One of the most unprecedented things that has happened during the lockdown has been the return of the ‘90s. From games like ludo to TV shows, nostalgia has made this lockdown rather comfortable for privileged people like you and I. And you can’t talk about nostalgia without naming one of the biggest shows of, now our adulthood, too – Ramayan.
Amidst news of breaking records and then raining on our parade, there’s no denying that Ramayan is one of the few shows that has given us something to look forward to in the lockdown. However, speaking to IANS, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati remembered how his WhatsApp groups were buzzing with laughter when DD had announced the broadcast of nostalgia shows including Ramayan, soon after PM Modi ordered the first lockdown.
Rebroadcast of #Ramayana on #Doordarshan smashes viewership records worldwide, the show becomes most watched entertainment show in the world with 7.7 crore viewers on 16th of April pic.twitter.com/hCVSggyqIE
— Doordarshan National (@DDNational) April 30, 2020
“They’re all, like, laughing. Who’s going to watch it? I had to tell them that, you know, India is very different. It’s not just the English speaking elite, it’s much bigger, much more diverse. So there was that worry,” Vempati told IANS during an interview.
Needless to say, after the re-runs of the Hindu Epic started, Doordarshan soared past in rankings for top Indian channels, amassing millions of viewers over the course. However, it wasn’t easy to piece the show together and required immense effort from the team.
“The tapes were in the deep archive of the (Ramanand) Sagar family, and in Mumbai it was like operating in curfew. Someone had to physically retrieve these things. The formats had changed. People had to work through the night to figure out how to get it into a compatible format, and then push it from Bombay. Because the file sizes are so large, you can”t do it over the internet, it would have taken forever. So we had a satellite-based mechanism by which the content was beamed from Bombay and downloaded into servers here, so that the next day”s episodes could be aired,” said Vempati.
“The combination of lockdown and Ramayan,” he said, “showed us that families can still come together around television if the content is wholesome and appeals to every segment. Nostalgia was always a trend for Doordarshan. While we leverage nostalgia, we can’t rely on that alone”
Speaking about the way ahead for the channel, Vempati is actively pursuing organisational collaborations with academia and startups to transform India’s public broadcaster for the digital age. Prasar Bharati is working with IIT Kanpur, around research collaboration on direct-to-mobile broadcasting.
“We have asked IIT-Kanpur to create that enabling environment, create the test-bed to bring in startups. And then let’s see what we can do in this whole ecosystem. So that effort is on,” he added.
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Photo: © Doordarshan (Main Image)