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Past perfect? A digital sketch showing Karna with his chariot
Past perfect? A digital sketch showing Karna with his chariot

After Ramayan, get ready for yet another epic saga, Mahabharata, on Star Plus

In the season of epics on the small screen, here comes the biggest of them all. After NDTV Imagine’s “Ramayan” Star Plus has announced that it is coming up with “Mahabharata”.

Produced by Bobby Bedi, the series is directed by Chandra Prakash Dwivedi and Farrukh Dhondy is writing the screenplay.

Bobby, who initially announced a film on “Mahabharata” with Bollywood biggies, says, “We are starting with a television series and will move on to animation, gaming and feature films. Two decades have passed when the B.R. Chopra’s ‘Mahabharata’ was telecast on Doordarshan. A whole generation has missed it. In the meantime technology has advanced by leaps and bounds giving us an opportunity to bring a realistic touch to the epic.”

Yes, realistic is the key word here. Dwivedi, known for his outstanding, even if illegible for some, interpretation of Chankaya in the past, says, “We are not focussing on the calendar image of the gods. I want to bring alive the political, social and economic life of those times…what was the architecture like, how did they dress?”

How about the fact the time frame would be prehistoric? “Still we have material which points out to certain things like rat skin being used to make clothes in those times.”

Amardeep Behl, who is heading the design team says, “The attempt is to achieve a marriage between set design and graphic design.” The story board of promos looks sensational, but Dwivedi says the challenge would be to achieve it on a daily basis as “Television doesn’t allow you the budget and time.”

Ranjit Kapoor, who is penning the dialogues, says: “The language won’t be formal but not casual either. No pitashri or matashri for sure.

We can’t use Sanskrit which was used in those days, as we are addressing a generation which speaks Hinglish.” Ranjit, a filmmaker in his own right, says as a dialogue writer “Mahabharta” gives him freedom because most of the characters are three dimensional.

“It’s unlike ‘Ramayan’ where everything is black and white. Also ‘Mahabharata’ doesn’t have a sacred value like ‘Ramayan’. People don’t organise a reading of ‘Mahabharata’ at home.”

Elaborating on the freedom to play with the characters, Ranjit says though he is following Dwivedi’s serious perspective, he finds some situations in Mahabharat amusing. “For instance, when Jayadratha became the saarthi of Karna, there was a class clash. Jayadratha didn’t want to steer the chariot of a sutputra. He would stop after every few minutes.”

Dwivedi contends, “We are following the word of Vyas, but definitely there is a point of view. Like people of Hastinapur had no problem with Duryodhan. It was a family feud which led to the war.” Shifting to contemporary relevance, he says, “The dynamics of war remain the same, only the premise has changed. Once it was land, today it may be TRP ratings.”

He says the series will not culminate at the coronation of the Pandavas. “It will continue till the death of Krishna which happened 36 years after the Kurukshetra war. The attempt is to analyse whether everybody was happy after the war.”

But don’t expect too much intellect either. Issues like how Gandhari got hundred sons, or how sages were called to get the generation going won’t be addressed. “Though I have answers like Dhritrasthra had many wives or the ancient practice of niyog where people indulged in sex without any desire for pleasure and that’s why saints were called, we won’t show it as we don’t want to fiddle with people’s faith.”

For all the seriousness he puts in his research, Dwivedi says he has realised the importance of rasa in a drama. “Entertainment is the key on television. I do get caught in the web of research but Bedi always pulls me back.” No quarrels with that!

ANUJ KUMAR

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