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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Doordarshan Nostalgia: Epic Serial - Mahabharat

After the success of Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana, it was the turn of the other great epic of India, The Mahabharat to be brought to television viewers. The series was produced by B.R.Chopra and directed by his son, Ravi Chopra. It was a spectacular success, maybe the most popular serial ever in terms of dedicated viewing. The serial had 94 episodes and ran for a length of 45 minutes for each episode, appearing on Doordarshan between 1988 and 1990. For people who know the Mahabharat as a great epic that also incorporates the Gita, the spiritual guide to all Hindus, it was as if the epic had come to life.
For many, the Mahabharat was a story that was not supposed to be kept in the house, and a story that they could relate to only with context to having read in their childhood as an 'Amar Chitra Katha' comic. Seeing it in life and blood, with real life characters was an incredible experience, and kept the immense crowds watching the serial. If you did not have a TV, then you would go to the neighbor's house to watch the serial. If you wandered out, the roads would have much less traffic than you would expect.
If you watch the serial now, having watched much more slick serials, you might think that the serial was a bit crude in terms of sound and shooting quality, but my recollection of the serial (including re-runs that happen from time to time) was that of a fast paced serial combining some good acting of these-larger-than-life characters with the weaknesses and human failings that they had. It was essentially a serial that conveyed a deep sense of what The Mahabharat was all about, the depth of human emotions such as loyalty, love, bonding, jealousy, hatred, envy, and bitterness.
Starting with the fore-fathers of the Pandavas and Kauravas and the twists and turns in their life, along with the life of that incredibly complex character known as Bheeshma; and the life and machinations of Krishna, the Supreme Being who knows what good and evil is all about, but prefers to let people do what they are doing rather than trying to make major changes, and the titanic clash between good and evil in the end that forces people to use loyalty rather than good vs evil; and one of the most doomed characters of the epic, Karna, who was steadfastly loyal out of gratitude even though he knew that he was going to be fighting against his kinsmen and against the good side; the serial presented all these in enough detail. There are few major acts of the epic that were missed out.
The serial made stars out of a number of people such as Harish Bhimani who essayed the voiceover of Samay (time), Mukesh Khanna as Bheeshma, Nitish Bharadwaj as Lord Krishna, Girja Shankar as Dhritrashtra, Puneet Issar as Duryodhana, Pankaj Dhir as Karna and Gufi Paintal as Shakuni. For more cast members, refer to this link.

Here are some video scenes from the Mahabharata serial:

Opening sequence of Mahabharat

All the major characters who are involved in the war

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