After making the successful TV show Ramayan, producer Ramanand Sagar wanted to tap into another epic show — the Bhagavat Puran. Produced by Ramanand, Subhash Sagar and Prem Sagar, and directed by Ramanand, Anand Sagar and Moti Sagar, Shri Krishna was one of the biggest grossers for Doordarshan during the seven years it was on air. The national broadcaster had a limit on the number of episodes it could air in the ’80s, but the ’90s brought about a change in these rules. A producer could now make a show for a longer duration.
Moti says, “After Ramayan and Mahabharat, we realised that there was an audience for such shows. People were eager to see stories of their Gods.”
Music composer Ravindra Jain composed the music for this serial. The title song, ‘Shree Krishna Govind Hare Murari’, became popular in India and abroad. The show ran for more than seven years, and had over 200 episodes. The show covered Krishna’s life, from his birth to the time of his grandchildren. People loved the episodes, which showcased Lord Vishnu’s many avatars and Krishna’s ‘prem-leela’ with Radha. Ramanand had a no-smoking rule for artistes on the show while they were in costume as people “thought of them as Gods and we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings”.
A young Swapnil Joshi was cast as Krishna. Pinky Parikh played Radha. Later, actor Sarvadaman D Banerjee was roped in for the role of the grown-up Krishna. Swapnil had worked with the Sagars in Ramayan earlier. Moti says, “He was 12 or 13 when he was cast, and shot for the portions till Krishna kills his uncle Kansa and goes to Dwarka. He was an excellent actor and he did a marvellous job.” Swapnil soon gained popularity on the show for his portrayal, and he was retained for longer than what was initially planned. He did the show for three years.
The show was shot in Gujarat’s Umbergaon and Vadodara, where they put up huge sets. Moti recalls a shoot involving Krishna and Sudama that lasted for two hours. “The scene had Krishna and Sudama taking shelter under a tree in the rain. We were shooting at night and it was very cold, but the actors, who were wearing only dhotis, shot relentlessly for two hours. Once the shoot finished, they were shivering. They were pampered with massages and hot soup,” says Moti, who was glad that they didn’t fall sick the next day.
Swapnil had a huge fan following because of the show. People thought he was Krishna. Fans would turn up on the sets to meet him and touch his feet. Moti says, “At times, there were so many fans who wanted to be part of the show or meet Swapnil that we would organise a dummy shot for them. People came with a lot of devotion. We didn’t want them to feel disheartened. Neither did we want our work to be disrupted, so a dummy shot was a win-win situation for everyone.”