Philosophical question for the day: if you’re a poet who has spent a lot of time and energy persuading an elephant-headed God to transcribe your opus, is it wise to include a scene where the hero of the epic (whom you repeatedly extol in the verse) proves his manhood and general superiority by punching a harmless elephant on the forehead?
Because that's what the grown-up Devavrata/Bheeshma does in his first scene in Kahaani Hamaaray Mahabharata Ki. With absolutely no provocation (the pachyderm is merely ambling out of the palace gate), our hero performs a Matrix-style leap, bops the poor animal between its eyes, bringing it to its knees, and then climbs atop it with a triumphant yell. I picture Ekta Kapoor calling a hurried conference with her writers to plan this scene. “We’re about to introduce one of the most important characters in the epic,” she tells them, “We need a maximum-impact shot. What’s the largest animal on the set?”
But imagine how Ganesha would feel about this. He hasn’t had enough of a raw deal already? First Vyasa invites him to earth, which means he has to undergo a long and tedious wait as the Google Earth software downloads on his computer. After this, his sadistic mouse-steed elects to take the most difficult route possible through a dense forest, so that Ganpati has to ward off leaves and branches with his many plastic hands. Then Vyasa, instead of giving him a nice air-conditioned office and an endless supply of coffee, makes him sit in a dank, mossy cave that has dandruffy substances floating down from the roof. The working hours are no good and the stylus feather tickles his trunk. And to top it all, he has to write out this demeaning scene where Devavrata proves his king-worthiness by violently attacking an elephant that could well be a descendent of the beast who lent Ganesha his head after the bathroom wars all those yugas ago.
I feel for Ganesha, I really do, because this reminds me of the time I helped a friend improve the language in an internal brochure for a public-relations company. I don’t clearly remember what purpose the document was to serve (if any), but midway through the second paragraph I found that it included a diatribe about how terrible and avaricious journalists were, how their mistreatment of PR people would be avenged in the after-life, and other such ravings. Of course, I feel much the same way today, but this was during my early months in journalism when I was still prone to fits of idealism about the profession. Just reading some of the thoughts expressed in the brochure felt like someone was thumping my forehead with a hammer – and as if that wasn't bad enough I was required to refine the thing further.
My advice to Ganesha would be to keep quiet for now, but to get his revenge by deviating from Vyasa’s script in the future. I suspect Ekta’s writers will help him in this endeavour.
[Earlier posts on the show here and here. And some pictures to show that elephants are mostly sweet and harmless animals and should be preserved]