August 6, 2008

The Bold and the Beautiful, Indian style

There's Draupadi and then there is Paanchaali! :) Actors must be lining up like crazy to get the Duryodhan part!*

The latter picture is from a sitcom on Indian TV. (Hat tip to Nikhil Mehra, who brought attention to it on a mailing list we happen to be on.) It seems Ekkkkkkta K.k.k.k.kapoor has gotten into the act lately (after the melodrama of saas-bahu soaps) into soaping up the epics! Read this review by Jai Arjun to get a plot gist of the first episode - I have not read it myself yet but I will; he writes great film and book reviews. It seems there also is a competitive show called Draupadi on Sahara One. Once again, everyone wants to do an Ekta and she's started a new trend -- seems "Jai Shri Krishna at 8:30, Mahabharata at 9 and Ramayan at 9:30" is standard fare in many Indian households now. What! No more saas-bahu serials? :) For great satire and humor, read Jai Arjun's post about Ekta's serial from when the show was announced but had not yet started.

All this reminds me of a time about 15+ years back, when in great adolescent glee, my room-mate and I concocted the sleazy version of the Mahabharata! And no drinks were even involved! Actually, one does not need alcohol induced inspiration or much imagination to 'sleazify' the story -- premarital sex (Kunti), extra-marital sex with sadhus (poor Pandu!), orgies (men with multiple wives and a wife with multiple husbands) -- inherently the Mahabharata has much fodder for such frolic and fun! :)

Also, here is something I just read that I bet you did not know. You know that she's called Draupadi because she's King Drupad's daughter and Paanchali because she is the daughter of the king of Paanchaala (not because she has paanch (5) hubbies.) But those names are what they call a denonym, it seems! Her real first name, which most people do not know, is Krishnā!! Yes... same name as some guy who later saves her ijjat at the end of the above scene, if I remember my Mahabharat correctly! :)

With that nugget of trivia, let me go and read Jai Arjun's take on this! Knowing me and knowing his writing, I am sure that will be far more erudite and enlightening than this post has been.

Ok.. I am back after reading Jai Arjun's 2 posts - the review of Ekta's Mahabharat as well as the other post about the Sahara show.

The review itself has many great parts, like this excerpt:

Shakuni giggles continually and resembles Dr Evil in the Austin Powers films, Duryodhana has impressive breasts and there is unintentional phallic imagery in the worm’s eye shots of Bhima’s mace limping impotently between his legs.

... but you go read it in its entirety. There is much more mirth at the post including an appearance by Donkey from Shrek, suggestions for Deewar-style tattoos on Mahabharat characters bodies, and God (Krishna) using Google Earth to find his way to earth. :)

The latter post was also interesting as the sitcom apparently has a slightly different take on the Mahabharat, dvelving into the mundane dailyness of life rather than going from one dramatic scene to another. Again, go read it at the post for details. Butthe reason to highlight it here is that because through that post and the comments therein, I learned of one angle my ex-roomie and I had missed - the romance of Kunti and Karna. Actually, it seems this is not something the directors made up. It seems it has repeatedly come up in many folktales and regional literature. Hmm... the possibilities for human adventure in the Mahabharat are endless!

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?....

And the comment:
Have you read "The Palace of Illusions" by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni? It draws a very human portrayal of Draupadi and is beautifully, albeit commercially written. I wonder if this series is a take on the book? A recurring theme of the novel is the unrequited love between Draupadi and Karna. Definitely an interesting theme for day soap types.

Lots of other good comments at the post about literary re-tellings of the Mahabharata in local folklore and literature, if you are interested. Btw, Jai Arjun has also read that book by Divakaruni and has even reviewed it!

Also, if this sounds irreverent... so be it! Wait till I start with the Ramayana! I bet such a novel will create the rabid VHP types to come out of the woodworks and riot -- though I fear such a novel will never be published in the Land of Ram since publishers will lose their moral gumption to publish something they fear will create controversy and engender rioting. And this brings me to a WSJ op-ed piece today (Hat tip to Salil Tripathi) about Random House's decision to postpone publication of a novel about Mohammad's wife. But that is a whole other topic about religious hypocrisy and I will not go there now, except to point you to another good book review by Jai Arjun where he talks about "the spirit of iconoclasm and irreverence in medieval Islamic literature, which is something that doesn’t get much press nowadays."

* Ok.. ok... I was Dushasana, not Duryodhana. I need to refresh my Mahabharat. Gotta go dig out Rajagopalachari's Mahabharata (pdf available online!), which I read in 9th grade and fell in love with the English language, seduced by all the similie-laden language more than the story itself.

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