Am still following Kahaani Ekta ki Mahaabhaarat Ki (earlier posts here, here and here) on and off. Its amusement value has, alas, diminished. Ronit Roy’s performance as Bheeshma briefly threatened to salvage the show, but all those camera swooshes and whooshes will eventually make even the most personable actor look like an idiot. And the less said about the rest of the cast, the better. People keep telling me that Makarand Deshpande (Vyasa) is a really good actor but so far in this role he has spoken his lines in a manner which suggests that the scriptwriter just ran over his favourite pet. Very sullen and detached, definitely not the level of interest that you’d expect from a poet who has composed the greatest story ever and is getting it transcribed by a celestial being.
As discussed earlier, there are way too many of the Vyasa-Ganesha sutradhaar scenes anyway, and most of them are exceedingly dull. One unfortunate development is that the actor playing Ganesha has suddenly decided to start acting with his eyes (which are basically the only identifiable features on his face) and the editing being what it is on a Balaji production, this often produces inappropriate results: for instance, when Vyasa announces “Maine Ambika aur Ambalika ke saath niyog kiya” (“I stepped in as a surrogate to impregnate Ambika and Ambalika”), we get a reaction shot of Ganesha with his eyes widening and his eyebrows twitching excitedly. Not very restrained and Godlike. You almost expect him to say “Give me the details, quick!”
There isn't much to tell anyway. After an overwrought, faux-suspenseful build-up (where the presumably clueless viewer learns that the princesses are to do niyog not with the dashing Bheeshma but with a scruffy sage), Vyasa impregnates Ambika and Ambalika by shooting light beams into their navels from afar, whereupon they squeal and clutch their tummies, and princely babies emerge a few months later. All very pristine. But there are other, more deliberate digressions into low comedy.
Vichitraveerya (after big brother Bheeshma abducts three princesses for him to marry): Bhaiya, teen rajkumari! In mein se ek ke saath aap shaadi kar lo. (Three princesses! Why don’t you marry one of them?)
Bheeshma – determinedly celibate as ever – responds by taking out a suggestively shaped dagger with a downward-curving blade and waving it at the young king. I’m not sure what the message is here, but Vichitraveerya seems to get it.
Vichitraveerya: hee hee! Arre bhaiya, aap jaante hain ki main to sirf mazaak kar raha tha! (Brother, I was only joking! I’ll bed them all. Really.)
So Bheeshma smiles and puts away the dagger. Shortly after this, Vichitraveerya dies of indigestion, which implies that purposeless banter has no place in the Dwapara Yuga.
In another scene, the wife of the bald Shakuni says something like “Yeh toh maine socha hi nahin tha!” (“I didn’t think of that”), upon which her husband points at his head and says “Sochne ke liye iss ka hona zaroori hai.” (“To be able to think, you need to have this.”) And the lady replies, “Accha, iss ka matlab hai ki mujhe bhi mundan karaana hoga?” (“So that means I’ll have to shave my head as well?”)
I’m willing to be open-minded about these scenes (after all, why shouldn’t these kings and princes have been just as buffoonish as the people on modern-day Ekta soaps?), but what I dislike is that all this is accompanied by those goddawful squeaky sound effects from the Kader Khan-Shakti Kapoor comedy sequences in 1980s films. It sounds like a family of mice running up and down a guitar chord, and it’s terribly grating. What I would really like to see is tomfoolery played out to stirring and heroic music. A few tips from Monty Python movies would be just the thing.