“Ramayan proved to be a very important milestone in my career and life. People still know me as Ram. Even in places like the airport, they touch my feet. It has been happening since more than 30 years. It is still stuck in people’s minds. Not only the older generation but the new generation has also seen it. It has gone into the history of not only Indian television, but also the Indian psyche,” so shared Arun Govil about the series that made him synonymous with Lord Ram. Despite acting in hit Hindi, Bhojpuri, Braj Bhasha, Odia and Telugu films, he remains most popular for the award-winning tele-serial Ramayan (1987). Govil also became a familiar face in the mythological and historical series’ space, featuring in serials such as Vishwamitra in which he played Harishchandra, and Buddha in which he played Lord Buddha. He also played the role of Laxman in V. Madhusudhan Rao's film Lav Kush (1997), besides lending his voice for the character of Ram in Yugo Sako's Indo-Japanese animation film Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1992).
Born on 12 January, 1958, in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, the fourth of six brothers and two sisters, he spent his teenage years in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He went on to study Engineering at the Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut. His interest in the performing arts also saw him acting in plays. Moving to Bombay in 1975 to join his brother’s business, he instead felt the urge to pursue his interest in acting. Introduced to Tarachand Barjatya by his sister-in-law Tabassum, who is host of the first film celebrity talk show on Doordarshan Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan, Govil received his first break with Rajshri Productions, starring in Paheli (1977). Impressed by Govil's performance in his debut film, he was signed up by the Barjatyas for a three-film-deal. The following years saw the release of the trio of Rajshri films, namely the Kanak Mishra-directed Sawan Ko Aane Do (1979), the Vijay Kapoor-helmed Raadha Aur Seeta (1979), and Satyen Bose directorial Saanch Ko Aanch Nahin (1979). Noted for its enchanting songs and charismatic performance by Arun Govil, who was touted by magazines as being the ‘Star Of Tomorrow’, Sawan Ko Aane Do was a huge hit at the box office. Stardom had arrived for Arun Govil. While Raadha Aur Seeta sank at the box office, Saanch Ko Aanch Nahin, inspired by the story Panch Parmeshwar written by the famous writer Premchand, clicked with audiences. Govil went on to star in Kanak Mishra's Jiyo To Aise Jiyo (1981). The film narrates the struggle of a man who is banished from his house and goes on to achieve success in business in Bombay. It was a jubilee hit at the box office. Tarachand Barjatya and Arun Govil never worked together again.
Govil made his debut on television with Ramanand Sagar’s Vikram Aur Betaal which was aired on DD National in 1985. He was cast in the lead role as King Vikramaditya in the mythology series based on Baital Pachisi, also known as Vikram-Betaal, which is a collection of 25 tales narrated by the spirit Vetala to Vikram.
He was next cast by Ramanand Sagar to play Lord Ram in the television series Ramayan. It was to be a milestone in his career. Based on Valmiki's Ramayan and Tulsidas' Ramcharitmanas, the series which was originally aired between 1987 and 1988, had a viewership of 82 per cent, a record high for any Indian television series. It was re-telecast during the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown and broke several viewership records globally, also setting a record for one of the most watched TV shows ever in the world, with 77 million viewers on 16 April 2020. Govil also won the Uptron Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role category for his performance in the mythological.
Arun Govil has worked in other language cinema as well, starring in Bengali films like Bidhir Bidhan (1989) and many Telugu movies including Edu Kondalaswamy (1991), Govindha Govindha (1993), The Great Robbery (1996) and Aa re Kaaliya. While he anchored a show on Lord Ram - Jahan Jahan Ram Charan Chali Jaahi, he also dubbed for the character of Lord Ram for the Hindi version of the mythological Indo-Japanese animation movie Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama (1992). He also played the role of Laxman in V. Madhusudhan Rao's film, Lav Kush (1997).
Image courtesy: https://images.indianexpress.com/2022/01/arun-govil.jpeg