Dheeraj Kumar returns to mythology with Shrimad Bhagwat touted as the most expensive serial ever.. Rochelle Pinto goes oh-my-God!
Saas-bahu soaps are on a steady decline...Children-oriented serials are dominating the small screen.. And mythologicals are attempting a comeback. Jai Shri Krishna on Colors has TRPs that are almost as high as the channel’s top show, Balika Vadhu.
Dheeraj Kumar, one of the industry’s foremost promoters of mythos having launched shows like Om Namah Shivai, Shree Ganesh, Jai Santoshi Maa and Jap Dap Vratt, is readying his latest venture Srimad Bhagwat.
Touted as the most expensive serial to be made in India, the production involves digital technology like green screens and simulated programmes that will transport viewers to an era long gone by.
Based on a contemporary reinterpretation of the Bhagwad Gita, Kumar hopes to connect with the youth and families. “Mythological shows are popular because they represent our culture. Parents encourage children to watch so that they will understand and appreciate our heritage,” he explains.
So how will the show set itself apart from it’s contemporary, Jai Shri Krishna? “Our show will not focus on one character like Krishna does.” He insists. “It will focus on all the characters of the Gita.”
Kumar draws on familiar imagery when creating his characters. “You can’t play with clothes or persona since that is embedded in people’s minds and the last thing I want is to hurt anyone’s sentiments,” he points out.
No gender discrimination
There are several historians and activists who believe that the Bhagwad Gita presents a patriarchal view of society. Kumar argues that the difference lies in the way you interpret the religious text.
One of the key episodes of the show involves a debate between the three goddesses, Laxmi, Saraswati and Parvati and their husbands, Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. “The gods are forced to admit that their female consorts are equal to them if not superior,” recounts Kumar. “Using this as a platform, we hope to educate people on social issues and check gender discrimination.”
Kumar quickly brushes off any pretences of being a preacher. He asserts that what he is doing is “pure entertainment”. “A large chunk of our audience is the youth who will lose interest if the story is not gripping and the visual effects don’t match their expectation,” he acknowledges.
What kind of actors does a mythological demand, you wonder, and Kumar says that he usually opts for fresh faces. That way the actor doesn’t come with the baggage of a role he may have played in the past. Kumar adds that physique is important too. “Everyone expects their gods and goddesses to be pleasing to the eye,” he smiles.
He debunks claims that playing gods and goddesses in serials sound the death knell on their careers. “I know of many actors who have gone on to become very successful even after the mythologicals have gone off air,” he argues.
“A TV consumer has a shortlived memory. Once the serial ends, a face is quickly forgotten and the actor is free to take up another role.”