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Bhagwan Ram in Bollywood

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Bhagwan Ram has immense significance in the lives of all people of Bharatvarsha. Bhagwan Ram continues to leave a great impact on the routine life of a common man in Bharat. Bhagwan Ram is considered as the ideal son, ideal brother, ideal husband, ideal father, and ideal king above all. Considered as ‘Maryada Purushottam’, Bhagwan Ram has been portrayed in Bharatiya movies in the same manner, as people look at Bhagwan Ram. Bharatiya movies in all the languages and television serials have left a great impact on the Bharatiya psyche for the past few years. Such is the affection for Bhagwan Ram that people stop all their work, worship television sets and watch the serial with utmost devotion.

Dadasaheb Phalke is considered as the father of the Bharatiya Cineme. He produced the first movie ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913. The Bharatiya Cinema was at an infant stage for the first few decades. The first movie on Bhagwan Ram was released in 1943. The movie was ‘Ram Rajya’. Vijay Bhatt, who was famous for directing movies on spiritual History, had directed this film. Kanu Bhatt was the writer of ‘Ram Rajya’. Shankar Vyas was music director of the film. Prem Adib had played the role of Bhagwan Ram while Shobhana Samarth had acted as Sita in the movie. The role of Laxman was played by Umakant Desai. All the major incidents in Ramayan like exile of Bhagwan Ram, abduction of Maa Sita, Hanuman’s journey, and acts in Sri Lanka with the help of monkey army was effectively portrayed in the movie.

Shobhana Samarth was a very prominent actress of that period. She was married to Kumar Samarth and is also known as mother of Nutan and Tanuja. Shobhana Samarth is the grandmother of actress Kajol. Additionally, Shahu Modak and Durga Khote also played some roles in this movie.

Significantly, a premium show of Ram Rajya was also conducted in America, which evoked unexpected response from the viewers. In Bharat, this movie was supported by the viewers and was a success at the box office. It was an early stage for Bharatiya cinema and most of the movies used to be based either history or spiritual history. But such movies always used to get a response from the viewers. Ram Rajya had broken all the previous records on the box office, which can be considered as an indicator of love for Bhagwan Ram among Bharatiyas. Movie director Vijay Bhatt had used technology for adventures and miracles in the movie, which also played a major role in the success. Such was the impact of Ram Rajya that Mahatma Gandhi watched this movie in a hall, which became big news at that time. All the newspapers published news items on Mahatma Gandhi’s decision to watch the movie. Director Vijay Bhatt had organized a special show when he came to know that Mahatma Gandhi wanted to watch the movie. Reports published that time suggest Mahatma Gandhi was more than satisfied with movies as it portrayed Ram Rajya, which Gandhi ji was expecting after independence.

Vijay Bhatt is the grandfather of Vikram Bhatt, currently a prominent director. Vijay Bhatt produced four movies, which were based on Bhagwan Ram. He had produced “Bharat Milap” in 1942. After the success of Ram Rajya, he produced three more Ramayan based movies like Ramban and Ramayan and Bharat Milap. Shobhana Samarth had once again played the role of Maa Sita in Ramban.

Chandrakant had played the role of Bhagwan Ram in the movie. Bharat Milap was based on the visit of Bhagwan Ram and his younger brother Bharat in the forest. Vijay Bhatt’s third, fourth movie – Ramayan – was based on Uttar Ramayan, which praised Lav and Kusha, two sons of Bhagwan Ram. Vijay Bhatt was so deeply influenced by the life of Bhagwan Ram that he produced a re-make of Ram Rajya in 1964. This time the role of Maa Sita was played by Bina Roy, wife of Premnath. Kumar Sen played the role of Bhagwan Ram in this movie. Badriprasad was Ravan in the movie.

In January 1948, another movie, based on Ramayan was released. It was Sita Swayamwar. It was produced by Shri Vijay Pictures. Significantly, a Muslim – A R Shaikh was the director of this movie. Durga Khote, Anant Marathe, Shakuntala Paranjape and Vasant Thengdi were the actors and actresses in the movie. Unfortunately, details of this movie are not available today.

Homi Wadia was another big name at that time. Wadia was fond of producing spiritual movies. He produced ‘Sampoorn Ramayan’ in 1961. Babubhai Mistri was the director of this movie. Mahipal had played the role of Bhagwan Ram while Anita Guha was Maa Sita in the movie. BM Vyas had played the role of Ravan in Sampoorna Ramayan.

Hanuman Ji, who is inseparable from Bhagwan Ram, also attracted Bollywood. Two movies – `Pavanputra Hanuman’ and ‘Veer Babhruwahan’, – were exclusively made on the life of Hanuman Ji. Recently, Om Raut produced and directed a movie – Aadipurush, which was also based on Ramayan. Bahubali fame Prabhas had played the role of Bhagwan Ram in this movie. Kriti Senon was Maa Sita while Saif Ali Khan was Ravan in Aadipurush. The viewers, however, did not like the movie because of some reasons. But it has some altogether different reasons. People did not like this movie because of some comments on Bhagwan Ram, which is also an indicator to the reality that how Bhagwan Ram is much revered by Bharatiyas.

South movies always love spiritual movies. Naturally several movies, based on Ramayan, were released in Southern languages. In 1948, Telugu director K. Somu produced a film, which was named `Ramayaga’. N T Rama Rao had played the role of Bhagwan Ram while Padmini was Maa Sita in the movie. TK Bhagwati was Ravan in the Ramayaga. Interestingly, Shivaji Ganeshan, who later emerged as a great Kannada actor, had played Bharat in this movie. This movie was a great success. It continued to run its shows for 250 consecutive days, which was a big achievement in that period. This movie was also dubbed in Hindi and evoked good response from the viewers.

NT Rama Rao, who later joined politics and became Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh had played the role of Bhagwan Ram in several movies. One of the prominent films among these was Lav-Kush. N T Rama Rao was Bhagwan Ram in the movie. Other actors were Anjali Devi (Maa Sita), Kanta Rao (Laxman), Shoban Babu (Shatrughna), Master Nagaraju (lav) and Master Subramanyam (Kush). C S Rao was producer of the movie while C Pullaya was the director. It is believed that NT Rama Rao was a successful politician because of his popularity as Bhagwan Ram. People used to worship him. This is also evidence of the place of Bhagwan Ram among the Bharatiyas.

The Marathi film industry also contributed in its own way. ‘Swayamwar Zale Siteche’ was released in 1974. The movie was produced by Homi Wadia. Eminent Marathi poet GD Madgulkar, affectionately known as GaDiMa, was writer of this movie. GaDiMa is also famous for writing “Geet Ramayan’ in Marathi. Vasant Desai was the music director of this movie. ‘Ramya hi Swargahun Lanka’ sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, continues to influence Marathi people, even after 50 years. Senior actor Balakram was Bhagwan Ram while Uma was Maa Sita in the movie. Chandrakant was Ravan in the movie while Sumati Gupte and Lalita Desai were the other cast members.

However, the most successful experiment was on the small screen. In the nineties, producer/director Ramanand Sagar came out with Ramayan for Doordarshan, which was a big success story. The first episode was released on January 25, 1987. It used to be telecast every Sunday at 9 am. Such was the popularity of the serial that streets all over the country wore a deserted look at the time of Ramayan serial. Special television sets were installed at various places so that people would not miss the serial. Arun Govil (Bhagwan Ram), Deepika Chikhliya (Maa Sita) and Arvind Trivedi (Ravan) were the prominent actors in the serial. Dara Singh was Hanuman. Arvind Trivedi and Deepika Chikhliya later got elected as Lok Sabha members with the help of their popularity.

The serial was immensely popular outside Bharat. A special arrangement of English sub-titles was made for the viewers outside Bharat. BBC had reported at that time that the serial was watched by more than 600 million people, which is a very exceptional case in the history. People used to crowd at the time of shooting, which took place at Umbergaon, situated on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

After the success story of Ramanand Sagar, serials were released in 2008, 2012 and 2015 from various channels. Currently, Sony Live is releasing a new serial, based on Ramayan.

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