Mumbai, Dec 12 (PTI) For millions of television viewers in India and abroad every Sunday morning was a celebration viewing the epic serial 'Ramayana' that made its producer-director Ramanand Sagar a household name.
Dr Ramanand Sagar (87), who died today from old age complications in Mumbai after a legendary career in filmmaking, was born in December 29, 1917 at Asal Guru Ke near Lahore with a silver spoon in his mouth - into one of the most aristocratic and wealthiest families.
Sagar, who showed striking literary precocity, inherited the faculty from his father late Dinanath Chopra who became famous in his nom de plume Taj Peshawari.
Ramanand was adopted by his maternal grandmother, who changed his original name Chandramauli to the present one. He often confessed to have missed the love of his real parents. In fact, his childhood was responsible for the high emotional note consistent in his work.
His first recorded work in 1933 at the age of 16 was a piece of prose-poetry called 'Pritaam Pratiksha' for the Srinagar-based Shri Pratap college's magazine. The editor was impressed but was not convinced that he had actually authored the work and so wrote as a footnote that "the editor could not vouch for the originality of the article."
Sagar was later thrown out of his house after he refused to accept the dowry system and had to struggle for a living. The young Ramanad worked as a peon, truck cleaner, soap vendor, goldsmith apprentice during thr day and studied for his degree at night. He won a gold medal from Punjab University (in Pakistan) and the title of 'Munshi Fazal' in Persian.
Sagar also joined 'Daily Pratap' and rose to become the news editor of 'Daily Milap,' a leading newspaper of Punjab. The writer in him made him pen 32 short stories in a span of 12 years, 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.
He made a significant contribution to the literary world between 1943-49 with his 'Jwaar Bhata' (High and low tide) in 1943, 'Ainey' (mirrors) the next year; 'Jab Pahle Roz Baraf Giri' (the first day when it snowed), 'Goura' in 1948 for a stage play enacted by thespian Prithviraj Kapoor among others.
In 1947, Sagar had to flee to India 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.
Ramanand Sagar the film maker was born in 1936 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. His entry into the world of films took place when he wrote the story, screenplay for Raj Kapoor's super hit 'Barsaat.'
In 1950, Sagar launched his own production company Sagar Arts and the first film was 'Mehmaan' (the guest). In 1957, his film 'Paigham' (starring Dilip Kumar, Raj Kumar and Vaijayanti Mala) won the Filmfare award for the best dialogue and thus began the golden period of his film career.
Sagar's magic touch as a producer and director was felt in his evergreen music, massive productions, spectacular locales 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.'
In 1985, the Sagar group were the first film family to enter the TV 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 'Ankhen.' The Sagar group logged 2,000 hours of television software in 15 years.
'Ramayana' has been hailed as a modern day miracle and its creator Ramanand Sagar as the modern day Valmiki and Tulsidas. Following its trail blazing success was 'Shri Krishna' which earned over 100 crore.
His other projects included 'Durga', 'Jai Mahalaxmi', 'Jai Ganga Maiya' and the recent one 'Sai Baba' which went on air two months ago.
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).