Television

Good writers create successful entertainment properties: Dr Ramanand Sagar

MUMBAI: As the mega serial Ramayan finds a place for itself in the Limca Book of Records, one cannot help remembering media moghul and patriarch of Sagar Arts - Dr Ramanand Sagar.



Sagar Arts marketing director and producer Prem Sagar says: "Dr Ramanand Sagar always believed that good writers create successful entertainment properties and brands that add to a company's bottomline year after year."

In fact, Dr Sagar's biggest asset was his writing skill which was later reflected in his films and TV serials. Dr Sagar was adept in Urdu, Sanskrit and Hindi and wrote the story and screenplay for Raj Kapoor's film Barsaat.



Ramayan has been hailed as a modern day miracle and the media hailed its creator Dr Ramanand Sagar as the modern day Valmiki and Tulsidas. Ali Peter John of Screen (the international magazine) has been quoted as saying that Sagar was born to make Ramayan in Kaliyug at a time when it was needed most.

Dr Ramanand Sagar aka Chandramouli was born on 29 December 1917 in Asal-Guru-Ke near Lahore. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth - into one of the most aristocratic and wealthiest families of Kashmir. His father Lala Dinanath Chopra enjoyed writing poetry mainly for personal satisfaction under nome de plume "Taj Peshawari". Chandramouli was adopted by a childless couple from his mother's side and rechristened "Ramanand"; but fame and fortune were destined for the nome de plume Sagar.

Dr Ramanand Sagar's first recorded work at the age of 16 was Pritam Pratiksha (the wait for the beloved) for the Srinagar-based Shri Pratap College's magazine. The editor was impressed but was not convinced that Sagar actually authored the work. He wrote in a footnote that "the editor could not vouch for the originality" of the article.

Later on, Sagar had to struggle after he was thrown out of his house by his adopted parents because he refused to accept the dowry system.

Sagar worked as a peon, truck cleaner, soap vendor, gold smith apprentice during the day and studied for his degree at night. He got a gold medal from Punjab University (in Pakistan) and the title of "Munshi Fazal" in Persian. Sagar also joined Daily Pratap and later rose to become the news editor of Daily Milap - a leading newspaper of Punjab (in Pakistan).

Sagar the writer: In a span of 12 years, Sagar wrote 32 short stories; three long-short stories, one novel, two serialised stories and two stage plays. He wrote under the nom de plume "Ramanand Chopra", "Ramanand Bedi", "Ramanand Kashmiri" and finally "Ramanand Sagar". 

In 1942, as a TB (tuberculosis) patient fighting with death in a sanitarium in Tang-Marg, Sagar fought with grit and indomitable will with death. And it was there that he wrote a subjective column "Diary of a TB patient" serialised in Adab-e-Mashriq - a highly rated magazine in the 1940s. It caught the fancy of the literary world including the famous Krishen Chander and won him wide acclaim.

Dr Sagar made a significant contribution to the literary world between 1943-49. 

1943 - Jwaar Bhata (High and low tide)

1944 - Ainey (mirrors); Jab Pahle Roz Baraf Giri (the first day when it snowed)

1945 - Mera Hamdam, Mera Dost (My companion, my friend); Radha

1948 - Goura (for a stage play enacted by thespian Prithviraj Kapoor); Kalakaar

1949 - Phool Aur Kaante (flowers and thorns) - a collection of 29 short stories



In 1947, Dr Sagar had to flee to Indian with his family. Penniless, his only possessions at that time were five annas and a trunk full of manuscripts that described the horrors and destruction, witnessed by him during those turbulent times. These manuscripts were the basis for his widely acclaimed novel Aur Insaan mar gaya. In 1948, he wrote his life's masterpiece - the novel Aur Insaan mar gaya depicting the horrors of the 1947 partition of India. Acclaimed as an all-time classic in Urdu and Hindi literature, it was translated into several Indian and foreign languages. The English version And Humanity Died was published in 1987-88 by Arnold Publishers (Delhi).

Ramanand Sagar the film maker: In 1936, Dr Sagar started his film career with the silent movie Raiders of the Rail Road. In 1940-41, he was signed as a leading man for the film Koel and as Abhimanyu in an unfinished film Krishna at Shalimar Studio, Poona. In 1942-43, he was invited by the then famous director Mehboob Khan and also by the famous writers Krishen Chander and Monto to come to Bombay. Dr Sagar stayed with actor Sajjan at his residence in Malad. His entry into the world of films happened when he wrote the story, screenplay for Raj Kapoor's super hit Barsaat.

In 1950, Dr Sagar launched his own production company Sagar Arts and the first film was Mehmaan (the guest). In 1957, his film Paigham (starring Dilip Kumar, Raaj Kumar and Vaijayanti Mala) won the Filmfare award for the best dialogue and thus began the golden period of his film career.

Dr Sagar's other strong points as a producer and director were evergreen music, massive productions, spectacular locations and big star casts. His group of companies produced over 25 motion pictures till 1984 with over 15 of them being box office hits; some of them crossed 75 weeks theatrically; and some have become evergreen hits in the annals of Indian cinema. The blockbusters include silver jubilees - six in a row - including Ghunghat, Zindagi, Aarzoo, Geet, Lalkar, Hamrahi, Charas, Pyaara Dushman, Ram Bharose, Bhagawat and a diamond jubilee Ankhen.

Sagar and television: In the mid 1970s, Dr Sagar and his sons visited a French home and watched television together. The realisation dawned that TV was the right medium to bring families together to watch respectable programmes. Along with his sons, he took the biggest stride in TV history nearly a decade later and this move gave the entire family international recognition.

In 1985, the Sagar group were the first film family to enter the TV software production. Starting with the mega-hit TV serial Vikram aur Betaal; fairy tales such as Dada Dadi ki Kahaniyan; mythological tales such Ramayan, Shri Krishna, Alif Laila, Jai Ganga maiya, Gurukul and now Ankhen. The Sagar group logged 2,000 hours of television software in 15 years.

In fact, Prem Sagar says that Sagar Arts contributes nearly Rs 3-4 million per month to Prasar Bharati in terms of telecast fees for currently telecast programmes such as Ankhen, Ramayan, Jai Ganga Maiya and Filmon ka Guldasta. "Our serial Shri Krishna had contributed Rs 139 crore (Rs 1.3 billion) to DD's coffers," says Prem Sagar.

The Indian government conferred the title of Padmashri on Dr Ramanand Sagar in 2001; in 1996, he was honoured with Sahitya Vachaspati (Doctor of Literature) by the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan (Prayag), Allahabad; in 1997, Jammu University gave him a honoris causa doctorate (Doctor of Literature).

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