India turns to classic TV reruns to keep vulnerable senior citizens indoors

Some of the shows coming back to the small screen include 'Ramayana', 'Mahabharat', 'Byomkesh Bakshi' and 'Circus'

Nitish Bharadwaj in 'Mahabharat' (1988). IMDb
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India’s state-run broadcaster will rerun popular shows from the 1980s and 1990s to keep older citizens, most vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, at home during a nationwide lockdown.

Ramayana, based on the Hindu epic of the same name, will be screened twice a day. It was first broadcast in 1987 and became India's highest-earning TV programme.

When few Indians had TVs and the only channel on offer was the state broadcaster, the streets would be empty when episodes were broadcast. Some people in smaller towns would gather around TVs in awe and tales are still swapped about how the actors playing Lord Ram and his consort Sita would often be treated as gods in public.

Other reruns include Mahabharat, also a mythological epic, as well as Byomkesh Bakshi, an Indian detective series that was first screened between 1993 and 1997.

Nitish Bharadwaj and Arjun in Mahabharat (1988)
Nitish Bharadwaj and Arjun in 'Mahabharat' (1988). IMDB

Fans of Shah Rukh Khan can watch Circus, the show that introduced the Bollywood star to the world in 1989. Circus follows the lives of the artists of the troupe, unravelling different shades of characters as they struggle with tricky realistic situations, according to IMDb.

The reruns are being shown to ensure Indians have enough motivation to stay indoors during a 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Tuesday. While Indian TV offers a plethora of choices, filming and production has been stopped because of the outbreak.

Prasar Bharati, one of the largest public broadcasting companies, has also asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India for permission to air classic matches, Prasar Bharati chief executive Shashi Shekhar chief executive said.

Prasar Bharati runs Doordarshan, or DD, the national TV channel brand, and All India Radio.

The holders of the Mahabharata copyrights have facilitated the return of the show to Doordarshan, Mr Shekhar said. Shemaroo Entertainment helped with Ramayana, he said.