“I could have never imagined that two of my shows would together play on TV one day,” says veteran actor Mukesh Khanna as he shares his feelings about the return of old Doordarshan shows, a decision taken by the government to keep people engaged at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was earlier announced that popular shows like BR Chopra’s Mahabharat, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana, among others, will return on Doordarshan amid the 21-day nationwide lockdown. Now, more serials, including Shaktimaan, Chanakya and Shrimaan Shrimati, have been scheduled for re-runs.
Doordarshan set to bring back Golden Era of television; Shaktimaan, Chanakya, Shriman Shrimati, Krishna Kali, Upanishad Ganga are scheduled for re-telecast from April 2020.#IndiaFightsCorona #StayHomeIndia
— PIB India 🇮🇳 #StayHome #StaySafe (@PIB_India) March 31, 2020
Indianexpress.com reached out to some of the actors, who headlined these popular shows, to know how they feel about entertaining both new and old audience and what is it about the ’90s Indian television, which makes it evergreen.
Mukesh Khanna, who played the titular role in Shaktimaan and also played the role of Bhishma in Mahabharat, called it a blessing in disguise. “It’s something, which could have never happened. The whole India has been brought back to homes and people are watching these old classics. In the 90’s when Mahabharat and Ramayan used to play on TV, there would be a curfew outside because everyone was glued to their TV sets. But today, first there was a curfew and now people are watching these shows! For me, it’s a double pleasure because both of my shows will be played, something that could have never happened.”
While Mahabharat aired from 1988 to 1990, Shaktiman aired from 1997 to 2005. Khanna said these shows need to be watched by the youth as he believes it will help them reconnect to the Indian culture.
“I believe this is a blessing in disguise. Today’s kids are running are so fast that they don’t know simpler things like for whom Hanuman brought Sanjeevani booti. The youth doesn’t know Indian mythology, our characters. I wanted Mahabharata to be back so that the youth gets to know about our culture. More than the children of ’90s, today’s kids need guidance. So, I am very happy. Now, even Mahabharat has been tweaked! Ekta Kapoor says that she brought the modern Mahabharata where Draupadi had a tattoo.”
Archana Puran Singh who played Prema Shalini in Shrimaan Shrimati said, “Quite elated with the news of the show making a comeback, Singh shared, “All this while I would get messages from people saying that they have been watching the show on YouTube, so of course it’s not that people had completely forgotten about it. However, watching it on television will be a great experience, especially for the generation, who never managed to know about the show.”
Stating that the popularity of yesteryear shows came solely from quality, the actor said, “We used to have weekly shows, that gave us enough time to work on scripts and work on our craft. Today, the trend of sitcoms is not there, as people want daily shows with a dosage of comedy. Shows like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah have been providing the humour element but with sitcoms, it was about a story finding a conclusion at the end of the episode. That is missing from today’s shows.”
Rakesh Bedi, who played Dilruba on Shrimaan Shrimati, spoke about the fond memories he has of filming. “The very moment I heard that Ramayan is going to be re-telecast, I wished that Doordarshan re-telecasts Shrimaan Shrimati also. And now they are. It was a ‘mazedaar’ (fun) show. It has been almost 25 years since the show first released, I remember each day we spent on sets very fondly. It is an amazing show and I hope people enjoy it as much as people did back then.”
He added that today’s TV shows lack creativity because they are TRP oriented. “All of them were very good actors, directors and writers. So, Shrimaan Shrimati was a very good team effort, it was such a diligent and creative team. The best part was that there was no kind of interference from the channel or the producers. Today, anything that comes on TV is TRP oriented, nothing is coming from the heart.
“Earlier, we used to take TV seriously, it was an art form and we all made the show with all our heart, and the excitement in people to watch these shows even today only convinces me further that when you make something with all your heart, it will have a long shelf-life, and you will receive love back,” Bedi said.
Surendra Pal, who played Tamraj Kilvish in Shaktimaan, Maha Amatya Katyayan in Chanakya and Dronacharya in Mahabharat, said that the current time calls for people to take lessons from mythological shows, which focused on the victory of good over evil.
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“This is a time when the whole of humanity has been shaken and the world has bowed down in front of coronavirus. In Mahabharata, there were Kauravas and today, in Kalyug, there is corona. Our government is trying to keep everyone at home by bringing in these shows, which can serve as great lessons too. Shaktimaan was a hero of kids. That was a very good time. Through our mythological shows and Shaktimaan, kids learnt the difference between right and wrong and this seems like a good time to learn them all over again,” he said.
The veteran actor said ’90s shows will find an audience even today because the current television soaps have ridiculous storylines like women turning into ghosts and flies.
“Since the lockdown was announced, I have tried watching television shows but I could not because either we see women turning into ghosts, devils or flies. This is not our culture. This is western culture. Our television, over the years, has taken people towards superstition. But it’s great that a show like Shaktimaan will be airing today because it was not only about entertainment but also had a message. While Tamraj Kilvish used to endorse darkness, Shaktimaan would fight for light It was a fight between good and evil.”
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