Back in the days when we had only Doordarshan, television was a weekend treat filled with: Star Trek, the Enterprise starring Capt. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Starship enterprise crew; Mickey Mouse cartoons in black & white; Vinod Dua and Prannoy Roy debating it up if it was election time and none of that ‘The Nation Wants to Know’ crap either; Indradhanush; Surabhi; Nukkad; The Old Fox; Target; Didi’s non-stop nonsense; several other Transtel-broadcasts that I can’t even remember except for the Transtel logo and all those feel-good serials not to forget the educative regional language movies on Sunday afternoon complete with subtitles. Here is where I discovered the beauty of Indian cinema, folklore, celebrated authors and unbelievable directors and casting crew. Kathasagar with its haunting music, and it haunts me even today, was good week day viewing if one’s parents deemed it right.
My mosima (nani/grandma) who was never a telly buff all of a sudden began wrapping up work early on Sundays. And this meant she woke up at 4.30 in the morning to make breakfast, the day’s non-vegetarian repast and a light snack. Waking up at this witching hour was worth all her while since a new phenomenon had just struck Doordarshan.
She went into raptures as she saw the handsome prince with his sober voice and the beautiful and dignified princess who later became the queen transport her into the realms of mythology meeting divinity. Ravindra Jain’s melodious voice sent her into raptures as she wiped her hands on her cotton saree and sat down in front of our Uptron TV to watch the RAMAYAN. The Story of the Exiled Prince replete with moralistic tome and values that define mankind was so enthralling that I remember her breaking a coconut when Arun Govil in his Ram avatar graced the telly. Such was the adoration that Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan wrought on devout viewers. According to statistics this was the longest running Telly Series at that point and had more than 100 million faithful followers. Twitter that!!
Ever since, the Ramayan has always been Arun Govil and Deepika as Ram and Sita. Though I did not appreciate the Ramayan but increasingly became rather more fascinated by Dara Singh as Hanuman and the pyrotechnics that Indian television industry was capable of the story never rang true in later years when I repeatedly, and at near-bodily harm, questioned Rama’s pose as the Maryaada Purushotham. How can a man who is willing to test his wife at the behest of a washerman (dhobi) be a Maryaada Purushotham I questioned by mum only to be rapped soundly on the head with a ladle.
In later years, I read CR’s Ramayan and liked the central character even less while my fondness for Ravana grew slowly but surely. Call me the misguided, misplaced 21st century feminist but for me Ravana represented more of a Purush (man), and a Uttam (superior) one at that!!
I stopped reading the Ramayan by choice though I had to read it at intervals thanks to some moral science and language classes.
Would there ever be a better version of the Ramayan and will some one dare spin a modern take on it I wondered?
To my pleasant surprise I have come across several.
Even more surprisingly the Exiled Prince may get a futuristic treatment if the opening chapters of the Crystal Guardian is anything to go by where the mystery of the Crystal that has been guarded closely for eons is about to be unveiled. Rama is the warrior prince who will embark on an epic journey to find the Crystal of Creation which may change the destiny of human lives for ever.
I hope the book lives up to the precursor I had the opportunity to read. The Exiled Prince may hit the stores sometime before the end of the year.
I’m not very sure if my mosima would have liked the Indiana Jones meets Star Wars new-age Ramayan , but my 13-year old niece to whom I read excerpts of the book can’t wait to read the rest of it.