Ramanand Sagar’s ‘Ramayana’ took inspiration from Valmiki’s Ramayana, but his imagination took over. The serial was often melodramatic and over-the-top in its aesthetics, but the serialized epic captured the attention of viewers week after week. 78 episodes of Ramanand Sagar’s ‘Ramayana’ were aired and each episode was of 35 minutes. This serial got a lot of love from the audience from the first episode itself. It is claimed that an episode of Ramayana was produced for Rs 9 lakh and the makers used to earn Rs 40 lakh from this one episode itself.
At the same time, if the entire earning is added, it used to sit more than 30 crores. As television began to dominate the living rooms of middle-class Indians in the 1980s, a serial based on the epic Ramayana was aired on the state-run Doordarshan channel. It became so popular that as soon as it was telecast on TV in the evening, the whole neighborhood would gather in front of the television screen. People used to leave work and reach home on time to watch the show. Believe me, the atmosphere used to be such that the roads used to become deserted when the show aired. By some estimates, one in eight Indians watched the show, and advertisers rushed to fill slots. Ramananj Sagar’s Ramayan broke viewership records in both North and South India.
The ‘truth’ of Ramayana its cast
If seen from one point of view, even after coming of all the technology, Ramayan like Ramanand Sagar could not become another till date. After all, what is the reason why Ramayana like Ramanand Sagar has not been made till date? The biggest reason for this is ‘truth’. Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana is mainly based on Valmiki’s Ramayana and Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas. In this, he did not make any cuts of any kind. Presented the true character of Ram on TV.
Apart from this, the second ‘truth’ of Ramayan was its cast. The characters of Ramayana may not have been successful in films after this show, but the honesty and truthfulness with which the cast acted, this thing is not visible in the characters today. There was no technology at that time but Ramayana was completely original even after the fake graphics. Its full credit goes to the director and the cast.
Ramanand Sagar was a true Ram devotee
Ramanand Sagar used to call himself a devotee of Ram. It is said that he made the Lavkush Kand of the popular Ramayan after a long break. During an interview, he had told that he could not accept Shri Ram’s decision to send Sita Maa to the forest, but when he deepened the Ramayana and after the increasing demand of the people, he created the Lavkush Kand of Ramayana.
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After all, how did it become so famous and popular? Behind this is the true devotion of Ram devotee Ramanand Sagar. Ramanand Sagar created Ramayana without adding any imaginary or ideological element. He himself auditioned Chun-Chun for the cast of Ramayana and selected Diamonds from among them. The serial’s producer Ramanand Sagar took inspiration from Valmiki’s Ramayana. The serial was often melodramatic and over-the-top in its aesthetics. But the serialized epic kept viewers’ attention week after week.
Did Ramayana bring benefits to political parties?
Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana was aired by the Congress government in the hope of cashing in on Hindu votes, but it benefited the Sangh Parivar. Which was busy promoting the Ram Janmabhoomi movement at the time. Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana laid the foundation for Hindu nationalism and irreversibly changed the public sphere in India. It contributed to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement by acting as a magnet for hundreds of young recruits to the Bajrang Dal.
It brought the epic closer to everyday life and introduced an idea of Ram’s birthplace that was in line with the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. Reminiscent of a prehistoric golden age, the serial forever changed the character of Hindu nationalism in the public imagination.
The actual campaigning of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was done through the Hindi language print medium. But television provided the perfect catapult for it. The Ramayan was followed the next year by the Mahabharata. Which set the tone for Hindutva in pop culture.