I could talk about how Sapno Ke Bhanwar Mein (2011-2012) did all sorts of interesting things. Like ending all their initial promos with a cliffhanger, where a woman begging for her life gets fatally shot and falls through a glass table. A very effective hook, especially since it followed warm filters, beautiful backdrops and touching scenes featuring a loving family saying farewell to their talented daughter, who is excited about stepping out into the world. I could talk about how well the show did in creating a deceivingly romantic track between the ingénue featured in the promos and a shrewd politician. Stuff the discerning, mature serial viewer could fall for: Brij Bhushan Pandey, a man caught between ruthless ambition and the gentler calling of his heart; Pooja Tiwari, a sheltered girl on the cusp of womanhood, and fame. I could commend the show for effectively revealing that the aforementioned charismatic politician’s life was built on corruption and a marriage of convenience that he was finding increasingly inconvenient. I could even mention my appreciation of the show’s makers for creating an interesting reel-life parallel to the real-life murder case of poetess Madhumita Shukla. But to be honest I didn’t start following Sapno Ke Bhanwar Mein till much later.
If the show had been a movie instead, then you could say I joined in post-interval, for the No One Killed Jessica styled justice-seeking drama portion. Narrative-wise, the shift from Pooja’s point of view to Aarti’s was done quite fluidly I thought. Suddenly, the older sister who had been mostly in the background of this tale of politics and seduction is thrust into the limelight – she’s the beti who is trying to help her parents come to terms with what has happened; she’s the didi who is trying to help her pregnant and discarded younger sister get over a betrayal; she’s the heroine who is racing on a scooty, through the streets, bylanes, and footsteps of Bhopal, to reach her sister before she is shot; she’s the resilient and staunch poster girl of the media who refuses to budge when the corrupt system tries to hush up what happened with her (now comatose) sister, and underneath it all she’s the worried woman who doesn’t know whom to trust, who is searching desperately for clues, who is hoping the system won’t fail her, who is trying hard to be strong for her family, but who, when alone, can’t help but cry her heart out in terror.
Now put opposite this determined young woman a corrupt, conflicted CBI officer who is meant to pretend to help her while ensuring the perpetrators of the crime don’t get caught and my fangirl heart is as interested as my feminist mind. What was it about Dev Tripathi that hooked me when Brij Bhushan’s character seemed repulsive? What was it about Aarti and Dev’s track that interested me enough to follow a show that till then had me only vaguely intrigued, more out of academic curiosity of seeing whether the show would follow through on its intention of stripping away the thrilling romanticism it had built around Brij’s character. It’s the context really. Both Brij and Dev were successful, powerful men taking undue advantage of their respective positions of authority and deceiving women who had placed their trust in them. And in the end both chose to voluntarily admit to their crimes and serve their sentences. Except Brij’s initial actions were motivated by the greed of power and the inability to control his desires, despite knowing that he would be ruining the life of someone he claims to love. And Pooja’s character was practically a waiting victim – innocent, sweet, naive, easily trusting.
Dev and Aarti’s track was more balanced in contrast. Aarti had always been one to stand up for her convictions, while Dev’s actions were motivated out of desperation to save his terminally ill brother and cynicism in a system where the corrupt flourished while the honest had to financially struggle to fulfill their familial obligations. But neither desperation nor cynicism can drown out the horrified cries of a once khuddar & imaandaar conscience, and so Dev drowned himself in alcohol instead. Dev’s idiosyncratic and sarcastic façade hid the depths to which his self-esteem had deteriorated, until he got pulled into Aarti’s fight for justice. Aarti’s fierce determination to continue fighting for her sibling, even after realising she has been (yet again) deceived by the system, was an emotion Dev identified with strongly. And losing his brother to death while he was working on Pooja’s case meant that there was now no other path to take but the one to redemption.
For her part, Aarti, who may have once judged a man like Dev too harshly, grew to understand that sometimes bad choices don’t equate to bad people. She’d already come to terms with the bad decisions and deceptions Pooja had made when she was in love – and when someone so close to her had gone unintentionally astray she couldn’t really despise Dev for intentionally doing so for the sake of his brother. She knew the fear of losing a sibling too well – if that heartache had given Aarti strength she never knew she had, perhaps for Dev that heartache had made him weaker than he ever thought he could be.
Vandana Joshi and Yuvvraaj Malhotra brought Aarti and Dev to life beautifully and commendation for that goes to the writers, directors and actors involved. I also really enjoyed Yuvvraaj’s glib posturing as Dev – the reckless and indifferent attitude never failed to make the guilty unsure about where his loyalties lay, even when he was taking their money. Vandana played Aarti’s persistence with a degree of single-minded focus and love that justified her sometimes questionable actions. So whenever Aarti knocked on Dev’s door even during off-duty hours, we never roll our eyes, and neither does he, because for Aarti her sister’s cause had become her life and if she couldn’t see that it wasn’t the only priority for other folks, you couldn’t really blame her for that. Aarti’s constant presence, her need to be involved in every step of the case, her continuous appreciation of his work ethic, did keep reminding Dev though, to his frustration, that he had strayed very far from the ideals that had earned him the various trophies littering his house. But even when Dev decided to do what duty and insaaniyat demanded he never allayed Aarti’s growing suspicions – choosing, characteristically, to continue the charade nonchalantly instead.
In terms of social relevance the show took on quite a few points. Hospital staff refusing to look at a victim of a crime till the police have okayed it; corrupt police officials trying to hush up the relatives of the victim instead of locating the criminals, and then trying to foist the blame on easier targets than the real perpetrators who are sitting in positions of power; doctors trying to hasten the death of the victim for the sake of money; media folks reporting conjectures when there’s no information available, questioning the character of the female victim, and pestering relatives and doctors at the hospital for quotes, are sadly not just scenes from a serial but things we’ve grown accustomed to in real-life as well. It’s also worth pointing out that Pooja’s character, though a victim, had no less agency than her sister Aarti who fought for her justice. Sure, her decisions were ill-judged and based on misinformation, but nonetheless her character chose those mistakes herself. So while Aarti’s depiction on the show was the more traditional strong female character that is determined to take charge of the situation, Pooja’s character was equally well depicted. The show never indulged in any victim-blaming itself, even if it did realistically show how society is always ready to do so. Overall I’d say it’s a bit sad Sapno Ke Bhanwar Mein slipped under the radar for most folks. Sure, the serial could have done with a stronger climax and conclusion, but frankly this can be said of all serials – by the time they get to the end they’ve either been stretched too far, or like in the case of this serial, have had to hasten their conclusion due to cancellation. At least Sapno Ke Bhanwar Mein can boast of the unheard of serial ending where the lead heroines don’t end up getting together with anyone (since the male leads are serving their jail sentences instead)!
Show: Sapno Ke Bhanwar Mein
Channel: Life OK
Premiere Date: 22 December 2011
Production House: B.A.G. Films & Media Ltd.
Producer(s): Anurradha Prasad, Abhinav Shukla
Creative Producer: Nautanki Films, Saurabh Tiwari
Executive Producer (Life OK): Dipti Kalwani, Pragya Shankar
Concept: Ajit Anjum
Story: Anshuman Sinha, Sanjay Kumar
Screenplay: Anand Vardhan, Sanjay Kumar
Dialogues: Rahil Qazi, Girish Dhamija
Cast: Kamna Ranawat, Vandana Joshi, Rahul Singh, Yuvvraaj Malhotra, Sonal Jha, Rajesh Jais, Gaurav Chaudhary
Director(s): Ashish Patil, Anshuman Kishore Singh, Sunand Baranwal, Rajiev Bhanot
Creative Director: Deepak Pachori, Sandeep Nair
Director Of Photograhy: Mahendra Ryan, Ajay Jha
Editor: Sudhir Achary, Raju Yadav, Krunal Khakhkhar, Dinesh
Music & Themes: Sajjad Ali Chandwani
Background Score: Vihaan Akash, Ashish Rego
Title Song: Sapno Ke Bhanwar Mein