In less than two months after daily soap, Gunahon Ka Devta wrapped up on Imagine, its male lead, Ashish Sharma, has moved on to his next show. And this time, he plays emperor Chandragupta Maurya in the show of the same name on Imagine. He steps in as the grown up monarch, replacing actor Rushiraj Powar who was seen as the younger Chandragupta, being trained by his guru, Chankya, played by Manish Wadhwa.
Ashish, discovered by Ekta Kapoor for her movie Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010), is understandably elated. “Not too many actors get a chance to play diverse characters as leads. I’ve grown out of LSD’s shadow with Gunahon Ka Devta. I’m glad the channel and the production house have shown faith in me to let me emulate such a complex character. With the 10-year leap, I step into the shoes of one of the most popular heroes in Indian history,” he says.
However, this is not the first time Chandragupta’s story is being narrated on the tube. In the 1990s, Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi played Chankya in a show of the same name produced by him on Doordarshan, the national broadcaster. Several other producers have attempted biographies of the ancient Indian king, known for his virtues and the vastness of his empire that extended from Bengal and Assam to Afghanistan and Baluchistan, across Kashmir and Nepal to the Deccan Plateau. As a result, comparisons are inevitable.
Doesn’t that pressurise Ashish? “No way!” he says. “Previously, all the shows have been made from guru Chankya’s perspective, because most Indian writers have emphasised more on him, written about Chandragupta from his perspective and with his beliefs. However, Europe, back then, interacted with the emperor and not his teacher. For them, he was the face of the dynasty. So, their stories are written from Chandragupta’s perspective.”
Considering that he had only a month and a half to get his body in shape and understand the character well, did the actor manage to read any of the literature he refers to? “Yes,” exclaims Ashish. “I’ve read it online and it’s very interesting. There were lots of folk tales that I wanted to read, but that would have taken the focus away from the manner in which the story is being told at the moment.”