There has been no dearth of biopics and television shows based on the life of public figures from different fields but it is rare to have one based on a person still alive and active. But then Baba Ramdev (Ram Kishan Yadav) is different. From taking yoga to small towns to running two TV channels and anchoring a rapidly growing business enterprise manufacturing myriad consumer products that compete against established merchandise of the MNCs, he is in public eye for some time. Always ready with a byte on nationalism, conversion and homosexuality, Ramdev has been constantly courting controversy and popularity alike.
What was noticeable was Baba Ramdev’s repeated emphasis that his life since childhood had been a struggle. “By showing how a village boy who faced lethal assaults (seven times) by his relatives, was taunted for being poor and from low caste, whose mother was beaten up, and who had access to only second hand books, can reach the position I am in, will be inspirational for youngsters.” Moreover, he felt his success story has been written about often but never how he reached there in his life. True, one but can’t miss the fact that there is enough written material and on visual media, including a documentary Yog Yatra, on him, to convey the same.
On the choice of the medium, Ramdev contended, “A three-hour movie can’t do justice to the different aspects and facets of my long drawn battle. A TV show is bound to leave a positive imprint on viewers.” It goes without saying that a prime time serial will fulfil this. Emphasising that his life is an open book and completely transparent, he observed, “I have no bank balance, family, wife or property. I am a sanyasi with no possessions. I have insisted that whatever is true must be depicted.”
On the chances of the series turning into a public relations exercise for the yoga guru, Karan Bajaj, Sr. Vice President and General Manager, South Asia Discovery Communications, said, “The show takes an objective look at his life. The narrative neither shies away nor avoids any controversy, including the Ramleela Maidan episode. All the primary material gathered by our researchers during sittings with Baba Ramdev has been checked with secondary sources and cross-verified.” Was the script and episodes approved by him? “We checked with him for validation of certain events. In fact, he has not watched even a single episode.”
Denying rumours of sponsorship by Patanjali for the series, Karan, clarified, “On the contrary we will have not ads by them on the channel for the first three months of telecast of the serial.” At the event, one could notice Ramdev’s showmanship. He introduced actors Naman Jain, who is playing his younger version and Kranti Prakash Jha, who essays his adult role, in style. They made a dramatic entry and touched his feet. Later to the amusement of the people, he, insisted them to demonstrate some of the asanas they had learnt for their roles including shirsha and mayur asana, hoping that they had not forgotten them. They did it with aplomb, impressing the audience.
Kranti, who has acted in Anurag Basu’s Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, expressed his happiness at being chosen for the role. “I can identify with Baba’s life since I have seen my parents struggling too.” Describing the experience tough, he said, “I lost weight and toned down my body from a gym figure to that of a yogi. I spent four days with Baba, learnt yoga from him which I practised regularly and also tasted delicious milk with honey and turmeric.” For an authentic portrayal, he read about him and watched Yog Yatra in order to imbibe his body language. As I know Hindi and Sanskrit, it was not difficult to deliver the dialogues.” On the pressure of playing a personality who is there to find flaws in his performance, Kranti averred, “I didn’t go to that zone and instead gave my best shot. I am glad that Naman has set up the stage for my entry.”
On the other hand, Naman, who won the National Award for the best child actor for Chillar Party, was initially stumped by Haryanvi required to be spoken in the series. “I learnt it from Abhishek Bhola of the production team and practised continuously. Besides, I learnt sword fighting and wrestling which Baba studied in his gurukul.” He will be seen using prosthetics in his eye and left side of the face to bring out the ailment suffered by Ramdev. Notably, Naman met him after shooting the 25 episodes he figures in.
Producer Ajay Devgn
Actor-producer Ajay Devgn is reportedly coming up with a television show based on the life of yoga-guru Baba Ramdev. For the project, Devgn will be collaborating with filmmaker Abhinav Shukla, The show, which is titled Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh, will star actor Naman Jain. National Film award winner Naman, who received great appreciation for his performance in films such as Bollywood Chillar Party, Jai Ho and Raanjhanaa, will star as young Baba Ramdev (Ramkishan). Ajay Devgn, 48, shared the news on Twitter: “Naman, immensely talented, playing young Swami Ramdev in our upcoming show Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh on Discovery Jeet.” This is what the Golmaal actor shared:
Ramdev Baba said the launch of a 65-episode scripted biopic series ‘Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh’ based on his life. The serial will be aired on Discovery’s upcoming Hindi general entertainment channel in India, JEET. The television series is set to go on air from February 12. In a press conference, Ramdev was present with actor Kranti Prakash Jha, who will be seen portraying the role of the Yoga guru in the television series. Ramdev also shared some real-life instances with the media during the press conference in Delhi.
”You will come to know about instances in my life from the television series which I had never shared before,” Ramdev Baba said. A premier of the show will be held at Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium on February 10 and the entry will be free for all. Discovery Communications had earlier announced its plan to roll out Discovery JEET, starting by the end of 2017 but now it is slated for 2018 launch. The new channel will be the flagship initiative for the network’s ambitious investment into original local productions in India, super serving superfans and nurturing communities around a range of programme genres including true crime investigations, small-town heroes and gritty survival.
The programming line-up will include ‘Swami Ramdev: EK Sangharsh’, a scripted biopic series tracing Baba Ramdev’s inspirational journey from a life of anonymity to national icon, international cult figure and now a business mogul. Earlier in January, Ramdev forayed into online world and announced the online presence of Patanjali products on top e-commerce websites. The entire range of Patanjali products is now available on Amazon, Grofers, Shopclues, Flipkart, BigBasket, 1mg, Paytm Mall and Netmeds. With this tie-up, the e-commerce firms will be able to source the products directly from the warehouses of Patanjali. Patanjali claims to have created an ecosystem, which helps to settle at least 1 million orders every day.
Biopic chosen artists
National Award winning child artist Naman Jain is going the extra mile to make his character as the younger version of yoga guru Baba Ramdev in his upcoming biopic TV series “Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh” look more convincing. Naman has also undergone rigorous training to depict the role of Ramkishan. He has worked on his body language and took voice modulation training to bring the character to life on the small screen.
A special team was invited to work on the look for Naman. The make-up took almost three hours every day. “I feel honoured to be part of ‘Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh’. It feels great to play young Swami Ramdev on television. It’s quite a challenging role and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned to make the show a super hit series,” Naman said. “I wore prosthetic for the first time in my life for this character. In addition to that, I had put dentures in my mouth to get the look of partial facial paralysis. It was a tedious process but it was a great experience to shoot with prosthetics. I hope that the viewers will like the show and will appreciate our efforts,” he added.
Also Young and talented actor from Bihar, Kranti Prakash Jha is playing the titular role in Swami Ramdev. With a striking resemblance to the renowned guru, Kranti feels lucky to have got the chance to play this challenging role. The actor, in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, shared that he was preparing for IAS exams before acting came calling. Kranti shared, “I think this show was part of my destiny. I had auditioned for it long back but things did not work out and I got busy with other things. One fine day, I got a call from the team as they wanted to meet me again. We did a series of auditions and look test and finally, I was on board. I truly feel blessed that I am part of this show as we are trying to communicate some really important factors of our culture through it.”
When asked if he knew about Ramdev’s journey or had to brush up his knowledge, the actor said, “I had a fair idea about him and his journey but I got to spent some three days with him which was a boon. The meeting was enriching and I got to know so much, not just about him but also about our cultural values. I am so grateful to him that he took out time to talk to me and also give me tips (smiles). I have tried my best to bring out his character alive on screen. From the way he talks or walks and even his yoga postures, I have tried to be as close to his real persona as I could.” Kranti, who is currently shooting continuously is yet to meet his producer, Bollywood star Ajay Devgn. He shared, “He had been busy with his projects but we should meet soon and I am really excited to interact with him.”
Not many know that Kranti played a pivotal role in MS Dhoni, as the cricketer’s best friend, who even taught him the famous helicopter shot. After a meaty role in the film, we asked Kranti if his move to shift to television could act as a barrier next. Smilingly he said, “Earlier I was also scared of the entire notion that a Bollywood actor cannot do TV but now the lines have blurred. I think today, it’s all about your role and what you do with it. And with the rise of the digital medium, the barrier has completely been removed.”
The good times are rolling for Ramdev and Discovery India is looking to cash in. After years of streaming shows on wildlife, lifestyle, and machines, India’s famous yoga guru-turned-entrepreneur may be its next “Deadliest Catch.” It’s not every day that the founder of a consumer goods firm becomes the subject of an elaborate biopic by a major media company. Ramdev, however, is a household name in India, first as a proponent of yoga and now as the owner of a trailblazing company. He is often seen endorsing his Patanjali brand of rice, detergents, and cooking oils. His public life has seen its share of controversies, too. And in all this, the US-based Discovery Communications sees good content for an enticing script.
Already airing 11 channels in India, the media major is now set to launch Discovery Jeet, foraying into the country’s general entertainment segment. And for a big-bang entry, it has scheduled, among other shows, a biopic on Ramdev and a documentary on the 1897 Battle of Saragahi, fought between 21 Sikh soldiers and 10,000 Afghans. “As far as stories on inspiration and underdogs go, Ramdev’s was a natural choice,” said Karan Bajaj, Discovery’s senior vice-president and general manager for south Asia. The show, titled Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh was conceptualised as a four-episode biopic. “But, once we got talking to him we realised that what we’d known about him was just the tip of the iceberg. So the canvas turned out to be really big.”
The move comes amidst the overcrowding of the general entertainment channels (GECs) segment, the largest—up to 60% in 2016, according to a 2017 report by KPMG and FICCI—in India’s $27.3 billion media and entertainment industry. So far, Discovery’s offerings in the country, including the flagship Discovery Channel and others like TLC, Discovery Turbo, Science, and Animal Planet, have largely catered to upmarket, English-speaking audiences, translating to roughly between 10 million and 15 million households. But that’s merely a fraction of the hundreds of millions of India’s TV-viewing households.
“There is a feeling in tier 2-3 towns that there is a boom happening in India and these cities are not getting a fair share of it. So we wanted to showcase stories of underdogs, people who have come from the fringes of society and have found the courage to overcome challenges,” Bajaj said in New Delhi at the launch of Jeet in the presence of Ramdev. With Jeet, Discovery is targeting over 100 million households with its GEC, the bulk of the advertising dollars really being in this segment. The channel has a line-up of nine shows in the biopic, fiction, comedy, and paranormal genres, which will also be available in Telugu and Tamil, besides being listed on Netflix. It wants to compete with the likes of Viacom 18, Star Network, Zee, and Sony, which churn out high-ranked shows such as Naagin, KumKum Bhagya, Super Dancer, and the Kapil Sharma Comedy Show. And nothing like a little yoga with Patanjali and Ramdev to flag off a campaign.