her duty to her dead husband to ask Naina to return to their home. They were eventually reunited when Daksh went to Darjeeling and brought Mrs Anjali to Mumbai for Naina’s wedding to Abhi. Anjali recognised how much Daksh loved Naina and after the Abhi episode supported their marriage when no one else did.
Vaishnavi Mahant was incredible as Mrs. Anjali Bharadwaj – she portrayed everything, from the initially bitter Anjali to the Anjali that fiercely protected Naina when her own birth mother was being selfish, with a dominating screen presence.
The lead jodi – Naina ❤ Daksh
Naina’s and Daksh’s most filmi moment was probably their first meeting. It still rates as one of my favourite pehli mulaqats of the many that I have seen on the small screen. Like so many other jodis theirs too started with a bit of nok jhok: Naina wanted Daksh to swap seats with her, Daksh brushed her off – ofcourse she decided to get what she wanted another way. The combination of a bewildered Daksh and Naina at her sharaarati best proved irresistable.
The train-wala incident left Daksh with the idea that Naina was a liar while Naina found Daksh to be a humourless snob. Further run-ins, during the marriage of some mutual friends, only served to worsen Daksh’s opinion of Naina, while Naina did not care to remove any of his misunderstandings as his opinion didn’t matter to her.
Daksh’s annoyance heightened further when he returned home from a work trip to find Naina not only living there but his aayi extremly attached to her. He felt that Naina didn’t deserve the affection of his parents or accommodation under their roof but he couldn’t do much other than glare, grumble and ignore, since she soon became his kaka‘s paying guest. Their tu tu main main phase was an enjoyable watch: be it Daksh being unable to sleep because of Naina, or Naina hijacking his room one night, or Naina blackmailing Daksh into pretending to be her husband in front of a client, or Daksh being forced to drive Naina to a client’s farmhouse.
But Naina and Daksh were not caricature characters that would hate on each other for the sake of hating, if they found certain habits of the other maha-irritating, they also ended up finding certain qualities in each other that they couldn’t help but admire. Naina and Daksh first bonded during the engagement preparations for the Ajrekars. Serial contrivances ensured that Daksh would have to drive Naina to the Ajrekars’ Pune farmhouse, and having missed his own meeting he could do little but wait there while Naina completed her work. This was the first time Daksh got to see how sincere and earnest Naina was about her work, and Daksh was the kind of person who valued dedication. If he had some doubts about her character they vanished when he overheard Naina turning down an offer to make a commission by supplying the client with sub-par material. Instead she turned around and threatened to report the person by pretending she was well-connected with the police. Daksh finally understood the distinction between dishonesty and Naina’s white lies and so his objections towards her melted somewhat. Naina also realised that Daksh was more than just easily irritable, judgemental and aloof. Though his stand-offish nature keep most at bay, to those that made a place in Daksh’s heart, or earned his respect, he was caring, loyal and very protective. Naina experienced this first hand when all her preparations for the wedding end up drowning in a rain storm while she, despite her assertions to the contrary, falls ill from exhaustion. Daksh ended up taking care of her and helping her redo the entire engagement preparations indoor.
What was enjoyable about Naina and Daksh as a jodi was that their romance never felt forced. The serial didn’t rush to make them an official jodi, but rather concentrated on getting the character journeys right. Maybe sometimes just one sight or incident alone is enough to make you fall in love, but this wasn’t that kind of serial, nor was it the kind where destiny takes a hand in the proceedings. Naina and Daksh first grew close as friends – and that wasn’t a smooth sailing ride either. It takes time to understand other people, and it wasn’t surprising when sometimes they would misunderstand each other’s motivations. So when Naina insisted, after Akruti’s suicide attempt, that she stay and become her assistant, though Daksh wanted to send his sister away from the hostile home environment, naturally their instincts clashed. When Naina introduced a visiting Mrs. Anjali Bharadwaj as her guardian, though Mrs. Bharadwaj had told Daksh earlier that she was looking for her daughter, ofcourse Daksh felt disgusted at how cold-hearted Naina was being. When Naina saw the usually upright and honest Daksh frequently lying to meet up with Lekha, his best friend Sushant’s wife, Naina’s suspicion that they were having an affair was expected. But with each misunderstanding and its resolution Naina and Daksh came to understand each other’s characters better and somewhere along the way their friendship and trust in each other transformed into love. It was refreshing to see lead characters grow emotionally and physically comfortable with each other before any romantic feelings came into the fore when normally the hero and heroine seem to constantly flinch away from physical contact.
Also refreshingly the male lead didn’t spend months and months denying his changing feelings for the heroine. Daksh may have always told everyone that pyar vyar faltu ki baatein hoti hain, but his aayi baba had a love marriage, so could the son have pretended otherwise once he realised he had fallen for Naina? The divorce lawyer was in love with a wedding planner and he was honest enough to admit it to himself immediately, even if his iqraar wasn’t to happen as instantaneously. It was rather cute actually – he’d find himself standing in the pool of light coming into his room from hers at night (she couldn’t sleep with the lights off) thinking about her, or finding excuses to go to places where she was organising events just so he could see her. The unfilmi Daksh had filmi sequences where he saved Naina from thugs and stopped a bus from leaving because he thought she was leaving forever, a change from his usually introverted nature, but Gaurav Bajaj pulled the scenes off without breaking away from Daksh’s character. Daksh didn’t even take too long to decide he’ll confess his feelings, though ofcourse it never went as planned and Naina, who was yet to realise her own feelings, thought he was talking about someone else.
In fact, quite a lot happened before Naina fully realised that Daksh had feelings for her and that she reciprocated his love. I think the writers messed up shortly after Daksh’s cousin Abhi proposed to Naina and Naina accepted, thinking that in time she will learn to love him back. There were still some gems to be cherished but overall the tone of the show went into melodrama overdrive, though the Daksh & Naina interactions maintained their charm even with the angst that had crept in. It’s not that these two were the most gorgeous couple out there – kinda not, rather they looked like real people, which is what made them appealing. I liked how it wasn’t that Naina was witty or natkhat and Daksh couldn’t help but fall, he just saw how genuine and caring she was and she understood how straightforward and loyal he was and that was that.
Points to the serial for not only taking the time to build their relationship but once they got married not having it fall apart because of any vampgiri. Daksh remained true to his character – if at the start it took a long time for him to trust Naina, once won it was irrevocable; he supported her till the end even at the cost of his own familial relationships. I remember cheering when he decided that he was going to forestall any further saazishein to separate Naina and him by spontaneously marrying her at a mandir before anyone could stop them.
On a more shallow note, credit also to the music team behind Sapnon Se Bhare Naina, for not only was the title song, and its jazzy instrumental, fabulous but Daksh and Naina’s background music, especially the various refrains of their song Naina Tere, was a pleasure to listen to each time as well.
Show: Sapno Se Bhare Naina
Channel: Star Plus
Original run: 20 Dec 2010-3 Feb 2012
Production House: Shakuntalam Telefilms
Concept & Story: Shashi Mittal
Dialogues: Hitesh Kevalya, Meenakshi Gupta, Archana Joshi
Story & Screenplay: Neelima Baajpayi, Gautam Hegde, Rashi
Director: Swapna Vaghmaare Joshi, Sunand Kumar Barnval, Ismail Umar Khan
Creative Director: Nimish Pandey, Sheetal Vagh
Cast: Garav Bajaj, Parvati Vaze, Vaishnavi Mahant, Imran Hasnee, Nivedita Saraf
Camera: Gireesh Gogla, Hanoz Keravala, Durga Prasad Singh
Editor: Vinay Maaloo