SACRED PRIME TIME The all new Darbar of "Ramayan", starting on NDTV imagine from January 21
Two decades after it created mass hysteria; "Ramayan" is back in a new avatar on small screen. Anuj Kumarreports
The serial that used to bring India to a halt in the late '80s is back in a new avatar. Yes, Ramayan is back two decades after it revolutionised television viewing in the country to woo the new generation. Again produced by Sagar Arts, it is going to be the flagship show of the new general entertainment channel NDTV Imagine to be launched on January 21. This time the epic comes in the form of a daily soap and will be telecast during the prime time. The channel is virtually putting a cat among pigeons as the slot is replete with saas-bahu serials during weekdays. "The whole idea is to cut through the clutter. We can't attract viewership for a new channel with yet another saas-bahu tale," says Sameer Nair, CEO NDTV Imagine.
So religion is the only way to consolidate a scattered audience? "We are not looking at it as a mythological serial. For us it is a story, which has the highest mass appeal and the ability to bring the whole family together. The point is though the number of television homes has increased from around six million in 1987 to 118 million homes, most of the these homes are still single television homes. Also 560 million Indians are below the age of 25. So a whole generation has missed out on the televised form of the epic, which teaches us to care, share and be charitable ' values that we are fast losing out in the name of progress."
Anand Sagar, who is directing the new Ramayan, promises the series is being shot on an epic scale. Anand, who assisted his father, the late Ramanand Sagar on the first version, says television budgets have increased in the last few years. "Today we can afford to use high quality animation and opulent sets to bring the epic alive for a new generation. Like Varun devta coming out of water." A visit to the Sagar Film City in Vadodara shows how the Sagars are leaving no stone unturned to recreate the era in the 40 acre facility. Sources say six crores have already been spent. Interestingly, Ayodhya and Janakpuri are just across the road and Gurukul is just a stone's throw away from Ayodhya. Anand says research has been done to understand the architecture of the period and Omung Kumar (of Saawariya fame) has designed the sets accordingly. Kaikayi's peacock-adorned bedroom is a spectacular sight. "However, we have made sure that the opulence doesn't come in the way of the simplicity and honesty of the story," says Shakti Sagar, who represents the third generation of Sagars and has worked with the research team.
Idealism in question
Talking of the contemporary touch, Anand reflects, "For today's audience we are presenting Ram more as a human being and less as a god." Echoing the sentiment producer Prem Sagar, the most articulate of the Sagars, says, "Ram was the ideal son, ideal husband and ideal human being."
Ideal husband? Many in present generation might question the ideals of a man who abandoned his wife after agnipariksha on hearsay. Agrees Prem, "We do feel such an act doesn't match the character and genetic make-up of Maryada Purshottam. That's why we didn't show the episode in the first version. It was only after people's protest that we were forced to show Uttara Ramayan." Anand says he is not sure whether he will show the episode this time.
For people who still know Arun Govil and Deepika Chikalia as Ram and Sita, now the characters will be essayed by newcomers. Gurmeet Choudhary plays Lord Ram, while Debina Bonnerjee plays Sita. The three key characters ' Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan ' will be played by Ankit Arora, Vije Bhatia and Lalit Negi, respectively. But for now all of them have been kept under wraps. Again with the younger audience in mind the new Ram is a lot more muscular and Sita much more curvaceous than the original. "Newcomers won't be an issue. Nobody recognised Arun, despite his film career, at that time," says Prem.
Another connecting link is the musical score of Ravindra Jain. "I have kept the soul of the original intact, just the words have been changed. Suresh Wadkar and Kavita Krishnamurthy have sung the title track. The effort is to show Ram as an emotional man," says Jain. The serial is coming when the Raam setu controversy is on a high and a section is questioning the existence of Ram. Prem says they are creative people and have nothing to do with what the politicians are upto. "We are largely following Tulsi's Ramcharitmanas and Ram setu is very much there." A master with words Jain plays it down. "To me Ram setu means Ram se tu (you are because of Ram) and not the other way round."
Mayank Soni Juhu
In a weird case of robbers having their devout nature spilling over into their line of 'business', thieves left costumes designed for Ram and Sita untouched, while taking away sarees and clothes worth rupees three lakhs from a designer's boutique in Juhu.
Unidentified persons looted designer Nisha Sagar's store last week. Luckily for her, the thieves did not rob the costumes she had designed for the lead characters of Ram and Sita in the TV serial 'Ramayan' currently telecast on NDTV Imagine.
Fortunately, the thieves did not pick those up. If they had, the shooting schedules would have been upset, as the marriage is to be shot in the next few days, and it would have been a great loss not only to me, but also the producer."
The store is located in Swastik Complex near Kala Niketan at Juhu. Continues Sagar, "We had closed the shop at 8:45 p m that night, and at 10:30 a m, I got a call from the owner of a neighbouring store informing me that I had forgotten to lock the shutters. I rushed to the store, and found the locks on the shutter broken.
The glass door inside is too heavy for two persons to have opened them. There must have been more than five persons involved in the theft for sure."Two watchmen guard the complex, yet none of them know anything about the theft. When police questioned the watchmen, they are believed to have admitted they had gone off to sleep after 2:30 a m, and they claim they didn't hear any noise or seen any strangers entering the premises.
Informs Senior Police Inspector Hemant Katkade, Juhu police station, "We are checking the modus operandi branch to find out if they have any record of thieves involved in stealing designer clothes. We have got some clues, and are working on the case. I cannot divulge any other details at the moment."Besides 'Ramayan', Nisha Sagar is also designing costumes for characters of television serials 'Nagin' and 'Prithviarj Chauhan'.
Ramayan, based on Valmiki Ramayan and Tulsidas Ramcharitmanas, as well as Chakbasta's Urdu Ramayan, is an Indian television series produced by Sagar Arrts which aired on NDTV Imagine from 2008-2009. It is also partly derived from portions of Kambar's Kambaramayanam, Bhavarth Ramayan (Ramayana in Marathi), Krittivasi Ramayan (Ramayana in Bengali) by Krittibas Ojha, Shree Ranganatha Ramayanam (Ramayana in Telugu) by Gona Budda Reddy, Ramachandra Charita Puranam (in Kannada) by Abhinavpamp Nagchandra, Adhyatama Ramayanam (in Malyalam) by Tunjat Eluchan, Shree Anand Ramayan by Pt. Ramlagna Pandey.
It is a remake of the highly successful Ramayan that was created, written, and directed by Ramanand Sagar and which aired on Doordarshan from 1986 to 1988.
This show won the "Most Promising New Show of the Year" award at Indiantelevision.com's New Talent Awards. In addition to this, Gurmeet Choudhary, who played the lead role of Lord Rama won the "Most Promising New Talent of Tomorrow" Award.
As part of the deal, NDTV Imagine got a revenue share from UTV after the earnings reached a particular level. UTV had paid a telecast fee to Sun for acquiring the prime time slot on the network channels. It also had the rights to sell air time.
Ramayan was dubbed into Tamil and aired (as Ramayanam) on Sun TV on all Sundays 9.30 AM to 10.30 AM in India and 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM in America
The Telgu version aired on Gemini TV.
The Gujrati version aired on ETV Gujrati.
Today we both are in a nostalgic mood as its been a year since Ramayan ended. We thought why not share our thoughts on these golden days with you.
Debina: I had to cry for the last scene of the last episode, my tears far from being just on-screen became quite visible off-screen. I was in pain as my character of Sita which I had played for 1.5 years was coming to an end; I had felt Sita's pain throughout the portrayal of the character and it was difficult to see this journey come to an end. After a day or so, we all sat down together to see the episode and I had to ask Guru to tell me if people around could feel Sita's pain. It was with the death of Sita that our whole team realized that the show had really come to an end. As I narrate this day to you all, my eyes are again filled with tears. Those were really the golden days and unknowingly we created history.
Gurmeet: With the end of Sita, we all came to the realization that the show as about to end. For the first time in my life, I cried loudly like a baby. Debi somehow managed to calm me down. I still remember my last scene in which I had to walk barefoot on a hot ground and then enter a river. It was really hot that day but the pain inside me was so immense that I felt no external pain. I loved living the character and eating, sleeping, drinking Ram. I thought let me drown Ram today and though I was not required to cry for that scene, my heart was shedding a thousand tears.
Even today I miss those days but Ram went into the river and Maan emerged out. Work has to go on but the satisfaction and enjoyment I felt in portraying Ram's character is unmatched. I actually never realized how effortless my days were during Ramayan with Debina on my side but it is after the end of the show I began to miss Debina's chirpiness, her voice and having her by my side. To this day, I keep calling Deb in the middle of shooting to hear her voice as that keeps me going. We both loved Ramayan and as a couple we both really created history with the show.
Gurmeet & Debina
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