By Radhika Bhirani
New Delhi, Nov 26 (IANS) What happens when a girl who lost her brother in the Mandal Commission protests of 1990 - against reservation for the backward classes - falls in love with a Dalit boy? That's the backdrop of the new series "Armaanon Ka Balidaan Arakshan".
"The anti-reservation issue is the backdrop of the story. But the narrative is in the form of a love story," explained Saurabh Tewari, head of fiction, Imagine TV.
"We are trying to show two sides of the coin - how some lives got spoilt by the decision of reservations, and how some lives were enriched. It is still a roaring debate and an issue like reservation needs to be discussed. We hope the show opens the debate," Tewari told IANS.
The show goes on the air Monday on Imagine TV.
In 1989, the one-man Mandal Commission submitted its report, recommending quotas for backward classes in government jobs and educational institutions. Then prime minister V.P. Singh tried to implement it, leading to protests across the nation in 1990. Many from the upper castes felt the quotas would sideline merit. Several instances of self-immolation by students followed.
"Armaanon Ka Balidaan Arakshan" traces the life of Kamlapati Misra and his family, who belong to the higher social strata and how their lives are changed by Mandal.
Their son commits self-immolation to protest the Mandal Commission recommendations and years later their daughter falls in love with a Dalit boy, who benefits from the quotas and grows up to be a district magistrate.
"Some political parties tried to gain mileage through the issue at that time, but for many youngsters it is still a matter of career and life, and for us, it is a privilege to highlight a cause of national concern," he added.
"Armaanon Ka Balidaan Arakshan" will have 60 percent entertainment, and the rest of the content will be devoted to the reservation issue.
"The reservation issue is the backdrop. But we have tried to weave it into an interesting narrative. Otherwise it would only be fit as a documentary. We are in the business of entertainment, but we do realise that entertainment is not our only purpose. So we are trying to hit the right balance with meaningful content that makes the audience think," said Tewari.
The uproar over reservations was heard loudly in the northern belt of India.
"I have spent 22 years of my life in Uttar Pradesh. I have seen in real life how upper class people criticised the government's decision and how it helped the lower caste people in carving a niche.
"I was 16 or 17 years old when the agitation against the recommendations of the Mandal Commission began. I have lived in that atmosphere...so my experiences were the point of research for the show," said Tewari.
The outdoor shoot took place in Hoshangabad near Bhopal and the rest will be filmed on the sets in Powai, Mumbai.
The show has also been in the midst of a legal battle with filmmaker Prakash Jha over the title as his next film is titled "Arakshan", which too deals with student politics and reservations.
"We are still discussing and debating the issue. So we would not like to comment on it for the time being. For now, we are going ahead and will include 'Arakshan' in our title," Tewari said.