Draupadi or Banshee?

Well, one of the two new Mahabharats – the Ekta Kapoor version – has finally appeared. And from the two episodes that I have seen, while it is not bad, it does not fare well when compared to the B.R. Chopra one (which in itself could be rated somewhere between average and good). My views on the show-

The bad stuff
1. There is hardly a single frame which is devoid of some kind of background score. Half the time, while the score actually consists of incantations in chorus, it sounds like someone is cussing you. You cry out for a moment of silence but there is no respite. Background scoring is an art. Ask Sandeep Chowta.
2. Gufi Paintal was great as Shakuni, and entered to a brilliant leitmotif. The new Shakuni, Kali Prasad, is bald and he laughs like Vetaal.
3. Draupadi screams, and screams and screams; and that should probably be expected as the writers decided to begin the story with Vyasa thinking about the chir-haran and its consequences. But does she really need to scream like that?

The average stuff
4. The special effects have a jerky feel to it. Problems with rendering? And Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra seemed more like a flying saucer than anything else.
5. The title track – Daler Mehndi is singing to music by Lalit Sen – is ok. It does not have the quality that Chopra’s track that ended with Yada yada hi dharmasya … sambhavami yuge yuge had.

The good stuff
6. The architecture used for the building etc is believable and classy, unlike the Chopra version. And the same goes for the costumes. The scenery is amazing since a lot of the show has been shot in Ladakh.
7. Makrand Deshpande as Veda Vyas, a role that he could probably do in his sleep.

Writing it off within two episode would not do justice to Kapoor’s efforts. But whatever the demand of the market she caters to (apparently with great success), the Mahabharata is not something that should be treated like just another daily soap – why show the same shot from 5 different angles and use the trademark 3 shots of a character’s face accompanied by claps of thunder? If I have to use a cliche, it would be the form over substance argument – technology and other production techniques are only secondary to the story. And this idea should be drilled in deep.

Bobby Bedi is working on Mahabharat for Star Plus and Chandraprakash Dwivedi, the man who made Chanakya, was originally involved with the project. However he has quit the show because unrealistic deadlines were being imposed. Too bad, because if there is someone who could have delivered a better version of the epic, it was he.

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