Set in the world of reality television, Aasman Se Aage (2012) explored the “Entertainment. Entertainment. Entertainment” industry through the twin eyes of young dreamer, Meenakshi, and shrewd industry insider, Dev Chopra. Meenakshi was a girl with a small dream and a big heart: she grew up in the slums of Mumbai, lost her father at a young age, had to raise her six siblings and earn for the household along with her mother at a time when she should have gained an education – yet she remained a gentle, loving soul. The antithesis to Meenakshi’s trusting nature, Dev was a nonchalant opportunist.
Contrary to Meenakshi’s belief, it was neither DC’s generosity nor her talent for dancing that helped her win an invitation to his reality dancing competition Aasman Se Aage; in Meenakshi DC saw a well of TRP-generating emotional drama – for his meticulously created world of fame and façade she would be the narrative centre. Through Meenakshi DC began to weave a heartrending story of an underrated raw talent – one encumbered with impoverished circumstances, harassed by bullies, sabotaged by jealous peers, stalked by tragedy, and challenged by a world whose values were alien to hers. Yet she continued to strive to forgive, to make friends, to hope, to love, to work hard…and maybe even to win. Ironically though, this indomitable spark in Meenakshi that DC relied on for his underdog tale is exactly what offended his ego and eventually led to his downfall. Meenakshi’s tale, however, isn’t why Aasman Se Aage remains memorable for me. She is the ubiquitous morally upright heroine who rarely suffers from any indecision about staying within the Lakshman Rekha of Propriety – a testament to her strength of character but also a sign of predictable storytelling. The mirror to Meenakshi’s kahaani proved a more captivating personality.
Roshni entered on scene drunk and cynical. The glitter and glamour that Meenakshi was in awe of initially was Roshni’s cage, one in which she was slowly self-destructing. A contradiction that shone despite her sorrow, Roshni was charming on stage but broken behind it. DC had developed a genuine sense of camaraderie for the woman who was once meant to be merely a pawn. Perhaps because of this he felt a sense of responsibility, maybe even guilt, for using Roshni – for plucking her out of a life of contentment & love into a much harsher one. DC’s fondness for Roshni never made him reassess his modus operandi though, and for her part Roshni only occasionally criticised his manipulative tendencies. Her feelings for DC were never accusatory because she was aware that if he brought the ladder of opportunity to her door she was the one who continued to climb it without looking back.
Their relationship was simultaneously toxic and restorative for Roshni. In her new world, devoid of all previous personal relationships, DC became Roshni’s emotional anchor. Her dependency on him probably evolved into companionable affection first and when that was found mutual, eventually into a love that was, to her anguish, unrequited. It’s rare to see complex creatures like Roshni on serials. We never really know whether Roshni is truly in love with DC or whether she’s merely deluded herself into thinking so to avoid the real source of her discontent: her continued separation from her once beloved husband. The reason behind Roshni’s self-imposed exile is equally debatable – did she find it difficult to step back into her sedate past life after reaching dizzying heights of luxury and success, or did she feel too ashamed about her current lifestyle to attempt a return? As she once said to Meenakshi:
Sab aise hi start karte hain – wohi sapne, wohi umeed, wohi kuch karne ki chaah. Jis din makeup lag jaata hai, sab kuch badal jaata hai. Aaj tumhein koi nahin jaanta hai – kal tum tv par dikhogi, log tumhaare fans banenge. Aur phir …phir tum un fans ke liye kuch bhi karne ko tayyar ho jaaogi – roz nayaa makeup, roz nayaa mukhauta. Aur jis din sab khatam ho jaayega us din bohat der ho chuki hogi. Tum tum nahin koi aur ban chuki hogi. Sheehshe mein khud ko pehchaan nahin paaogi Meenakshi.
I really appreciated Aasman Se Aage for its non-judgmental approach to Roshni’s character – she isn’t reprimanded for her Western clothes or her drug-and-alcohol-fueled angst. I remember thinking during an earlier post that non-vampish female characters intentionally consuming alcohol are as rare an occurrence on Indian tv as a sighting of the Loch Ness monster, but Roshni was a character that broke stereotypes. She had full agency throughout her track onscreen – even in DC’s world she could make her own decisions. Its true those decisions earned his ire and often involved self-indulgent pitying and substance abuse, but she was responsible for making them just the same. In the end when Roshni chooses to step out of her stardom and back into a life of domesticity, though DC is the catalyst, it is her choice. In keeping with the theme of a non-judgmental approach, Roshni’s husband never once questions her past actions. The audience is also never sure whether Roshni is merely settling for him because she knows she will never get the kind of emotional security her husband can offer from DC, or if after seeing her husband back in her life she realised that her need for DC’s approval and affection was a result of her need to find a substitute for the more reciprocal relationship she had left behind.
The denouement of Roshni’s track was the most gripping for me for several reasons. Episode 41 skillfully juxtaposed DC’s manipulative tendencies with the consequences of such machinations – while he is busy building another star for his own purposes, the only DC-made star that made it to his heart is fading away on a hospital bed due to a drug overdose. When DC finally gets the news of Roshni’s almost death he is forced to admit to himself that he has been selfishly holding on to her while withholding from her the affection she craves. In Episode 42 we get to hear from Roshni herself about her past. DC for his part tries to rectify his mistakes by letting go of probably the only person he’s developed a genuine emotional connection with in his fake world. He does it masterfully, in a fashion that paints him as the shaitaan that cares for no one, thus making it in some small measure easier, though no less painful, for Roshni to move on.
Show: Aasman Se Aage
Channel: Life OK
Premiere Date: 23 April 2012
Production House: Sagar Arts/72 Degrees Northe
Producer(s): Manohar Pandya, Alok Sinha, Pravin Jha
Writers: Sumeet Roy, Preeti Mamgain, Radhika Anand, Vikas Chandra
Cast: Ojaswi Oberoi, Apoorva Agnihotri, Mouli Gangully
Director(s): Glen Barretto, Ankush Mohla, Arif Shamsi, Arif Ali Ansari
Creative Team: Meeta Sharma, Nitish Ranjan
Director of Photography: Deepak Malvankar, Sanjay Malvankar
Choreographer: Vitthal Patel
Music: Nakash Sargam