Life is a full circle. Actor turned producer Sunil Lahri, who is seen as Laxman in Ramanand Sagar’s TRP smashing Doordarshan rerun of Ramayan, continues to bask in the limelight with the above series now airing on Star Plus.
Did you expect Ramayan reruns will become so huge?
Forget that; I did not expect the lockdown like rage when it first aired back in the late eighties. Back then we could have a explained away the runaway success to lack of options. Yet today despite the considerable competition, if we have gone on to break a world record, it just proves that we have a great story on hand.
Will it get the same bang from Star Plus?
Star has its loyal audience base. There were many complaints of Doordarshan of chopping some scenes, while we will tell the entire story. The sheer franchise popularity is visible by the fact that several people have taken up Star package just to watch Ramayana. Also, being a private channel, we will have better visual and sound quality.
Your take on Laxman?
I think he is the best character in the Ramayana, ideal human, totally devoted to his brother. There is no middle path to him, either he loves you or hates you. As a character, I got to play with all emotions in quick time.
What impact did being a part of such a spiritual show have on your life?
Before doing this show, I was quite blasé towards my Bhopal based family. But enacting Laxman made me more responsible. I started regularly calling and checking upon them. I sincerely believe that our three sacred texts teach us the essence of life i.e. Ramayan tells us what to do, Mahabharat what not to do and Bhagwatgita how to conduct ourselves. If we follow all these three norms, life will be a breeze.
Did your career nose dive after Ramayan, as with other casts?
It is not that I did not get fils offers back then. But I could not use most of them as Sagar Arts did not give me bulk off dates.
Despite that I did a couple of movies, essaying macho machine gun-toting characters as well. I also did Chetan Anand’s TV show Paramveer Chakra highlighting the bravery of our defense forces. But yes I was depressed not being able to do successful work of my choice and did lament taking up this project. But not anymore. Today I am highly honored to be a part of an evergreen project with no expiry date. Several others have tried to reprise Ramayana, but all have come a cropper.
Post this new fan following, can we see you returning to the front of the camera?
Today we have multiple options for a mature actor. If something juicy comes along, I will take it up.
If not, life goes on.
Your take on COVID -19, when can shoots resume?
Whenever we get up and smell the coffee. For the love of God, I can’t get people disobeying social distancing norms. The alcohol sale mess was too much.
Don’t they realize that this disease can wreak havoc on an unprecedented scale? It spares no one, even Prince Charles and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was afflicted.