True Review



by Piroj Wadia December 28 2013, 3:14 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 10 secs


It has barely been three months since Star Plus started telecast of the 21st century’s rendition of Mahabharat. The producers and the channel have left nothing to chance to pull in viewership — the 8.30 pm time slot seems just right. Sure, it’s a family audience driven show, but its outreach should be the younger audiences.

An earlier TV rendition on a now defunct channel was pulled off air, reportedly for a dismally low viewership, or whatever. There was much shouting and teeth gnashing and steroidal pumped bodies. The peeks, had me wonder, how the vastraharan would be handled. We don’t worry about that chapter, now.

Mahabharat is a tale already told in film (Babubhai Mistri’s in 1965), on television (BR Chopra’s in 1988), and now an animated screen version boasting of Bollywood’s A list actors voice the characters. Epic it is, it’s also the story of man’s fight for power, hatred, lust and revenge; and it is a story of kingship, love and tradition. The familiar plot line leaves the writers, the creative team, the directors, and the actors with huge a challenge to grab the viewers’ attention. More so, now with other shows in the same time slot having settled down quite well with their viewers. But a few, who have lost their way plot wise, now have to fight the epic for eyeballs.

There is no dependency to dress up the serial; nor have any liberties been taken. The authenticity cannot be doubted, thanks to the creative backup of team with writer Salim Khan, author Devdutt Pattanaik, designer Bhanu Athaiya and set designer Omang Kumar, whose detailing and recreation of period settings make for arresting backdrops; just as much as Athaiya’s draped costumes. Even though we know the story, at each juncture the viewer is keen to know what would happen next. The script’s narrative line is simple, clear and always moving forward, interspersed with Krishna’s commentaries on practical living.

The casting is pitch perfect, Shikha Singh in a short sequence as Shikhandini excels in the action sequences. Arav Chowdhary’s Bhishma depicts a younger statesman, Saurabh Raj Jain’s Lord Krishna is like a conjuror in the making. While Praneet Bhat as Shakuni plays the menacing Mama with utter glee. Sure his Shakuni has a fey touch in his wardrobe with a jaunty turban and a menacing demeanour. He’s a pleasure to watch. He will soon be held up to senior actors. Old timer Jeevan played the role in Babubhai Mistri’s rendition, Gufi Paintal reprised it for B R Chopra. And now Anupam Kher is voicing Shakuni for the animated version. Each actor will leave their seasoned mark.

What makes this Mahabharat a maha spectacle is the well crafted CGI, great cinematography, resplendent sets and well draped costumes. The hallmark is slick editing, the absence of verbose dialogues and a well written script.

The dialogues are forcefully delivered with just the right dose of angst, power, authority and anger. Gym sculpted bodies showcase six pack abs which vie for attention underneath the armour vests and jewellery. The Kauravas represent an army of brothers looking to trouble; instead of bikes and guns, they war on horseback, chariots and with maces, spears and bows & arrows. Baz Luhrman should consider a take on Mahabharat.

Even though the current Mahabharat isn’t a traffic stopper, as was the case in 1988, when all the roads would be near empty those Sunday mornings; fewer hands will reach for the remote to surf out of Star Plus between 8.30 and 9pm on week nights. Mahabharat is the flavour of the season, yet it’s timeless.

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