'Not a single central or state government that has come to power since the telecast of the Ramayan in 1987 has given me a single award or bestowed me with any recognition.'
Arun Govil returns to our television screens as Lord Ram from the Ramayan 33 years after it was first telecast.
And he is overwhelmed with the response once again.
"I am getting the same appreciation as though they had seen Bhagwan Ram in me all over again. It is truly gratifying," he tells Subhash K Jha.
How do you look at being regaining fame as Ram?
I never expected it. Nobody did.
The entire family in every Indian household was at home and they all watched the Ramayan together the first time.
I saw it for the first time during the lockdown.
You mean you had not seen it before?
Not in its entirety. Bits and pieces, yes.
But not in this way, sitting at home, watching all the episodes.
And what did you think of it?
I cannot describe my feelings.
Sitting and watching my serial that has brought so much happiness to people across the world for 30 years.
What more can an actor want?
I am not a critic.
I didn't watch Ramayan to find faults.
I loved every shot, every moment.
One cannot find fault with something that has brought so much joy to millions of people. This time, young people saw the whole serial and enjoyed it just as much as the older generations.
The appreciation we got even after 33 years when it was first telecast... I think it has more to do with the relevance of the Ramayan. Its teachings are more relevant today than ever before.
When the Ramayan was first telecast, people on the roads would touch your feet as though you were the real Ram.
And I am getting the same kind of response this time also.
The appreciation is overwhelming.
I am getting the same appreciation as though they had seen Bhagwan Ram in me all over again. It is truly gratifying.
I am grateful for the love I received from people.
Would you say the image of Lord Ram came in the way of your acting career?
It always happens.
In India, there is always typecasting.
If an actor plays a policeman in one film, he continues to play it in 50 films.
Nowadays, this image casting is changing in our cinema.
But I played Lord Ram and I have no regrets about losing out on other roles because of my image.
Thirty-three years after it was first telecast, people are giving me their love and respect.
You are interviewing me about a role I played so many years ago. What else could I ask for?
If I lost a few roles, look at what I gained.
After you bagged the role, did your lifestyle change?
Not really. Even before I played Ram, I was never an extroverted party-goer.
I grew up in an environment where the Ramayan was read regularly.
My parents read the Ramayan and we did puja every morning and evening.
So no, I didn't have to stretch myself to play Ram.
The maryada (reverence) came naturally to me.
I am not an excessively religious person, but I do believe in God and Ram.
Your co-star Dipika feels the Ramayan cast should be given royalty for this telecast.
Jee bilkul milni chahiye (Of course, we should). Why not?
Would you like to return to acting?
If I get roles that inspire me, I'd love to. Otherwise, I have got enough.
Has the government honoured you for your iconic role as Ram?
I am glad you asked me this.
The answer is an emphatic no.
Not a single central or state government that has come to power since the telecast of the Ramayanin 1987 has given me a single award or bestowed me with any recognition.
I was born in Uttar Pradesh, but the state government there never honoured me.
I have lived in Maharashtra for 50 years, but no government here has ever recognised my role as Ram.