When one tries to imagine Lord Ram, they invoke Arun Govil’s smiling face from Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and the actor says he is amazed that even after 33 years his image as the noble prince is so fresh in the minds of the viewers.
The epic show, which also featured Deepika Chikhalia as Goddess Sita, started its yet another telecast on Doordarshan on Saturday. Its rerun comes at a time when the whole country is under the 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Based on Valmiki’s Ramayan and Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, the series had originally aired during the 1987-88 period.
Such was its success that both Govil and Chikhalia, along with Sunil Lahri, who essayed Lakshman, were catapulted to idolatry status.
Govil started his career in Bollywood in 1977 with Tarachand Barjatya’s Paheli, which he followed up with hits like Sawan Ko Aane Do and Saanch Ko Aanch Nahin.
Ramayan came to him after he worked with Sagar on another popular series Vikram and Betaal.
“I remember I had given an audition for Ram and I failed initially. I don’t know what happened. The photoshoot happened with the look and make-up but I wasn’t looking like Lord Ram. Then we thought of adding a smile and then everything got sorted,” Govil told PTI in an interview.
The show’s massive success brought fame for the lead star but it also had a downside.
“After Ramayan my film career was almost over. I was doing films before. But the image was so strong that the films didn’t happen. I tried working in serials and tried to come out of the image but it didn’t work… I realised later that maybe God wanted me to be Ram, how many have been given this rare chance? People don’t call me Arun Govil, they call me Ram and it is a big thing,” he added.
For Chikhalia, the show’s success opened a window of opportunities.
Her journey post the series, led her to regional cinema, which was followed by politics and then to her husband’s business.
Now she is back working in the movies, latest being 2019’s Bala in which she played mother to Yami Gautam’s character.
“Life went on for 15 years, I had no time to breathe and think. Later lull period started settling in. For the last 8-10 years, I am trying to grow and find meaningful work. I have started exhibiting my paintings. For the last three years, I have been working in films and did two Gujarati projects. I did Bala and I have another Hindi film. I am waiting for some good scripts, she said.
Unlike Govil, Chikhalia said she didn’t find herself slotted in an image.
“For Arun and Sunil, the image was a big constraint. For them, it was a full stop. But for me, it was just the beginning, I was on a roll after that,” she added.
Govil believes the reason for the strong and lasting impression of Ramayan is the utmost honesty with which the serial was made.
“When some things become popular then people think of doing the same thing. But with the kind of honesty Ramayan and Mahabharata’ were made, the other mythologicals weren’t. It is about being true and honest to your content and having belief and conviction in playing a god, he said.
Sharing similar views, Chikhalia said mythological shows today lack simplicity.
“Simplicity is not something that happens when you show glamour, it doesn’t happen when you put extravagant sets. Simplicity happens with a simple thought process and story. Like how Salman Khan films are different from Irrfan Khan’s. Similarly, I would never classify Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan’ with any other serial. It is not a serial. It is a holy scripture,” he added.
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