Ramayan, Mahabharat and old TV hits find takers in this generation seeking the comfort of nostalgia
Every crisis brings with it an opportunity and the present pandemic has resurrected the nearly-dead public service broadcaster founded by the Government in the late 50s, Doordarshan (DD). Time was when DD, as it was colloquially called, was the only channel in the country and people used to wait the whole week for their all-time favourites, Chitrahaar, Krishi Darshan and, of course, the Sunday movie. Then DD began expanding its fare with Sunday and primetime treats like Star Trek, Secrets of the Sea, Here’s Lucy, Yes, Minister, Different Strokes and the likes. But of course, these were watched mostly by the urban, English-speaking viewers and not by the masses. Then in the 80s came the era of the mega soaps, like Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and BR Chopra’s Mahabharat and the whole of India was hooked to DD like never before. No one had ever attempted something on such a huge scale before and, of course, the mythological content was lapped up by everyone in urban and rural India alike, because we in India wear our religion on our sleeves. People actually used to factor in their social commitments around Ramayan and Mahabharat, such was their hold on the imagination. Then came the era of Direct to Home channels with slick productions powered by money and unfettered use of better technology, something that DD, bogged down by red-tapism and babudom, could not compete with. But in Corona-weary times and a distraught nation seeking solace and comfort in the simple joys of nostalgia, Ramayan and other old hits have rescued DD yet again as a leader of content. In fact, March 25 onwards, most TV channels actually had a “captive” audience, viewership rising by 37 per cent.
And as live soaps began drying up due to actors being unable to arrive for shoots due to the nationwide lockdown, DD dug into its archives to pull out its hit shows of the 80s and had the nation hooked again. In the first week of April 3, a whopping 545.8 million viewers tuned in to DD National to watch reruns of Ramayan while 145.8 million watched Mahabharat on DD Bharti, says a report by Broadcast Audience Research Council. Reruns of Shaktimaan on DD National attracted 20.8 million viewers, while Byomkesh Bakshi, Shrimaan Shrimati, Buniyaad, Dekh Bhai Dekh and Circus also witnessed a similar rise in viewership. Shows that when it comes to content, DD did have a spark at one time. Maybe it will reinvent itself, post-lockdown, prizing quality once again.
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)