Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.

When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A look at Ekta's Mahabharata ... finally

After reading post after post on Ekta Kapoor's Mahabharata on Jabberwock's blog (honestly, the guy is obsessed with it) I finally got around to seeing it this Monday. It did not disappoint. The acting is horrible, the dialogue is contrived and the direction is pedestrian. The costumes of course are ridiculous. The sets are pretty good though. At least, they are not the usual Amar Chitra Katha style sets first created by Ramanand Sagar for Ramayana and adopted by every director since.
Two things stand out among all others. One is the furious pace of the serial. It covered Dhritarashtra and Pandu's marriage, Pandu's curse and the birth of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in one episode. Coming from soap opera makers who don't make their actors utter a single word without zooming in on their faces from half a dozen different angles this is amazing. Unfortunately, it not done very gracefully. There is a rushed feeling to things here. It is as if they are telling a bed time story to the audience and are worried that the listeners will be late for bed. It also does not let the audience appreciate the significance of these momentous events which shape the epic.
The second thing I noticed was the absolute lack of screen presence in any of the actors. It is hard to distinguish between all the royal princes and princesses. All of them look alike. One can't help comparing them with the cast of B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat. Whatever the shortcomings of that serial, the casting was absolutely spot on. This serial is supposed to bring together the reigning stars of Indian television. Not that I have any respect for the quality of Indian television today but I did expect to see at least a couple of actors capable of leaving their mark on some of the characters. Seems like I was expecting too much. The only actor I did remember between scenes is Shakuni who was trying so hard to look evil that I almost felt sorry for him.
All in all, it was an humourless and empty experience.

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