MUMBAI — The launch of the book “An Epic Life: Ramanand Sagar from Barsaat to Ramayan,” published by Westland Publications (an Amazon Company),
was graced by the presence of the original star cast of Sagar’s record-breaking TV series “Ramayan” (1987).
Deepika Topiwala nee Chikhalia, the actress who rose to fame playing Sita, Arun Govil, best known for playing Lord Ram, Sunil Lahiri, who played Lakshman; Sameer Razda, who was Shatrughna; Bal Dhuri (Dashrath), Renu Dhariwala (Soorpanakha) and Vindu Dara Singh, who played Hanuman. were all present. Alongside the cast, editor Subhash Sehgal and cameraman Ajit Naik also graced the event.
Author Prem Sagar, cinematographer and director and son to the late Ramanand Sagar, has written this emotional tribute to his legendary father that traces Sagar’s life from his birth in a small village Asal-guruke on the outskirts of Lahore at sunrise Dec. 29, 1917.
The book follows Sagar’s life journey as he was given by his own father at a tender age of six to his maternal grandfather to be bought up by his “childless” wife.
His own mother unable to bear separation from her son, died a drug addict, as their family servant puts her onto drugs to relieve her pain of separation.
Sagar was a principled and virtuous young man who opposed the evil tradition of dowry, and this resulted in him being thrown out of his house after he married the sister of his first wife at her cremation ceremony in Hardwar. A turbulent and motherless childhood created many a scar in his soul, which laid the foundations of a prolific writer.
He saw death so closely at the age of 18, when his first-born son and wife died, that he realized the impermanence of life and the importance of “Sakshi Bhav” or consciousness to remain objective and subjective at the same time, and observe one’s own self without any judgment. He believed that we are all but acting our parts of a divine play or movie that has already been shot, including the ending, and we simply must go through it with a smile on our face.
The book follows Sagar’s journey from becoming a literary writer from a journalist and then his dramatic escape in 1947 when Pakistani tribesmen attacked the state of Kashmir, his arrival in Mumbai and his subsequent glorious career, the crowning achievement of which was the smashing success of “Ramayan.”
On Jan. 25, 1987, with the telecast of the very first episode, Indian television changed for all time to come. In a matter of weeks, the series became a national obsession. During the “Ramayan” telecast, roads remained empty, and even marriages and political rallies were never scheduled.
Sagar, a successful filmmaker, was among the first to recognize the immense power of television. He first made his mark as a writer in Raj Kapoor’s revolutionary super-hit “Barsaat” (1949). From 1961 to 1970, Sagar wrote, produced and directed six silver jubilee hits—“Ghunghat,” “Zindagi,” “Arzoo,” “Ankhen,” “Geet” and “Charas.”
Prem Sagar began his career as a cinematographer with Ramanand Sagar’s “Lalkar” (1972) soon after completing his education from the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. He was the recipient of a gold medal for the best academic student of the year and a silver medal for the best-photographed student film. He was associated as a cinematographer or technical advisor with several popular and memorable films of Sagar Arts, including “Jalte Badan,” “Charas,” and “Armaan” and even directed “Hum Tere Aashiq Hain.”
In the 1980s, Prem Sagar produced and directed Indian television’s first fantasy serial, “Vikram Aur Betaal.” As a co-producer, closely associated with the show “Ramayan,” he went on to have an extremely successful career in television being associated with shows like “Shri Krishna,” “Sai Baba,” Prithviraj Chauhan” and “Jai Maa Durga,” and more.
He has won 15 as Director of Photography and has more accomplishments in the field of still photography. The honors include the prestigious associate-ship of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and the Artiste Federation International de L’ArtsPhotographique Paris and a UNESCO award in Tokyo.
Prem did research on the book for more than three years including visiting the state of Kashmir, and meeting relatives, friends, co-workers and family who were associated with “Papaji”. He also has collected rare postcards, letters, diaries, etc. of his father, keeping in mind that someday that he would write a book on him.
Prem and his son Shiv currently have a production house called Sagar World Multimedia, which is working on a web series with characters inspired by Hindu mythology. They have recently opened a non-profit company called “Ramanand Sagar Foundation,” which is working towards uplifting rural poor of Karjat between Mumbai and Pune. They are also making a Ramanand Sagar Museum at Karjat, where the memorabilia mentioned in the book, will be kept on display.