I’ve been carrying on about Ekta’s Mahabharata, but the other day I came across a show titled Draupadi, on Sahara One. Saw just 15-20 minutes of the episode (think it was a one-hour slot) and though it looked quite dreadful in many ways – with the usual garish Amar Chitra Katha-style costumes, over-decorated sets and actors with Colgate smiles – I thought it was interesting for the way it turns the great epic into a languidly paced, long-drawn-out daytime soap.
For one thing, this show doesn’t seem too concerned with the “big picture” of the Mahabharata. Instead, it spends a lot of time showing the everyday details of the characters’ lives, especially the women’s – in that sense, it reminded me of Pratibha Ray’s intimate novel Yajnaseni. The episode I saw was set sometime after the Pandavas and Draupadi return to Hastinapur after her swayamvara, and it was full of homely conversations – between Draupadi and Duhshala (the Kauravas’ sister), and between Bhanumati (Duryodhana’s wife) and Rituvati (Karna’s wife). The talking point was that the visiting Karna has just sent Draupadi a bouquet of yellow roses, which she is known to have a preference for. What could this mean?
I’ve often wondered what might result if someone were to fully exploit the Mahabharata’s obvious possibilities as a never-ending daytime serial – to stretch it out for years, emphasizing the characters’ interactions and daily routines rather than simply moving from one dramatic setpiece to another. Such treatment would necessarily have the effect of humanising all the people; for example, it would be difficult to think of Duryodhana as a cardboard-cutout villain after you’ve seen him having a relaxed, post-dinner conversation with his wife and children, discussing nothing more important than their Math homework. In fact, the Draupadi episode I saw had a scene where Bhanumati asks Duryodhana what he thinks of Jayadratha. “You know he’s my friend,” he replies. I meant, what do you think of him as a suitor for Duhshala, she asks, whereupon Duryodhana turns to her, his face softening. “I never thought of him in that light before,” he says thoughtfully, and she replies that it’s usually the women of the house who think of these little details while the men are preoccupied with grander matters. I haven’t seen anything like this scene in any other mythological serial.
Note: meanwhile, Kahaani Hamaaray Mahabhaarat Ki (which I had thought was going to be an endless soap) is currently in such a mad rush to get to the story of Krishna’s birth and childhood in time for this month's Janmashtmi that it has fast-tracked its way through three generations of Kuru princes, not even bothering to depict the births of Yudhisthira and Bheema. An excited Vishnu, reclining on his snake mount, turns to the viewer and announces that He is ready to take earthly form, and Kamsa maama’s personal background theme includes the mooing of a cow in obvious pain. Exciting times lie ahead.