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Review: Mahabharat on STAR Plus

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Every decade sees a technological upgrade (read: attempt) to recreate the greatest screenplay on Earth, The Mahabharat, on the small screen. Swastik ProductionsMahabharat premièred on STAR Plus on September 16th, 2013 and set the record for the most visually appealing portrayal of the Hindu mythology (so far).

The story of Mahabharat is not unknown. The epic story revolves around the kingdom of Hastinapur and the battle of wisdom, sacrifices, right vs wrong, and dharma against adharma, and is the core foundation of one of the largest religions in the world – Hinduism. Since most of the stories attached to the Mahabharat are based on myths and limited historical accuracies, I am not going to get in to the screenplay of this TV series. All I can say is that the story development team has done their job well.

Let’s get in to the two elements that promise to make 2013’s Mahabharat different than what we’ve seen so far, starting with the visuals. Without a doubt, STAR Plus has stepped up and showcased a visually stunning interpretation of the mythology, so far the best use of special effects, cinematography, animation and VFX ever done of the small screen. The show deserves applause for the shots taken in the valleys of Kashmir, elaborated sets and a sophisticated approach at the costumes and accessories with each scene digitally re-mastered. Having said that, though the visuals are the best on the small screen but keeping in mind today’s technology, the show is still a few years behind. The unnecessary digital touch ups, the obvious (and over done) chroma keying are a turn off. I caught a few videos on YouTube with the lowest resolution, and yes, I could easily spot the fakeness in each screen. Artistically, the team has been impressive; the shabby execution is the real deal breaker.

One place where the costume department fails is that they should have realized that the show is shot in HD, retouched in HD, and seen on large (again) HD screens,  where every detail is easily visible and highlighted. If I had a dollar for every time I spotted fake nails, safety pins, plastic weapons and utensils, hair pins, and modern jewelry, I could have enough of money to buy a brand new iPad. #FacePalm

The next “something new” of the 2013 Mahabharat is the casting. For an Indian actor to play a character from Mahabharat without over acting, is the toughest challenge. The core foundation of an actor’s job in the show is the dialogue delivery and body language. STAR Plus should have paid a little more attention to this one. Forget the fact that some of the best talents of the TV fraternity are not a part of the show, but even the ones who are, are so underutilized. Agreed, Arav Chowdhary fits the bill as Bhishma, but whose idea was it to cast Sameer Dharmadhikari as Shantanu who lasted only for 2-3 episodes? Dharmadhikari could have been awesome in the powerful role of Bhishma. And is it just me or does Sayantani Ghosh still have what it takes to pull off a younger role? I am eager to see what the rest of the cast unfolds, but so far, not-so good!

I am hooked to the show for the story and it’s a visual relief from the last few Mahabharat TV series (remember the torturous camera slaps aka the Balaji effects on the 9X Mahabharat?) that we’ve seen in the recent past.

Verdict: Watch it for the story and for the technological upgrade that we’ve seen so far on TV. It’s a family treat! Screaming Critics rates Mahabharat a B+ and *** stars.

Editor-in-Chief: An entertainment editor for the last seven years. Geek by heart. Loves digging in to movies and shares an intriguing relationship with Indian TV soaps and American Sitcoms. Hails from Richmond, VA. Moonlights as a photographer and aspires to make movies.

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17 Comments

  1. Shivoham said:

    with all that effort that must have gone in i believe its quite a failure, since the emphasis is mainly on technology, colours, clothing, makeup,grandness which itself is quite lame (visibly crappy palaces animation etc) and Not on the real essence of Mahabharat, the message, the learning, the reason why the entire thing took place to teach mankind a lesson. still find age old Mahabharat where Nitish bhardwaj played Sri Krishna. simple n to the point. The sutradhar Samay (time) made more sense.

    • Mikemaj said:

      Totally agree. Where was the love between Bhishma and Arjun? Arjun was Bhishma’s most favorite boy. Also, overdose of Shakuni defeats the purpose..Ashwasthama was never given such a prominant role until the war. Technology and costumes are fine but the essence of teachings is missing. I watch it just for heck of it but if I have to teach youngsters, I would encourage them to watch BR Chopra’s Mahabharat.

  2. Piyush said:

    I guess, this serial is brilliant and technologically very well advanced. It’s a super hit show. Liked all the character’s specially Krishna, shakuni and Bheeshma. Those who are comparing it with old age Mahabharata should understand and learn to take things in new ways. Title and background music is way good. The message by Krishna is really good and helpful in new age world. I think, youngster’s likes this show. I will give it ***** stars.

  3. abhijit said:

    I like the acting of Dhritarashtra, He is a good actor.. Please keep it up..

  4. Rajesh said:

    In terms of the graphics, set design, makeup and other technical issues, present Mahabharat is the best in TV standards. However, it is not sufficient when one take up great epics like MAHABHARAT. There is lot of drama involved which is not there in actual Mahabharat. Which actually spoils the whole theme of Mahabharat and I am sure that the directors are aware about. From my minimum understanding and layman knowledge, I am thinking that the directors and the most of the cast don’t have the in depth feel of Mahabharat in terms of its philosophy. The whole is like using golden container to carry drainage water. If the vyasa Mahabharat has been followed with the present technical standard, this serial would have been one of the finest telecasts in the present era like BR chopra’s Mahabharat in those days.
    In last 4-5 episodes, 90 % of the story is made-up drama. Vidya pradarshan shown here was not the way it was described in actual Mahabharat. Subhadra never meet Arjuna first time in Hastinapur. Actually Arjuna will go to dwaraka as a sage and stay in the palace where subhadra will be assigned to look after him. After some days Subhadra express her wish of marrying Arjuna to the sage and asks him to describe how Arjuna looks. That time Arjuna reveals his real identity and the story will go on. But here it showed completely different.
    By showing this kind of made-up things will give wrong perception over Mahabharat to the audience. I am very fortunate to get a chance of listening telugu translated Mahabharat because of his graciousness of Brahmasri chaganti garu. I hope people who knews actual Mahabharat will understand my concern. I am getting more and more disappointment after each episode.
    It is my humble request to the Mahabharat crew to please follow the Vyasa Mahabharat to as much as it possible.

    • Nilanjana said:

      you are right. I share your views on what can be the possible reasons of this distortions.

  5. Shweta said:

    I don’t think so tat during mahabharat time they knew to clap… i mean in this serial when arjun plays the instrument well 4 subhadra’s happiness, thn everyone praises arjun by clapping… I thnk itz wrng…. during those time thy were praising by sayng waha waha or shabhash or by some praising wordz bt nt by claping

  6. Shweta said:

    in yesterday episode tat is when dronacharya come to ask hiz guru dakshina in the court, king dritarastra stands 4 a reson.. wen guru nd king stand up,itz a must tat every1 shld stnd as a respect to guru nd king bt c d episode no1 stnds up… all d yuraja’s must nd shld stand as a respect to guru nd king….nd thy cn oly sit if oly d king or hz guru says….

    • m said:

      Although I agree with the contents of your comments, I think making of Mahabharat changed like the way you write in English.

  7. SonalChatterjee (@sonac24) said:

    I don watch tv at all but after i heard about mahabharat, I started watching it and now it has bcum an essential part of my life. Honestly, mahabharat has always interested me, i have read Devdutt Patnaik’s JAYA and I enjoyed reading it so much that I wrote a blog on it consisting of questions and I keep on reading articles on it bcoz I want to know more about it and never ever forget it.

    I think it will be unethical to compare the Mahabharat of Chopra’s with that of the 2013, starplus. It requires tremendous effort and time to recreate the greatest epic knowing that there will be huge comparisons but with the advancement of technology and skills, new writers and new faces, i feel its is an effort worth watching and worth appreciating.

    I love it because:
    >> it is not boring, its interesting n fast;
    >> The way it is being represented is not just meant for people who just want to spend time; it is meant to target audience belonging to all age grps with gita messages, intellectual learnings, fights, politics, love and so much more;
    >> faces perfectly suitable for that character – loved the characters who are chosen…. ***KRISHNA is favourite – the way he narrates, gives the message with expressions, the playful, joyous, but intelligent; just simply in love with Krishna; ***ARJUN- the true warrior, the passion, the trust in friendship, well played by shaheer;***BHEESHMA- the courageous fighter who sacrificed everything for his family and kingdom; ***YUDHISTIR- the patient, obedient, calm and composed man who always follows what is right; ***KARNA – the one who gets everything but still has nothing, the warrior but always the sufferer; ***DURYODHANA – the rowdy, arrogant man who just wants power; ***DRAUPADI – just with the trailor, she seems to be strong and dignified and so on……
    all actors selected, portray their character well including Kunti, Gandhari, Shakuni, Satyavati, Vidur…….;
    >> with new improvements and new techniques, the young crowd is also attracted towards this; we don’t feel that it is just for old people, it very much interests us who want to know about our history and the bhagwad gita and watching mahabharat is definitely our step towards it;
    >> it is always better to watch something that will provide knowledge than to watch those never ending saas-bahu soaps

    So, I think it is a great effort by the whole team of mahabharat in making this epic and people are watching it especially the young ones who really want to grasp some knowledge from it. Hats off to everyone out there who have put their effort.

    Only one thing that I don’t like is it will be finished soon :-( but never mind…
    Cheers and all the best. God bless :-)

  8. Nithin said:

    I understand that its a highly modified version to match with other mega serials of saas-bahu type. But, still some of the key incidents should not have been modified, like:
    1. The escape tunnel from Wax palace was planned by Vidura..Pandavas know of this.They only set fire to palace and escape though secret passage. While Nishada and her 5 sons die in the fire.
    - They have shown Pandavas themselves digging the tunnel for escape while house is on fire. Sigh!
    2. Arjuna persuades Dhrona to cut Ekalavya’s thumb (or get him out of his way to become best archer).
    - In serial, they have shown Arjuna as innocent and Dhrona himself deciding to as k for Ekalavya’s thumb.

  9. Anil Kolekar said:

    Mahabharat is my fev serial I just love to watch this serial but I didn’t reach at home before 9.30 if possible re telecast show at night before 12.00

  10. mohit said:

    Mahabharat me sab bayle hai Duryodhan, sakuno or sab maharaja kuch nahi bolte ek ladies ke vastra nikal ni ki kosis karte hai fir bhi.ye kon sa dharam hai jo ek ladies ko bacha nahi sakte or usko bhi daav pe legate hai wat a stupid sakuna or Duryodhan tum apni biwio ke sath aisa karo tab pata chalega stupid not sakuni is sakuno no.777

  11. abhimanyu garg said:

    Serial bohot achha chl ra h
    Sabhi actors achha role play kr re h lekin ab kl se kurukshetra war start ho ra h to
    Pls ab serial ko 1 ya 1.5 hrs ka krde nhi to serial dekhne me maza zara bhi ni aayega humko…..
    Pls

  12. Shekhar said:

    I guess star plus mahabharat is based on some other story which is known to no one else other than the director himself ..he should feel ashamed of himself after watching is own creation. If we compare actors, background score, songs, command over language, screenplay with that to BR Chopras Mahabharat, this serial looks like a “shit”. If director thinks that he can twist the story according to his perspective he is allowed to do that, but at least he should present it in front of audience in sensible manner. The actors are shit, the screen play is shit, the dialogues are shit and twists made by director are shittest.

  13. Sneha said:

    I love this show its the best I have seen so far. Costumes, jewellery, technology, etc everything is so good. It has few flaws and they can be ignored. Music is AWESOME. Krishna is the best Krishna so far in Indian cinema and tv shows accordingly with the description of character Krishna in our literature. expressions,dialogue,body language of all the actors are too good. Arav chaoudhary is the best for Bhishma. His death scene was most heart touching. Criticizing sitting in a corner is easy. It takes a lot of effort and a huge team work together to bring out a creative product to the best possible and available in budget. If its not not anywhere near Ekta Kapoor’s mahabharat(worst ever) then it deserves appreciation.

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