The story of Mahabharat is retold, enacted and interpreted endlessly. Yet, each telling or retelling of the story is done differently. Few, if anyone, in India is not familiar with the story, the highpoints and the flow. The newest offering in the enacted world of Mahabharat is the TV serial on Star Plus telecast everyday (except Sunday) at 8.30 p.m.
What makes this version different and interesting is the effort to add dimensions to characters who so far have only been actions. We all know that Yudishtir doesn’t lie; Bhim is strong; Arjun is a great archer; Sahadev has trikaal gyan and Nakul can speak to horses. We have no idea about what their interpersonal relationships were. We know that anything that their mother, Kunti, said was carved in stone for them – they did it blindly. We have no idea about what their reaction was – or even whether they had any reaction to her declarations at all. So what did Bhim feel when she choose to sacrifice him (for all intents and purposes) to Bakasur? Were any of the siblings close? We don’t even know whether they had any equation with each other. What about Dhristhra? Despite all the ill omens what made him keep and forever stand by Duryodhan? Why was Duryodhan so malicious?
The new Mahabharat has chosen to tell the ancient story not through the events but through characters. It shows a bonding between Bhim and Nakul. It shows a father’s (Dhrishtra) helpless love for his son (Duryodhan). It show Shakuni’s indoctrination and brainwashing of Duryodhan since childhood.
A Ridiculous Proposition Questioned
And most importantly it spends time on the most infamous event of them all – Kunti’s command that whatever Arjun has got (Draupadi), should be shared amongst all brothers equally.
Jinhe adesh dene ka adhikar hota hai unhe anjan rehne ka nahi. Liked the way they showed pandavs indignation at kunti’s adesh. #mahabharat
— Dramas and Dreams (@TVwithDD) February 16, 2014
This ridiculous statement has never been tackled or explored before. On lady declares – rather passes a fatwa – that another will be shared by five men and the five men in question as well as the lady on whom the fatwa is passed docilely fall in line with that?! Additionally, the five men in question are supposed to be extremely upright and correct. This forced polyandry is hardly upright. If this happens anywhere today, will anyone; including the society and law; allow or accept it? Most definitely not. Then, take the lady in question – Draupadi. Nowhere else in the Mahabharat is she shown a silent sufferer. She is fire and brimstone – more than willing to speak her mind. How did she allow this infamy to be perpetuated on her?
A New Take
Let’s see how this is dealt with in this Mahabharat. First, a while ago this version established Kunti’s insistence on all brothers sharing gifts and punishments equally. In an earlier episode, Bhishma had given a punishment to Bhim. Without knowing what it was, Kunti had told that all five brothers had to share the punishment.
Concentrating as it does on characters and their emotions, the current Mahabharat at least has tried to explore the aftermath of this explosive command. All the brothers question their mother on how she could say something like this without opening her eyes. Yudishtar accuses her that someone who has the power to command has a duty to know facts before saying anything. Draupadi demands answers too. And her father, Drupad comes and takes his daughter away.
The appearance of Ved Vyas and his arguments to convince the Pandavas to share a wife and then Krishna’s intervention have been spurious and unconvincing but trying to deal with this fallout is commendable by itself. The humanizing of the events and characters of Mahabharat is an onerous task and often (like in this instance) and impossible – but this serial is at least attempting that which makes it (despite many new stories being added and quite a few changed or removed) credit-worthy, watchable and it retains interest.
By Sujata Garimella
Image Source: Mahabharat@Facebook