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Our epic, their epic

You can blame it on Amar Chitra Katha. Whenever we are shown our mythologies, us Indians expect them not to stray far from the camp aesthetics of the illustrated comics that were our first — and in some cases, the only — visual checklists for such stories.

movie reviews Updated: Dec 31, 2010 23:46 IST

The Mahabharata

Sony Pictures, Rs 599

Rating: *

You can blame it on Amar Chitra Katha. Whenever we are shown our mythologies, us Indians expect them not to stray far from the camp aesthetics of the illustrated comics that were our first — and in some cases, the only — visual checklists for such stories. Checks for haloed headgears, flying uttarias, class-10-physics-defying weaponry and such. The other obstacle is that we usually know who-did-what.

So when you find director Peter Brook (who had handled large productions such as King Lear) and writer Jean-Claude Carrière (who had collaborated with maestros such as Luis Buñuel and Andrzej Wajda) walking into this minefield after eight years of research, you book your ringside seat.

If you couldn’t do so in the early 1990s, when the tele-film was condensed to 160 minutes for the big screen, you buy the DVD. But when you hear at the opening that the Hindu trinity comprises Rama, Shiva and Vishnu, you go ‘Tchhah!’

But consider the minefield and spare a thought. This was the first time that our epic was produced by an international team that involved artists and technicians from four continents. With stripped-down sets, believable weapons, Bengali songs, a Bhishma played by an accented African actor and a Pandu played by a Japanese, to name just a few ‘digressions’, you can open your mind to possibilities. Then see it essentially as a stage adaptation. And Amar Chitra Katha will fade back and the story may, just may, become a true epic of the world.