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It was with much trepidation that I watched the latest version of Mahabharat. Having grown-up on B R Chopra’s version, which had done justice to the epic novel — replete with Harish Bhimani’s voice booming Main Samay Hoon —on Doordarshan, I wondered how different an interpretation would this be. Well, it scores high on the larger-than-life imagery, VFX and the scenic locales. What it falls short of is in the narrative that is too fast and glosses over important facts. Read on..
What is it about: Everybody knows that the story of Mahabharat is about the epic war between Pandavas and Kauravas, the politics, rivalries, inter-personal relationships, etc, that makes it timeless classic. The serial began with King Shantanu and Satyavati’s love story – where the seeds of the epic war were sown. A fisherman’s daughter, Satyavati is dreaming of making her future son, the successor to Shantanu, when the king informs her about the son Devavrat he had with Ganga. Shantanu wants to relinquish his kingdom to Devavrat and spend a peaceful life with Satyavati. Furious at the turn of events, Satyavati refuses Shantanu. Looking at his despondent father, Devavrat vows a life of celibacy thus leaving the throne to Satyavati’s future children (the actual story has Devavrat taking the oath because Satyavati’s father is apprehensive of Devavrat’s future children taking over).
An overwhelmed Shantanu grants him the boon of control over death — he can choose his time of death — and calls him Bheeshma. Since then the story has progressed at a break-neck speed in two weeks and the last I saw, Duryodhan was introduced.
What works: Full marks for the lavishly mounted sets and the picturesque locations that are a visual treat. A lot of effort has gone into the detailing of the costumes, which adds to the grandeur. The music, like the narrative has a fast tempo, but the flute interlude that plays everytime Krishna makes an entry is superb. The special effects are superior when compared to the yesteryear show but one can see the influence of Hollywood flicks like Matrix.
What doesn’t: Despite the high-end special effects, there are times when you can make out the computer graphics like the scene where Satyavati was trying to reel in a huge fish. Most importantly, the story-telling is a bit flawed as it progresses at a super-fast speed. New characters are introduced in every episode without enough time to build them up.
Performances: Sayantani Ghosh as the beautiful and selfish Satyavati was very good while Sameer Dharmadhikari who had a brief appearance as Shantanu looked like his heart was not in it. Arav Choudhary as Bheeshma looked impassive initially but he has opened up in the later episodes. Ratan Rajput as Amba seemed to have got her genres mixed. She was just too melodramatic. The big let-down, however, is Saurabh Jain as Krishna. He looks ill-equipped to narrate the long lines. He is finding it difficult to pronounce words like apeksha, shiksha etc. He needs to work on it and fast as Krishna is the most important character. And yes, Nitish Bharadwaj’s Krishna is still etched in our minds, so we know it’s a tall-order.
Way ahead: The makers need to slow down and let the viewers absorb the goings-on.
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