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Flower child

One of the original classics of Indian literature,the ancient story of Shakuntala and Dushyant has survived to this day in the form of various reinterpretations,movies and paintings.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published: February 16, 2009 2:08 am

Shakuntala

Star One

Mon-Thu,9:30 pm

Rating **

What’s it about? One of the original classics of Indian literature,the ancient story of Shakuntala and Dushyant has survived to this day in the form of various reinterpretations,movies and paintings. The most recent of these,Star One’s Shakuntala,follows the same basic storyline as all the previous ones. Shakuntala,daughter of the famous sage Vishwamitra and apsara Menaka,is abandoned soon after her birth. She’s discovered in the forest by Rishi Kanav,who then brings her up in his ashram. The girl grows up to be a beauty and’ one day,in the forest,she runs into King Dushyant who’s hunting there. The two fall in love and get married and spend many blissful days at the ashram. The king eventually has to leave in order to administer his kingdom,but he leaves his ring with his wife as a sign of his love and promises to return for her. The rest of the story follows Shakuntala’s trials and tribulations as she seeks to reunite with her husband.

Who’s in it? The young Shakuntala is played by Aaina Mehta,who looks very comfortable in her role. At this point,she isn’t required to show her acting skills,which is good since what really works for her is her look of wide-eyed innocence. The adult Shakuntala is played by Neha Mehta,who shot to fame with her portrayal of Mamta in the show by the same name. One hopes that in her latest TV avatar,she exudes the same likeability that she did in the previous show.

What’s Hot? The first few episodes establish a background to the actual story. So the initial 13 episodes have the young Shakuntala meeting the young Dushyant. The dynamics of their relationship are established in childhood,something that is not there in the original story. This exercise in imagination is quite a commendable effort on the part of the show’s writers,although the part where the two start off on the wrong foot seems a tad predictable. How they take this forward is another story.

What’s not? Unfortunately,it seems that the use of imagination is restricted to the story. The rest—including the costumes and set design—don’t really show much original thinking. For one thing,Shakuntala is always shown wearing her trademark flower jewellery. While this is how she was always promoted in popular imagination,one wishes more thought had gone into it. Also,the sets of the palace and the costumes of the royal family and the courtiers are more medieval India,than pre-Vedic times,the time period in which the original story is set. Everyone is overdressed for a period when there was no stitched clothing. The jewellery is just too lavish considering the technology of those days.

Should you be watching it? If you’re curious about how the story develops once the lead pair grows to adulthood,then by all means go ahead and watch it. The good thing about the show is that Shakuntala’s story does definitely end at some point,so unlike the interminable soaps on TV,this show has an expiry date.

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