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India uses mythological reruns to keep the vulnerable indoors

Jeanette Rodrigues

Bloomberg

 /  Sun, March 29, 2020  /  10:00 pm
India uses mythological reruns to keep the vulnerable indoors

Beaming twice a day will be Ramayana, based on the Hindu epic of the same name, which was first broadcast in 1987 and reportedly became India’s highest earning television program. (Shutterstock/Rainer_81)

India’s state-run broadcaster will rerun iconic shows from the 1980s and 1990s to keep older citizens, most vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, at home during a nationwide lockdown.

Beaming twice a day will be Ramayana, based on the Hindu epic of the same name, which was first broadcast in 1987 and reportedly became India’s highest earning television program. When few Indians had TV sets and the only channel on offer was the state broadcaster, the streets would be empty during showtime. Some people in smaller towns would garland TVs in awe and tales are still swapped about how the actors playing Lord Ram and his consort Sita would often be treated as gods in public.

Other reruns options being offered to the house-bound populace in 2020 are Mahabharata, also a mythological epic, as well as Byomkesh Bakshi -- the Indian detective series -- which first aired between 1993-97.

Read also: In Singapore, quarantine comes with a sea view and room service

Fans of Shah Rukh Khan can watch Circus, the show that introduced the Bollywood star to the world in 1989. Circus follows the lives of the artists of the troupe, unraveling different shades of characters as they struggle with tricky realistic situations, according to the entry on IMDB.

The effort is to ensure Indians have enough motivation to stay indoors during a 21-day lockdown that was announced with little prior notice by Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Tuesday. While Indian TV today offers a plethora of choices, shooting and production has been stopped because of the virus outbreak and millions of professionals working from home threaten to choke Internet bandwidth.

Prasar Bharati has also requested the Board of Control for Cricket in India for permission to air classic matches, said Shashi Shekhar, chief executive officer of the state broadcaster. Prasar Bharati runs Doordarshan, or DD, the national TV channel brand, and All India Radio.

The holders of the Mahabharata copyrights have facilitated the return of the show to Doordarshan, Shekhar said. Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd. helped with Ramayana, he added. Shemaroo’s shares rose 0.2% on Friday in Mumbai, compared with a 0.4% drop in the benchmark index.

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