Indian television

Should anybody who isn’t a fan of yoga guru Ramdev care about the TV show on his life? Not yet

At least in its early stages, Discovery Jeet’s ‘Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh’ is a paean to the guru, made with his blessings.

Ramdev wants the world to know that his meteoric rise from a yoga practitioner to billionaire businessman has been riddled with obstacles. Many, many obstacles.

So much so that his entire life can be called a sangharsh, a struggle, according to a new television show about the Patanjali Group founder.

Discovery Jeet, the general entertainment channel from Discovery Communications, entered India’s crowded television space on February 12, its hopes riding on Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh. The 85-episode biopic on the titular guru has been co-produced by Ajay Devgn and made on an alleged budget of Rs 80 crore . The show purports to offer viewers an objective and tell-all account of Ramdev’s life.

The show opens in 1965 in Haryana’s Said Alipur, where a child is born with a curse on his head in a bitterly divided society. After a poor Yadav family draws the wrath of the head priest Gowardhan Maharaj (Tej Sapru) by accidentally transgressing the watertight divisions between the upper and lower castes in the village, the mother is given a curse: the child in her womb will be the undoing of the entire hamlet. Ramkishan (the young Ramdev, played by Naman Jain) comes to be hated by his village even before he is born, setting the stage for an endless chain of difficulties.

The first week of the show chronicles, in painstaking and painful detail, how unfair society has been to the protagonist for daring to challenge the status quo. In every episode, he or his family are the target of vicious verbal and physical attacks over minor offences on the boy’s part, such as daring to sneak into a school by night to educate himself, or touch an idol of Krishna on Janmashtami.

If oppression and discrimination are shared experiences for those considered low-caste in this community, it is not shown. The narrative is singularly focused on the junior Ramdev. Thus the high production values and above-average performances may do little to change the fact that this show is unlikely to engage anybody who isn’t in awe of its central character – enough to overlook the predictability of all that transpires.

Much of the source material comes from Ramdev himself, with whom a Discovery Jeet team spent long hours gleaning details of his life, which was then ostensibly verified and supplemented through independent research. Indeed, there isn’t much information about the yoga guru and entrepreneur in the public domain. A book that attempted to shed light on lesser known aspects of his life was shut down last year, after Ramdev moved court against it.

Perhaps because of this, the show is built on polarities. Gowardhan Maharaj is evil incarnate, while Ramdev and his mother are unequivocally good. If there was any opportunity to explore nuanced characters and complex social realities, that is not evident so far.

Despite this, the televised Ramkishan is a likable character, in part because of Jain’s depiction of him as a child wise beyond his years who is unassailable in the face of all the abuse.

Undoubtedly, the coming episodes will show him rising from his flood of troubles as he leaves his village, dedicates himself to spiritual learning in a gurukul and eventually goes on to become a successful entrepreneur who poses upside down on magazine covers one minute and manages a sprawling herbal products empire the next.

And what of all the controversy he has generated along the way? Swami Ramdev: Ek Sangharsh has only just started, but hopes are slim that the series will be anything but a paean to the spiritual leader, made with his blessings.

Swami Ramdev Ek Sangharsh.
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.