They are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya of Ujjain by the wily vampire "Betaal". They are spellbinding stories told to the wise King Vikramaditya of Ujjain by the wily vampire “Betaal”. The tales of Vikram and Betaal possess a wealth of pageantry and splendor of ancient times. They are eternally enthralling stories which parents insisted their children watch and share all the wealth, wonder and wisdom of the series. Children and adults everywhere experienced the same sense of excitement, learnt the same infinite lessons that planted a seed of knowledge that flourished while it excited their imagination and evoked their curiosity, King Vikram and the Ghost authentically re-created the grandeur of that long-ago time when kings, queens, princesses, sages and countries strode the earth, larger than life itself.
The legend says that King Vikramaditya, in order to fulfill a vow, was required to remove a corpse of Betaal from a treetop and carry it on his shoulder to another place in silence. En route, the spirit of Betaal (in the corpse) used to narrate a story to the king and after completing the story, Betaal would pose a question that if he (the king) knew the answer, was bound to respond lest his head would rupture into a thousand pieces. But if he did speak out, he would break the vow of silence and Betaal would fly back to the treetop, leaving the king inches short of his destination! The cunning Betal knew that the king was too clever not to know the answer, and each time Vikram fell for the trap followed by the inevitable …”tu bola aur main chala…voooooo” (you spoke so I’m going) .The king would go after the vampire and start all over again and so on…..
The stories are beautiful moral narratives of Sensitive princes, Desperate Queens, Apsaras, Magicians, wishes of a thief on his last night on earth and Mermaids in the deep seas. They all end with a deep and pensive question, the answer to which is not so simple to answer unless one has studied deep the Indian philosophical thought and psyche. Also it helps the reader to learn some practical lessons about how to navigate through the trials and tribulations of life, which is complex and not always so easy to understand with some good old wisdom and intellect.
An example of a story - there are three princes all of whom are extremely sensitive. One is able to smell ashes from the rice he eats. The other sleeps on a bed and gets up with a huge slash mark. The other gets a smell of goat milk from the signers mouth.
On investigation it is found that the rice was grown near a cemetery. On opening the bed, they find a long piece of hair underneath the bedcovers. On asking the singer she confirms that she drank goat milk as a child. Which of these three is more sensitive? The answer is the one who had a slash mark due to the hair strand since that could be physically seen, the other two could be hear-say as there was no evidence to prove what they say was right. So the King they are visiting decides in favor of the sensitive price whose back got a slash mark by sleeping on a bed.
Direction and casting:
Vikram aur Betaal was directed and produced by Prem Sagar under the banner of “Amar Movies”. Arun Govil played Vikram in Vikram Aur Betaal, Sajjan played Betaal and the princess was played by Deepika Topiwala and the “Yogi” by Arvind Trivedi.
The entire series was very cleverly shot by the ace cinematographer, Prem Sagar at Sagar Villa in juhu (the Bungalow of the Sagar Family) since there were major budgetary constraints. In spite of there being no graphics at that time, a lot of special effects were done using very innovative techniques which were available at that time. Sajjan ji who played the character of Betaal asked for huge price increase after the series became an instant hit. His request was rejected by the producers and the shooting continued without him. The same footage of the Betaal is repeated in each episode after the first few, with a similar voice-over artist.
It won the prestigious Uptron Award for the first time. The serial also bagged the “Best popular serial” award in the Bombay Film Awards and the most outstanding serial award in the “All India Filmgoers Association Awards”.
The show was aired at 4.30 pm on Sunday, a very odd timing but the show became a super-hit especially with the children. The title song, “Vikram Vikram Vikram Betaal Betaal Betaal” still rings in the ears. Till today the recall value for the show is huge, and it is used by journalists, cartoonist, radio jockeys (there is show on radio called Vikram and Betaal) to tell their messages and stories.
The legend says that Vikram aur Betaal has been one of the most popular fantasy shows made for children and had won acclaim and huge popularity during its run on Doordarshan National Network in the year 1985.
It was also telecasted in Singapore-SBC, Poland- Polish T.V., U.K. -London Cable Network, Chicago-Chitrahar Ch 26 and Mauritius- Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation. After its 26 week triumphant run on Doordarshan captured the hearts of viewers around the world from Mauritius to Poland.
During the airing of the original series in 1985, there used to betting by bookies on which answer will be the right answer. Prem Sagar the producer of the show was asked by bookies to give them the answer beforehand.
On seeing the success of the show, Ramanand Sagar got the confidence to make the Ramayan series, as this genre of programming had proved to be a big hit with the audiences. The same actors were all repeated in the Ramayan series.