On April 30, national broadcaster Doordarshan claimed that the re-run of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana has broken all viewership records - across the world - by clocking in 77 million viewers.
The claim was quickly debunked in a Mint Lounge story which stated that the finale of the American TV show M*A*S*H holds the record for being the most watched television series with 106 million viewers. Moreover, BARC, the official agency that reports viewership data said they had ‘no idea’ on what basis DD made it claim.
In a Zoom interview, HuffPost India asked the cast of Ramayana - Deepika Chikalia, Sunil Lahri and Prem Sagar (son of Ramanand Sagar who was creatively involved in the making of the show) about the dubious claim made by DD.
While Chikalia said “she had no clue” about it, Sagar said that the numbers clocked by Ramayana were “divine” led by the “hand of God” because this is actually the ‘bhagya’ (destiny) of the country.
Without directly addressing the fact it’s ethically wrong for a channel to put out a misleading claim, Sagar said, “At a time when you’ve Netflix, Amazon, this is big. The idea is to bring it (the show) to this generation and teach them. To really bring them back into the fold of ideal living.
Sunil Lahri had a bizarre response where he said that M*A*S*H’s record of touching 106 million in 1983 was a combination of “Netflix and Amazon” all put together (the streaming services were launched only post 2010) “So in that sense Ramayana has created a bigger impact. It’s a world record in spite of so many options.”
Despite repeating that the claim is factually untrue, both Sagar and Lahri stuck to the claim that their show had created a world record.
In an ironic twist, Shashi Shekhar, the CEO of Prasar Bharti, under which DD operates, told Mint , “I would not read much into the record aspect beyond underscoring how families came together during the lockdown to re-experience the epic in an unprecedented manner and that the public broadcaster was effective in its role in keeping Indians ‘Stay Home Stay Safe.’”