Friday, August 22, 2008

My, what big pecs you have, little princes: more from Kahaani…

Currently the problem with Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabharat Ki (earlier posts about the show: 1, 2, 3, 4) is that the actors playing the younger versions of the Pandavas and Kauravas are much too old for their roles. The story has reached the point where the Pandavas and Kunti have returned to Hastinapura, and the princes are about to commence their education under Kripa (and later Drona), so you’d think that they would be aged somewhere between 13 (Yudhisthira) and 9 (Sahadeva) – definitely no older. That's probably how it's supposed to be too, given some of the childlike prattle and random fooling around that's happening in the show (Bheema gifts Duryodhana his pet rabbit, would you believe; Duryodhana reciprocates by sneaking food into Bheema’s room). Unfortunately, all the princes are played by muscular hunks with stubbles and impressively developed torsos, and this detracts from the intended cuteness of many scenes.

For example, the slapstick sequence where Bheema beats up cooks and palace guards who have mistaken him for a food-thief (throwing some of them into giant vats so that their dhotis catch fire, etc) was probably conceptualised as an endearing introduction to the gluttonous second Pandava, but it doesn’t play out that way at all. This Bheema is no lovable little kid, he’s a well-built bully, and this is nothing less than a cringe-inducing display of machismo directed at helpless domestic staff. What does he think he's doing, practicing for the Olympic wrestling medal?

Anyway, the brawl is interrupted by Yudhisthira who solemnly tells his younger brother “Nihatte par vaar nahin karte” (“You mustn’t attack the unarmed”). These words of wisdom apparently prove that the eldest Pandava is worthy of the title “Dharma Raj”, but in my view it’s much too little, much too late. (I’m no Dharma Raj, but if Bheema were my kid brother I would’ve marched him off to the detention room long before any of this happened.)

It probably wasn’t what Ekta Kapoor’s writers intended, but after watching this scene any sensible viewer will feel sorry for the Kauravas, who had to face much the same sort of thing from the overenthusiastic Bheema. Take a look at this passage from Kisara Mohan Ganguli’s comprehensive translation of the Mahabharata, available on the Sacred Texts site:
Bhimasena beat all the sons of Dhritarashtra. The son of the Wind-god pulled them by the hair and made them fight with one another, laughing all the while. And Vrikodara easily defeated those hundred and one children of great energy as if they were one instead of being a hundred and one. The second Pandava used to seize them by the hair, and throwing them down, to drag them along the earth. By this, some had their knees broken, some their heads, and some their shoulders. That youth, sometimes holding ten of them, drowned them in water, till they were nearly dead. When the sons of Dhritarashtra got up to the boughs of a tree for plucking fruits, Bhima used to shake that tree, by striking it with his foot, so that down came the fruits and the fruitpluckers at the same time.
(The reference to "one hundred and one" has me worried. Did Bheema also beat up the Kauravas' sister Duhshala? Anyway, the text goes on to add that he didn’t do any of this with malicious intent, it was all in good fun. Decide for yourselves.)

Ironically, while the princes in the serial look too mature for their age, their grandmothers haven’t aged a whit. The actresses - or more accurately woodposts - playing Ambika and Ambalika (whose function it is to stand around in the background and beam stupidly at everything being said) still have jet-black hair, no wrinkles and they dress more sexily than their daughters-in-law Gandhari and Kunti. It has become difficult to keep track of who belongs to what generation. Old man Bheeshma must be contemplating early retirement.

Meanwhile, in the parallel story set in Gokula, the adolescent Krishna is going through all the cute routines that have been passed down to us from the Bhakti tradition, long after the Mahabharata was first written: stealing butter, making naughty eyes at milkmaids, taming the snake Kaaliya and dancing atop his head. The problem is that the beefcake playing Krishna looks like he’d rather be reading a Penthouse like any normal young man his age, or at least taking part in a WWE competition. It’s disturbing when the "grown-ups" fondly refer to him as “natkhat baalak”. (I don’t want to get too explicit, but the shots of this “baalak” with white butter smeared on his face have some very adult resonances for those of us who have grown up in the kalyug of porn films.)

Am looking forward to seeing what the officially grown-up versions of these characters will look like. Oh wait, here.

(Note to eager offence-takers: I’m only talking about the actor who plays the role of Krishna; I’m not implying that the original Krishna would ever have read a Penthouse, which almost certainly wouldn’t have been available at the time anyway.)

19 comments:

  1. the photograph of the grown up pandava clan is interesting.

    1. Was it possible for them to pick up five guys who looked less creepy and intense.

    2. I am willing to bet $100 that each of those guys have bigger breasts than the woman playing draupadi.

    S

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  2. Well, it is perfectly in keeping with Ekta tradition that there is at least one Grandma who doesn't age throughout the series (and people call the vamp as a "witch"). Last time I saw this, Satyavati had black hair while Bheeshma was all grey. I had pegged her for the Grandma who would sit in background throughout the series.

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  3. Anon: not Arjuna. Arjuna has smaller breasts than Draupadi. On a related subject, their nipples are all erect because the sets are heavily air-conditioned.

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  4. Amey: Satyavati keeps her head covered now and generally looks more austere than the mini-skirted fisherwoman she was for the first 60 years of her life. I also enjoy the way she calls Bheeshma "putra".

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  5. Ya I agree with you
    The pandavas look way overaged than the teenagers they r supposed to be :)

    Krishna is no good either in the series.
    The only saving grace of the whole series is the female who plays the role of Yashoda according to me.

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  6. The only saving grace of the whole series is the female who plays the role of Yashoda according to me.

    Vikas: heh, I wonder what that says about the show - that its only saving grace is a character who doesn't even figure in the original Mahabharata!

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  7. nice description..didn't follow the serial after the first episode..now after reading this post ..I think I should if not just to witness their 'antics' and physical in congruence :))))

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  8. Note for eager offense takers? When did you decide to become a politically correct reviewer ? We love your unapologetic reviews :)

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  9. Why is Draupadi in an evening gown?!

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  10. Hehehe true true....

    We were observing the very same thing...but lets not forget this Ekta Kapoor's Mahatbharata...yahan ka thumbrule will be "Na umr ki seema ho" & forever young ;)

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  11. 101 kauravas: the 100 sons of gandhari plus one that was born to dhritarashtra's concubine the same night as duryodhana and his brothers. his name was yuyutsu. if you're familiar with the story -- he crosses over to the pandavas openly on the battlefield of kurukshetra.

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  12. I often wonder is ugliness was an important criterion for Ekta Kappor and her casting director. Majority of the actors seem like they belong to a RGV film.

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  13. lawyerish: thanks, I figured that out afterwards but the Duhshala alternative still seemed more pleasing! Also, in the other versions I've read Yuyutsu didn't seem to have grown up with Dhritarashtra and Gandhari's sons.

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  14. hey dude...i would really like to read your reviews on "Mumbai Meri Jaan"......an AWESOME movie..and perfectly made. After a very very long time i came across a movie which is so real and every bit makes so much sense in itself....Rohit

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  15. pls dont insult natkhat bal krishna on janmashtmi at least

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  16. Anon: I wouldn't dream of it. I wrote the post on August 22, a full two days before the Divine Birthday - unfortunately Blogspot decided to keep it on through Janamashtami.

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  17. Dhananjay Mhatre2:29 PM, August 25, 2008

    "but the shots of this “baalak” with white butter smeared on his face have some very adult resonances for those of us who have grown up in the kalyug of porn films"
    And with that chiselled physique displayed.... it gets worse. And later him being bounded (sic) with ropes makes the imagination go really ballistic.
    I wonder how they will show Bhim and Jarasandha wrestling.

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  18. man i am launghing since i landed on your blog half an hour ago. LOLing actually.

    your posts have awesome wit, have information and on top of that have the sensible critique that is not so common.

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  19. On the note about Krishna not reading Penthouse, well, I think he was "man" or sorry god enough to pose nude for it, I mean look at what all else he did......

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