Mythologically Challenged

After the recent success of the new serial ‘Ramayana’ on NDTV Imagine, this week, Ekta Kapoor’s ‘Mahabharata’ went on air on 9X. There was so much publicity and emphasis on the recreation of the older version that I decided to watch its first episode. To my surprise, it started with ‘Draupadi cheerharan’, which looked like a scene from some B-grade film, and then the acting by the leading television personalities was so pathetic that I didn’t watch the next episode. The first episode was just the mockery of the older version of the epic on TV.

I can vividly remember, twenty years back when the historic ‘Mahabharata’ was first aired, everything used to come to a standstill. The first ‘Mahabharata’ was produced by BR Chopra and it changed the history of Indian television. Sunday mornings saw the busiest of roads empty. The power cuts would simply make the viewers curse the electricity department. Every lip had the words, “Yada yada hi dharmasya….” The characters of Bhishm, Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuns, Sri Krishna, etc are still addressed by their Mahabharata names. It entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the show that was watched by over 96 per cent of Indians around the world.

Ekta’s ‘Kahaani humaaray Mahabharat ki’ is zilch in comparison to BR Chopra’s version. The older version had new characters and yet, they acted brilliantly. The great thing about it was that every character seemed to be born to play their role. Mukesh Khanna was brilliant as Bheeshma, and, when you think of Lord Krishna, the picture of Nitish Bhardwaj in those costumes still comes to mind. The new version has renowned actors from television but they are just repeating their act of ‘Saas-Bahu’ soaps. The way the ‘sexy’ Draupadi said to Dushasan – ‘Chup reh mein apne pati se baat kar rahi hoon’ (keep quiet, I am talking to my husband) makes one to wonder what kind of language the epic characters were using in those times.

The creative head of the show Suraj Rao said in an interview that ‘”Mahabharat’ has its own inherent dialogues, which are being offered in a new package. It is an altogether new ‘Mahabharat’ that has never been shown on television. I totally agree with him that this type of Mahabharata has indeed never been shown. They have added a glamour quotient, used excessive technology, sexy wardrobes, western armours etc. But they missed on a few basics while making the mythological serial. They don’t have that royal presentation, the premium language and accent of epic characters, the base of power and mightiness in elders’ voice, the charm and personality of the Krishna-Arjun-Duryodhan generation. This version of Mahabharata has no realism and everything seems fake. The leading men in the serial have concentrated only on their physique. They have failed to show their acting prowess.

The dialogue delivery is even more rueful. Anita Hasandani as Draupadi screeched at the top of her lungs and cried like they do in a saas-bahu series. There is no calmness in the dialogues. Shakuni is bald and looked like someone from ‘kaal mahakaal’ series. Aryan Vaid as Duryodhan fails to recreate the character portrayed by Puneet Issar in the older version. His voice and demeanour left no mark.

Overall, this serial has failed to impress the viewer. The commercialisation and addition of ‘new flavours’ should not dilute the mythological outlook of an epic. Ekta Kapoor has not been able to connect with the viewer with the show. If she continues this way, she might not be able to recover even her investment.

Rishabh Srivastava


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