The opening score of traditional Carnatic music still resonates in the hearts of 90’s children. The characters in the little Indian town remain vivid and fresh in their minds. The mini Indian television series ‘Malgudi Days’ in 1986 was a childhood favourite of many. Based on a collection of short stories written by prominent Indian writer R.K Narayan 43 years prior the stories brought to life through television transported the viewers back to the fictional town of ‘Malgudi’. So real and drawing was the depiction that many fans after viewing the show went in search of the town, hoping to see the characters and places Narayan had created through his stories.
But in reality ‘Malgudi’ was a mere fiction of Narayan’s creative mind. Though it may resemble many such small towns in Southern India, Narayan had conjured up ‘Malgudi’ introducing it first to his readers through the book ‘Swami and friends’.
The Iconic Malgudi Railway Station
A viewer’s first glimpse of Malgudi in the television series is its railway station, the gateway to the town and its residents.
At the time Arasalu railway station in Shivamogga district located in the Indian state of Karnataka had taken the place of the iconic Malgudi railway station in the television series. Arasalu, with its small railway station in which just two trains passed up and down every day, provided the ideal location for a few of the scenes, something that R.K Narayan had also approved of after visiting the location of the shoot for the episode based on his story, The Old Man at the Temple.
Though the television series is now over 35 years old and the book itself is 78 years old. Malgudi Days has remained in the hearts of the people and has continued to be a popular book and television series, read and watched time and time again.
Renaming of Arasalu
As a result, the Indian railways in 2019 decided to renovate and rename Arasalu railway station allowing fans to relive the memories of Malgudi and as an honour to writer R.K Narayan. Today Arasalu railway station which had been abandoned for nearly 25 years has been renovated and renamed as Malgudi Museum along with some added amenities for railway passengers. It has life size statues of characters and other memorabilia. A tea shop selling ‘Malgudi chai’ has been set up in a narrow gauge coach at the station. The renovations had cost INR 2.5 Million. Roughly around LKR 5.4 Million.
Recalling his memories of Arasalu, Master Manjunath, who depicted the role of Swami in the television series said, “Arasalu railway station was perfectly suited to recreate British-era scenes. Every morning we rushed there to record two shots, one for the English version and another for Hindi. The first shot was taken on the right platform. When the train returned after 20 minutes, the second shot was done on the opposite platform. These are evergreen memories,”.