Watch Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana

When "Ramayan" aired, India (even then having a population over 900 million) came to a standstill. Buses stopped running, religious services (Hindu and non-Hindu) were rescheduled, and everyone stopped what they were doing for 30 minutes every Sunday morning to watch the ancient Indian epic brought to life on television. It's hard to believe that something like that is possible, but it really happened. Despite being dismissed by some as a cheap production with garish sets, cheesy special effects, and melodramatic dialogue, "Ramayan" was and continues to be a phenomenon.

True, the production is quite obviously very low budget and it shows in the special effects and sets. (Tollywood director Bapu's "Seeta Kalyanam" a.k.a. "Seeta Swayamvar" shows a much better production, even though it, too, was low-budget.) Some of the same actors are used repeatedly for various minor roles and voices. At times, it does look like a high school production.

But, what Ramanand Sagar (who, in my opinion, is otherwise a mediocre filmmaker) has done here is spectacular. Despite all of the above, "Ramayan" works incredibly well because one can sense that a great deal of devotion went into making it. This is a series that really has a heart and soul. Every time I watch "Ramayan," I have a religious experience.

The dialogue might sound melodramatic to some (and sometimes it is), but the script is extremely faithful to the original texts that it is based off of. Sometimes, lines are directly quoted from Valmiki or Tulsidas and translated into Hindi. "Ramayan" takes very little dramatic license and so what is presented on screen is an accurate presentation of the source texts. This gives "Ramayan" value not only to devout Hindus but also to students of Hindu religion and Indian epic poetry, both of whom can watch the series and get a good understanding of the works of Valmiki, Tulsidas, and others. The feeling conveyed in the television series is the feeling conveyed from a recital of the epic itself.

What also helps this series tremendously is the music by Ravindra Jain. Indian storytelling in general (both in film and in religious sermons) has a tradition of mixing dialogue with songs. Here, Ravindra Jain uses music to its fullest advantage. There are plenty of songs throughout the series, but they are placed in perfect situations. This is not the typical Bollywood style of breaking into song and dance at random and inappropriate places. Instead, rather than boring the audience with a long battle scene filled with cheap special effects, the battle is shown with a song describing the battle. Scenes of devotion naturally have devotional music with them. Transition scenes are accompanied by lines of Tulsidas. In fact, Jain sometimes cleverly and seamlessly merges his own lyrics with the poetry of Tulsidas, creating songs that are modern masterpieces of music.

I'm generally satisfied with the casting choices. Arun Govil and Deepika do well as Rama and Sita. Dara Singh is not an incredibly talented actor (he is originally a wrestler), but it worked for me to have him as Hanuman. My three favorite performances, though, are Sunil Lahri as Lakshmana (he's got Lakshmana's angry look down perfectly), Vijay Arora as Indrajit (he's got the boisterous personality down), and veteran character actress Lalita Pawar as Manthara (a perfect choice, as Pawar made a career out of playing literally hundreds of Manthara-like characters). Arvind Trivedi is not bad as Ravana, but he does not have the physically dominating presence that Ravana would need to have. Ravana should be tall, dark, muscular, and handsome, and Trivedi is none of those things. Still, not a bad performance on his part. (As an aside, the single worst casting choice is the actor picked to play Parshurama in one episode early on in the series; they picked somebody less than 5 feet tall to play a domineering character and it completely doesn't work.)

We tend to put all of that aside, though, because of just how well the story works for us. "Ramayan" made religion fashionable on Indian television. This is why some scholars list Ramanand Sagar (who, I reiterate, was an otherwise mediocre filmmaker) as one of 4 men (along with Valmiki, Tulsidas, and Kamban) who has shaped modern interpretations of the Ramayana story. That is quite an achievement, to be one of the four main forces that guide a tradition that dates back thousands of years, all on a budget (I'm told) of Rs. 100,000 per episode.

Really, I've already said more than needs to be said. All that really needs to be said is that "Ramayan" brought India to a STANDSTILL!

Episode 1

  1. Watch Part 1
  2. Watch Part 2
  3. Watch Part 3
  4. Watch Part 4
  5. Watch Episode 2
  6. Watch Episode 3
  7. Watch Episode 4
  8. Watch Episode 5
  9. Watch Episode 6
  10. Watch Episode 7
  11. Watch Episode 8
  12. Watch Episode 9
  13. Watch Episode 10
  14. Watch Episode 11
  15. Watch Episode 12
  16. Watch Episode 13
  17. Watch Episode 14
  18. Watch Episode 15
  19. Watch Episode 16
  20. Watch Episode 17
  21. Watch Episode 18
  22. Watch Episode 19
  23. Watch Episode 20
  24. Watch Episode 21
  25. Watch Episode 22
  26. Watch Episode 23
  27. Watch Episode 24
  28. Watch Episode 25
  29. Watch Episode 26
  30. Watch Episode 27
  31. Watch Episode 28
  32. Watch Episode 29
  33. Watch Episode 30
  34. Watch Episode 31
  35. Watch Episode 32
  36. Watch Episode 33
  37. Watch Episode 34
  38. Watch Episode 35
  39. Watch Episode 36
  40. Watch Episode 37
  41. Watch Episode 38
  42. Watch Episode 39
  43. Watch Episode 40
  44. Watch Episode 41
  45. Watch Episode 42
  46. Watch Episode 43
  47. Watch Episode 44
  48. Watch Episode 45
  49. Watch Episode 46
  50. Watch Episode 47
  51. Watch Episode 48
  52. Watch Episode 49
  53. Watch Episode 50
  54. Watch Episode 51
  55. Watch Episode 52
  56. Watch Episode 53
  57. Watch Episode 54
  58. Watch Episode 55
  59. Watch Episode 56
  60. Watch Episode 57
  61. Watch Episode 58
  62. Watch Episode 59
  63. Watch Episode 60
  64. Watch Episode 61
  65. Watch Episode 62
  66. Watch Episode 63
  67. Watch Episode 64
  68. Watch Episode 65
  69. Watch Episode 66
  70. Watch Episode 67
  71. Watch Episode 68
  72. Watch Episode 69
  73. Watch Episode 70
  74. Watch Episode 71
  75. Watch Episode 72
  76. Watch Episode 73
  77. Watch Episode 74
  78. Watch Episode 75
  79. Watch Episode 76
  80. Watch Episode 77
  81. Watch Episode 78

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rrs said...

Dear Sir,
A very well written analysis of the Great TV serial Ramayan.

However, the author's name and profession is not given, please provide the same on this web page.

Rajiv R. Suman

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