During the lockdown because of the global pandemic, the national broadcaster Doordarshan is re-running the 78-episode epic drama Ramayana by Ramanand Sagar.
Back in the time when it was initially telecasted in 1987, it ran shows every Sunday morning for all the consecutive Sundays – from January 25, 1987, to July 31, 1988.
Back then, the mega serial broke all records of viewership in the country where series like these became seasoned mass entertainment.
Ramayan and the Mahabharata
Another most-watched dose of morning opium was B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata – which started in October 1988 and was on air till June 24, 1990. This morning opium also ran successfully for 94 consecutive Sundays.
As soon as the lockdown forced people to stay-at-home to maintain social-distancing positively, social media started pouring with the demand for entertainment through the mythological dose. In response to one such request made by the political editor and anchor of NDTV India, Akhilesh Sharma, on Twitter, the CEO of Prasar Bharti responded saying,
“Yes we are working on the same with the rights holders. Will update shortly. Stay tuned.”
Since the declaration, the discussion is incessant in terms of its interpretation, intention of the broadcast, and the purpose of the decisiveness in times of Corona pervasiveness.
Some argue that the decision to telecast the Mythology again is one such course of action to keep people glued to the television to prevent people from offending the quarantine rules; the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 which is currently imposed across the nation.
Another gaze on the same matter is the broadcast to be serving the “ruling dispensation” in alignment with the Supreme Court’s very recent verdict on the land dispute between Ram Janmbhoomi and Babri Masjid. The judgment was in favour of the Hindu doctrine and the advocates of the believers of its ideologies.
And the same judgment further flamed up after Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar’s tweet which read,
“Happy to announce that on public demand, we are starting re-telecast of ‘Ramayana’ from tomorrow, Saturday, March 28 in DD National, One episode in morning 9 am to 10 am, another in the evening 9 pm to 10 pm.”
But for some, the re-telecast of these mythological dramas are reminiscing through good old days.
However, the house is divided between several other groups; one such class is of intellectuals who question the nature of the televised Ramayana and its interpretation; the oral poem which already has three hundred versions in consideration of different languages and cultures all around the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also showed an inclination towards one of these epics when he referred Mahabharata during a speech about Coronavirus that Mahabharata was won in 18 days and Coronavirus would be done in 21 while urging people to stay indoors.
During the lockdown, DD Channel and its array of shows revisiting the Indian homes are garnering massive popularity from the younger generation as well.
According to data from television monitoring agency BARC, the epic garnered 51 million viewers on Sunday – in the first weekend of the telecast, the highest ever figure for the Hindi GEC (general entertainment channel) genre since 2015. On average, each episode of Ramayana has seen 42.6 million tune-ins. Also, the appeal has been higher in urban centres of Hindi-speaking markets than rural areas – in the former; the first four episodes notched up total average impressions of 17 million compared with 11.6 million in the latter.
The jump in the viewership of the television is despite the presence of OTT platforms such as Netflix and Prime Videos.
The popularity of these shows is so immense that a large number of self-quarantined mass is also requesting for serials such as Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s Chanakya, Bharat Ek Khoj, Shriman Shrimati, Chandrakantha to name a few. Bengali television has also started re-telecasting its popular serials back in the days such as Ek Akasher Niche.