Lockdown Entertainment: On Demand, Doordarshan to Re-Telecast Ramayana

The broadcaster has asked the series' rights holders if this is possible, the Prasar Bharti chief said.

Update: Information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday confirmed that DD will telecast Ramayana from Saturday. One episode will be played in the morning and one in the night, he said.

New Delhi: From January 25, 1987 to July 31, 1988, for 75 Sunday mornings in a row, the streets of most parts of the country would look similar to how they look now, during the national lockdown that India is adhering to since March 25.

The reason was Ramanand Sagar’s mega series on the epic, Ramayan, aired on the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, for about 35 minutes.

Breaking all records of viewership then in a country where TV series were a fresh idea for mass entertainment, Ramayan became the most watched Indian TV soap. It continues to have its appeal, considering it re-ran successfully subsequently in the age of private channels too – on Zee TV and NDTV Imagine.

In October 1988, the country’s TV watchers got yet another dose of morning opium – this time for a full one hour – with B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat. The production ran till June 24, 1990 for 94 Sundays in a row.

With people presently confined to their homes under the 21-day lockdown, the demand – at least on social media – for yet another run of these mythological series on Doordarshan has picked up wind.

In response to one such request made by Akhilesh Sharma, political editor and anchor of NDTV India, on Twitter, Shashi Sekhar, the CEO of Prasar Bharti, tweeted back on March 25 stating that his department is seeking the rights for the episodes from the Chopras.

“Yes we are working on the same with the rights holders. Will update shortly. Stay tuned,” Sekhar tweeted.

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Even in the age of multiple private channels, DD still has the most TV viewership nationally. However, it is yet to be tested whether a re-run of those series on DD – perhaps primarily keeping in mind a generation that never watched those series – would come handy to keep people hooked to their television sets.

Meanwhile, in his address to the people of his parliamentary constituency Varanasi on March 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did make an allusion to one of these epics. He said the battle of Mahabharata was won in 18 days and that of the coronavirus would be done in 21 days, and urged people to stay indoors and make the shutdown a success.

Well-known writer of mythological fiction Devdutt Patnaik said on Twitter in response, “When politicians say Mahabharata was ‘won’ in 18 days, they fail to mention that the ‘winners’ – the Pandavas – lost all their children (Abhimanyu, Ghatotkoch, Aravan, Upapandavas). That was the price of the ‘victory’. Careful with Mythic smiles.”