Of epic proportions

SHALINI SAKSENA speaks with actors and industry experts about what makes mythological shows popular

New Delhi Jun 1 dmanewsdesk: Empty roads and people glued in front of their TV sets was a common sight in almost all parts of the country when Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan was aired on DD back in 1987. Despite being a Sunday people would be up early and bathe. After all, they were about to see Lord Ram come alive. In fact, many people would not eat till after the episode ended since they had to do puja and eat prasad before starting their day.

Such was the craze for the show that over the years almost every channel since then has run a mythological show. For many it is a recollection of the takes that they had heard from their grandparents, for others it is the back story to a story and for some others it is the best way for the kids to know more about their culture, Gods and Goddesses. 

Tarun Khanna who has played Lord Shiva eight times and is currently seen as Mahadev in Devi Aadi Parashakti on Dangal TV tells you that this generation doesn’t know much about our history. “Ram and Krishna, I believe were real people. That is why we celebrate Diwali. These are true events but there is no one written record. There are so many versions of Ramayan. When you don’t know your history and you want to know about it, these programmes in the name of mythology shows give you a sneak peek of the past, people watch them because they want to stay connected to their roots. In this mythology are their Gods — Vishnu and his avatars and Shiva. People want to watch them again and again and the stories of their manifestations,” Khanna explains.

Another attraction is to see how an actor will play a certain character and how the makers will interpret the era. “When I tell you a story, there is some part in that story where the person will have his own interpretation while narrating it. These alternations make things interesting. People want to know how the makers and the actors would play it on the screen,” Khanna says. Vishal Karwal, who plays Lord Krishna in Dwarkadheesh-Bhagwan Shri Krishna that airs on Dangal TV says that the when he used to watch TV back in the 90s, the shows were so good and progressive. But since the 2000s the content has been somewhat regressive. “There are not many shows that are happy and one  can learn from them. But from mythological shows, one can learn life lessons and are a visual treat too. There is so much positivity in them,” he says.

Arpit Machhar, head of marketing, Enterr10 Television Network tells you that historically, mythological shows especially Ramayan has always had a strong appeal with viewers. “Re-runs of some popular mythological and costume drama shows like Chandragupt Maurya, Mahima Shanidev Ki and Dwarkadheesh, Devi Adi Parashakti were already being broadcasted before the lockdown. The re-run of 2008 Ramayan during the lockdown was soon extended to one hour a day because of viewership interest. Within the first week itself, the slot grew by 45 per cent indicating enthusiasm. We have understood that mythological content appeals to viewers and they find a connect with these shows,” Machhar says.

One is told that producing a mythological show is a very different ballgame as compared to regular fictional shows since the audience has a preconceived notion about the costumes of the characters, the look and feel of the sets and it is the makers responsibility to stand up to their expectations.

“The mythological stories tend to have a lot of versions in different parts of the country and people are also sensitive about it. Hence, the research becomes the most important part of the whole process. Additionally, the grandeur of a period drama is at a different level, in terms of set size, location, costumes, number of artists and the post production team involved,” he tells you.

There is a reason why many of the mythological stories revolve around Ramayan, Mahabharat or on Shiv and Krishna. “These are the most common stories that people have heard at least once. The audience tends to resonate more with them,” Machhar tells you.

Ishita Ganguly who plays Mahakali/Goddess Uma/Parvati in Jag Jaanani Maa Vaishno Devi-Kahani Mata Rani Ki that airs on Star Bharat tells you that the reason why she chose to be part of mythological shows is because our epics have so much to tell and very few people know everything about our Gods and Goddesses. “I am from Kolkata and devout of Ma Kali. The role is so challenging and I get to play many shades. The drama, colours and costumes come alive so beautifully that it attracted me to the show,” Ganguly says.

She agrees that the same holds true for the audience too. “The characters in mythological shows are larger than life, they are Gods and Goddesses. It is not just the dialogues but the VFX, the research that goes into costumes and character, it takes time to flesh these out. Also, for the audience to see a God whom they pray to come alive, is a pull.

 For the children, such shows are the perfect way to know about our mythology since both parents are working and live in nuclear families. The idea of listening to stories from grandparents is a thing of the past. Such shows are not only entertaining because there is a story behind a story but you get to learn life lessons as well,” Ganguly tells you.

Sha points out a case. “Take the Jag Jaanani…. We talk about woman empowerment. Maha Kali is the perfect roop that talks about how a strong energy can kill negativity and false ego. When you watch such shows, it gives out a message to women that they can be strong and positive. Men also need to realise this. As a woman, if I can make another woman become strong, I feel obliged that I got to play this role,” Ganguly says.

Source: The Pioneer