Epics Reloaded

Couch potatoes might shudder at the very thought,but once upon a time,there was no television. Mass entertainment meant a travelling bard,who’d move from village to village and in exchange for food and shelter...

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published:March 9, 2009 3:05 am

The Great Indian Epics continue to inspire Indian television; creative liberties be pardoned

Couch potatoes might shudder at the very thought,but once upon a time,there was no television. Mass entertainment meant a travelling bard,who’d move from village to village and in exchange for food and shelter,would enthrall his hosts with mythical tales. Gods and demons played a major role,as did fantastical creatures. This is how the myths of India were born,which overtime morphed to form epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. And with the advent of television,came the heavily adapted small-screen versions.

Shakuntala
Kalidasa’s play showed Shakuntala and King Dushyanta meeting for the first time as strangers while the latter is hunting in the forest. Star One’s new show Shakuntala,on the other hand,gives a long back story to the two —they’re shown meeting at the palace as children; Shakuntala even plays a few tricks on Dushyanta,leading to the two’s love-hate relationship. But as explained by creative producer of the show,Amrit Sagar,this was needed to give the love story a more solid base. “In the written form,this story is very convincing. But when it comes to audio-visual format,you need a lot more. You have to establish a strong bond between the characters if this is to be the ‘immortal love story’. To do that,we introduced the two protagonists to each other when they were kids. Thus later,the love story becomes more believable.”

Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki
Ekta Kapoor’s interpretation of the epic tale of fratricide,featuring the Pandavas and Kauravas,did not find many takers. Unfavourable comparisons were drawn with BR Chopra’s original televised version of the epic — the costumes were more Greek than Indian,Kapoor continued to use coloured lenses and crazy camera angles,and the actors could not seem to progress beyond their K serial characterizations. The show took a few liberties with the plotline — King Shantanu’s reunion with his son,Devavrata,is turned into a full-blown confrontation between father and son. Each is unaware of the other’s identity and they stop only when Devavrata’s mother Ganga,clarifies matter. In the original story,Ganga reveals the boy’s paternity almost as soon as Shantanu spots his son in the forest. Publicist Shobha Krishnamurthy says,“Even the old Mahabharata took many creative liberties with the plot. Televised versions need more drama,or they won’t be able to sustain their audience. Who is really interested in a bland reunion anyway?”

Ninja Pandav
This new show on Real TV is the very height of creative liberty. Ostensibly inspired by the Mahabharata,Ninja Pandav has quite a few deviations. For starters,the five Pandavas are in their teens and are well-versed in martial arts. Also,one of the Pandavas is female — Sahadeva becomes Sahayadri here. And,they all have superpowers; for instance,Sahayadri has a high-frequency scream that can incapacitate enemies. But,as programming head of Real,Geetanjali Murari,points out,“The show’s main story arch is the same as the Mahabharata. They’re both about good versus evil. Also,the names of the characters and their characterisation are directly inspired from the Mahabharata. For instance,the oldest sibling is Satya,a teenaged version of Yudhishtira. Like the original,Satya is also the leader of the pack and he’s very wise.”

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