Mumbai-based Karan Seth, an executive in his mid-20s, enjoys watching anime and occasionally playing computer games. While surfing TV channels, he chanced upon an episode of Devon Ke Dev Mahadev on Star India’s channel, Life OK.
“The action felt a lot like what I see in anime and computer games,” Seth felt. He added the show to his entertainment list.
"I have heard those stories many times, but am up to revisiting mythologies if the stories are creatively knitted, with more interesting, true details and good use of the latest effects and technology," said Kavya Malhotra, 35, an IT professional.
Youngsters are willing to put up with mythologicals — but they want crisp, action-oriented delivery, slick finishes and edgy dialogues. This re-emergence of interest cuts across media.
The runaway success of Amish Tripathi’s Shiva trilogy supports that. “Indians have evolved to a stage when they are far more open to the re-interpretation of mythology,” Tripathi said.
EPIC is a new channel focused on Indian history, folklore and mythology only.
“There is a lot of traction within the category and everyone is looking for new ways to re-tell those old tales. Digitisation will help further in generating interest,” said Mahesh Samat, MD, Epic Television Network.
“We will offer a compelling and modern take on mythology to create new intellectual properties, strong characters and new heroes who strike a chord with mass audiences.”
On TV, mythologicals are finding prominent time slots and aggressive promotions. Since the last one year, the genre has managed to match up on viewership with the usual soaps and reality shows.
While it all started with Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and BR Chopra’s Mahabharat, more recently, Devon Ke Dev Mahadev has appealed widely.
“Life OK, part of Star India, started with, Mahadev as a flagship show. It got advertisers in and built other shows around it. Till now, it is the sole torch bearer that holds the identity of channel,” said an industry veteran, requesting anonymity.
The record TRP of 8.2% for a special episode of Mahadev last year underlined the huge opportunity in mythology on TV.
Zee TV’s viewership ratings for its Sunday 11:00 am slot was 0.6%. It hit 2.7% with Ramayana. Now, Star Plus is coming up with the much-hyped Mahabharat.
“Mythology helps a channel to draw different sets of viewers, advertisers, and additional reach,” said Nikhil Sinha, producer of Devon Ke Dev Mahadev.
Male viewers and college youth are a growing audience too.
“The female audience was already in, but the emerging interest of males and youth is an encouraging sign,” said Ketan Mehta, chairman, Maya Digital Studio, which produced Ramayana: The Epic, a computer-animated film released by Warner Bros.
Creators say they need to hire teams of mythologists and students working on mythology theses. “We have over 100 people working on the technical aspects and graphics, and a research team of five scholars to write crisp scripts for a young, educated audience,” Sinha said.
The potential of the genre is drawing producers and channels.
“The initial investment in the costumes, sets, research, technology and jewellery can be R5-15 lakh per episode,” said a channel insider, requesting anonymity. “Profits are only realised after 100-150 episodes.”
Not everyone gets it right. The new version of Ramayana and Maa Durga haven’t really worked. Ekta Kapoor’s Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki sank without a trace.