I am a serious hater of the TV serials ever since they turned into daily soaps. I am not against the frequency of the broadcasting but damn seriously against their content and the negativity it propogates. However oflate I make sure that I don't miss one particular daily soap. I don't watch it on TV daily but on Saturday I download that week's episodes and catch them up altogether in my mobile screen during the travel to hometown. The serial is nothing but the "Mahabharat" that comes in Star Plus.
After the B.R Chopra's classic serial, Mahabharat had been attempted earlier in the Hindi TV by Ekta Kapoor titled superstitiously as "Kkahani Mahabharat ki..", it was more of glamour than the substance. More than Indian, it looked like a Greek serial featuring great sculpted hot bodies like Aryan Vaid, Ajaz Khan and Anita Hassandani with zero emoting skills. I tried following up the serial in its Tamil version broadcast in 'Raj TV' but it was pulled off much earlier due to poor TRP rating. Quite deserved!!!
When I heard about the another version of Mahabharat in Star Plus, I was very sceptical about the content, but from the moment one I started liking it immensely. It didn't start from the conventional "Veda Vyasa" birth or the Shantanu - Ganga's love marriage. Instead it started from the Shantanu - Satyavati matured love story, that too with an action episode, depicting the bravery of Satyavati. There were so many deviations from the actual script but the makers seemed to be unapologetic about it. Similary the "bold" content like Ambika and Ambalika being consummated with the sage Veda Vyasa to beget "blind" Dhridhirashtra and "pale" Pandu was quite underplayed. Infact the character of Veda Vyasa was not even showed in the serial.
But still the serial was engrossing because of its wonderful production values, better casting and the use of computer generated imagery as a part of its narrative structure. Another aspect that I liked about this new "Mahabharat" is the depiction of the characters. They are neither white nor black. Instead they also had their grey areas like insecurity, jealousness and a reason for their behaviour.
In the B.R Chopra's 'Mahabharat', every character was sharply etched as "black" or "white" including their costumes & looks. Yudhistir, Arjun and Pandavas are always dressed up in impeccable whites, whereas Duryodhan was given black and dark colours, Karna with yellow armour representing his lineage of Sun God, whereas this new Mahabharat was more of glamour and dressing colourfully.
I just loved the last episode which I had seen - Vanavrath episode, where when Pandavas realise the treachery by Kauravas and vow to fight back, Kunthi stops them only to advise that she doesn't want to go back to Hastinapur. The interaction between Arjun and Kunthi was just dramatically awesome and very much human. The makers had taken the thread from the original epic and had taken the cinematic liberties to interpret certain scenes differently to enhance the drama. The absence of 'tunnel digging' to escape from the Lashgrah is one of them.
Lack of knowledge about the actors' previous body of work also adds to the effect that I am able to see them just as the characters, not 'stars'. However I must add that I am disappointed with the selection of actors for the Pandavas especially - Bheem, Sahadev. Arjun (Shaheer Sheikh) looks very vulnerable but was too good in the romantic scenes. Bheeshma (Aarav Choudhary), Duryodhan (Arpit Ranka), Drona, Amba and Sakuni were wonderful selections. To sum up, excellent visuals, stunning locales, amazing sets, grand visual effects, glittering costumes and decently emoting actors make this "Mahabharat" a compelling affair.