The saas-bahu drama has been ruling the TRPs on Indian television for over a decade now. Yet, there’s another genre that has managed to match up to their success, mythological shows. With yet another version of Mahabharata coming up, it’s a good time to take a look at why some shows in this genre work (while some don’t).
The starting point of mythologicals on Indian TV is an obvious one. It goes back to the time of two wildly popular shows, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and BR Chopra’s Mahabharat. More recently, the show that’s found widespread popularity is Devon Ke Dev-Mahadev, based on the life of Lord Shiva. It says a lot about the show that it airs on a channel that’s barely a year old; besides, it has catapulted the actor playing Shiva, Mohit Raina, to an iconic status.
However, this genre can be tricky, and not everyone has managed to get it right. The new version of Ramayan and Maa Durga haven’t worked. Ekta Kapoor’s Kahaani Hamaaray Mahaabhaarat Ki sank without a trace. The audiences didn’t quite accept the show, the starting point of which was the Draupadi vastraharan; the oddly Greco-Roman costumes didn’t work either.
On the other hand, what makes Mahadev work is the perfect balance of drama, action and fantasy. It does not, however, ensures that the sentiments of hardcore devotees are never hurt. In all, mythologicals work only if the audiences find something fresh in the story. Such shows must also appeal to audiences of all age groups, especially kids. That’s something a saas-bahu serial need not do. It’s tricky then to stay away from clichés, yet create dramatic plot points that make the story engaging.
And while most shows stick to the ‘superstar’, Ram-Sita, Krishna, Ganesh, Shiva and Durga, perhaps they would find new stories to tell if they looked beyond them.