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God makes an epic comeback on television

Doordarshan's 80s show, Ramayan, brought back to entertain people through the Covid-19 lockdown, has garnered record high ratings; at the same time, viewership for devotional channels has soared

Rajiv Singh
Published: Apr 2, 2020 07:10:51 PM IST
Updated: Apr 2, 2020 07:12:21 PM IST

God makes an epic comeback on television

The original Ramayan was popular in the 80s and 90s on Doordarshan.

First, let’s talk about divine intervention. Last week, when the government decided to bring back the original Ramayana television show on national channel Doordarshan, the move evoked a wide range of reactions—nostalgia, disbelief, even ridicule. As God would have it, the epic made it to TV.

The Ramayan, according to the latest ratings report by BARC-Nielsen for the week starting March 21, has garnered the highest-ever rating for a Hindi GEC (general entertainment channel) show since 2015. On Saturday morning and evening, 34 million and 45 million people watched it respectively; the numbers surged to 40 million and 51 million on Sunday. “The show was highest rated in urban and megacities,” the report, titled ‘Crisis consumption: An insight series into TV, smartphone and audiences’ points out.

As the Covid-19 crisis deepens, with an alarming surge in those who are becoming infected and losing their lives across India, devotional channels have seen a sharp 26% jump in viewership. Compare this to the ratings in the week starting March 11, when there was a 13% dip.

“It’s an epic comeback by God, and devotees,” says Abraham Koshy, professor of marketing at IIM Ahmedabad. In terms of epics, he adds, there is nothing bigger than the Ramayan and Mahabharat. The top ratings for a show that was first aired in the 80s is a sad reflection on the either the poor quality of the mythological programmes that the present lot of makers have churned out, or their failure to tell the story in a simple and charming manner. The show also, Koshy underlines, reflects the popularity that the epic still commands.  

Commenting on the surge in viewership of devotional channels, Koshy maintains that the findings are along expected lines. “During existential crises, especially when there is no end in sight, people will seek solace in such channels,” he says. Two things become profound during such times. The first is the exclamation that “Only God knows,” and the second is the hope that “Only God can save us.”   ​

We'll be coming back with more data analysis on TV viewership when the third week of the lockdown ends. Till then, stay safe. And God bless.

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  • Saroj ku.mishra

    Good steps taken by prasar varati.

    on Apr 3, 2020
  • Rashmi Jani

    Great Job by Govt!

    on Apr 4, 2020