I suppose I should be eternally grateful that I missed the first episode of Ekta Kapoor’s Mahabharata on 9X. Apparently, she began with Draupadi’s cheerharan and from what I’ve heard, Anita Whats-her-name (who plays Draupadi) shrieked and screeched so much, viewers had to rush out to buy ear plugs or face the prospect of temporary deafness. I was saved this alarming fate, but I couldn’t escape the seasickness. Because I did see the next few episodes, where, in true Ekta Kapoor style, the camera went zoom-zoom-zoom, in and out of character’s faces; zoom-zoom-zoom sideways-and-up-down (they should really try camera movements in S and Z shapes too).
After the cheerharan episode, we went back in time to the beginning of the story and were introduced to Shantanu and Ganga. Well, Ganga is played by the First Bahu of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Shantanu is played by the actor who played the First Bahu’s First Husband. I tried really really hard but just couldn’t see Sakshi Tanwar as the celestial Ganga or Kiran Karmakar as Shantanu, the great king of Hastinapur. They remained plain old Parvati and Om, never mind the fancy costumes. And I almost expected some Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki twist-in-the-plot to surface in Kahaani Mahaabhaarat Kii (have I got all the extra letters right?).
Because here’s the truth: Ekta’s Mahabharata is just like her saas-bahu serials. She can shoot in Ladakh or Alaska or Timbuctoo, she can get Manish Malhotra to do the costumes (or Armani or whoever), but what can she do about her own sensibility? How can she take Ekta Kapoor out of her Kahaani Mahaabhaarata Kii? (Even the title wasn’t left alone!)
I’m not a big fan of the calendar art style in which our epics are usually presented (like NDTV Imagine’s Ramayana); but when confronted with the Ekta Kapoor school of story-telling, give me the Sagars any day. At least their Ramayana has the unsophisticated but powerful charm of local Ramleelas. All they’re doing is narrating — with affection and reverence — the familiar story of a well-loved God.
The Mahabharata is not a religious epic in the way the Ramayana is (despite the presence of Krishna). But it is, unarguably, the greatest story ever told. And since it was not written by Ekta Kapoor’s scriptwriters in Bombay, it belongs to all of us. Which is why seeing this magnificent epic reduced to saas-bahu-type crassness is enough to make one feel quite ill (apart from feeling seasick anyway).
However, television has no truck with sensibility or sensitivity. I have no idea whether Ekta Kapoor’s Mahabharata will be a success or not (read will it get great ratings or not). What I do know is this: the Mahabharata is such an awesome story that it takes a special kind of genius to ruin it. And — going by the first few episodes — this particular version has succeeded in doing so.
I do hope the Star Plus version (whenever it finally makes an appearance) will be better. (Hell, anything, would probably be better).
And finally. Zee has started its latest edition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. The highlight is that Himesh Reshammiya is back, minus the cap and stubble. So the mystery is solved: Himesh is not bald, the removal of the cap reveals a healthy mop of hair. And host Aditya Narain is back too, with a Mohawk on his head and sneakers on his feet.
Apart from Himesh, the other mentors are Aadesh Srivastava, Pritam and Shankar Mahadevan. The gharanas have just been chosen, and I’m bracing myself for a six/seven month-long haul, featuring tears, fights, controversies, the works. The only good thing, as I’ve always maintained, is the singing (usually first rate, and this applies to the other music contests too).
In fact, if one could cut out all the rona-dhona and melodrama and just watch these shows for the songs, it would be perfect.