Sunil Lahri is on cloud nine. The repeat telecast of Ramayan on Doordarshan got a staggering 77 million views beating records set by Game Of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory. And his character of Lakshman has found popularity on Twitter with many women describing him as a ‘cute guy’. When we brought this female attention to his notice, Lahri said, “See, any male actor likes it when women like his looks or personality. I am no different even though I have played Lakshman. This appreciation from women makes me very happy and I am very thankful.” The show has seen an unprecedented success and changed the fortunes of Doordarshan. “We never expected this. The original show did not get as much viewership as this re-run in the lockdown. When we heard that Doordarshan was planning to bring it back, we were like, okay. The response has left us shaken and happy at the same time,” states Lahri.
He takes us back to the days when the serial was shot. “Ramanand Sagar Ji was a visionary for his times. But he was the coolest filmmaker/director I ever worked with. Shooting a saga like Ramayan came with unexpected problems, at times, but he was never stressed out. The people from Doordarshan would be worried as a missed telecast would lead to huge protests but he never took any tension. They would keep on asking for the tape. I have read so many stories where people have created commotion outside electricity board offices as they could not watch due to power cuts. You must consider that power cuts were rampant in India when the show was aired in the 1980s.”
Characters like Kumbhakarna were trending on Twitter. Nalin Dave who played the role is no more. “We were all like a family. Nalin Dave was a very nice person. I also have fond memories of Sanjay Jog. He was a very dear friend. His son is a popular Marathi actor. Dara Singh Ji was also someone I loved a lot. He was like his friendly and towering personality who always guided us. At one point, I lived close to his residence and would see fans coming to catch a glimpse of him. Due to this re-telecast, we cast members have reconnected with each other. I had a word with Aparajita Bhushan, who played Mandodari. She is the daughter of late Bollywood actor Bharat Bhushan.”
Sunil Lahri is not minding the memes on Lakshman and Ramayan at all. “I feel it takes immense creativity to make memes. And it is fine as long as they’re not humiliating for an actor or his family. Also, these memes have got attention of the younger lot. I admire the sense of humour of these people and have no issues,” says Sunil. The actor’s popularity has revived and he is game for new projects. “I want to take on more work but good work. There is a certain standard you have to maintain after you live a character like Lakshman,” he says. Would he do a reality show like Bigg Boss? “I have watched that show. I don’t mind taking it up but on my conditions. Anyways, we are living in a Bigg Boss like condition now,” he says.
The actor reveals one thing he is very proud of. “I remember how the wife of the President had told me that Parliament members did not come for the swearing in as they were watching Ramayan. Years later, people requested PM Narendra Modi to delay his speech as they wanted to watch the show. This is a priceless feeling,” he says.
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