It’s a cliché to say that TV diminishes content, that it can’t compare with the big screen in a movie theatre, and that the words ‘epic scale’ and ‘television’ just don’t go together. And clichés are clichés because they are mostly true (though they do need updating from time to time, otherwise they start looking like moth-eaten, well, cliches).
But once in a while, there comes a big TV show which just knocks your socks off. Season one of Game of Thrones (telecast earlier on HBO) was that kind of show. And now, season two is here (it has just started on HBO) and it’s even better.
A dazzling medieval fantasy, it has everything: stunning visuals, fast-paced drama, memorable characters and the sort of sweep and scale you only associate with movie spectacles. Somewhat like a television Lord of the Rings. (And no, that’s not an exaggeration. I am a Lord of the Rings fan).
For those who came in late, Game of Thrones is the television version of a sprawling, seven-volume (only five have been published so far) fantasy series called Song of Fire and Ice by American writer George RR Martin. It is so intricately written (there are an estimated 1,000 ‘named’ characters) that you wonder how the author could have possibly kept track of all the men and women and children and animals (yes, animals too, particularly three fire-breathing dragons) in his narrative. (I wouldn’t have minded a flow chart when I read the books).
The story is about seven powerful kingdoms at constant war with each other, and is set in a vast landscape that moves from snowy forests to forbidding mountain fortresses, from mysterious sea ports to empty tracts of wasteland. Kings and princes, nobles and knights, queens and priestesses — all engage in the cut and thrust of ruthless palace intrigue and the casual cruelty of war games.
It’s not a series for the squeamish — there is enough sex and violence in it to make even the most blasé reader blanch.
Translating this dark, complex story into a TV series (each season has ten episodes) seems such a daunting task that I’m amazed anyone even attempted it. But not only have they attempted it, they’ve made a faithful-to-the-book, richly satisfying television experience. And no, you don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the series, thought it will help to have seen season one.
How I wish someone would make one of our own epics with the same sweep and style. Imagine the Mahabharata made with similar grandeur and passion. But I suppose that is an idle fantasy. The total budget of one season of Game of Thrones is apparently in the region of $60 million. Who would spend that kind of money on a TV series here? I’m not an expert on the economics of desi television serials but even I know that such mega-budget projects are an impossibility. At the moment, that is. Perhaps one day we’ll get there.
For now, we’ll have to make do with Devon Ke Dev Mahadev (Life OK). Let’s not even talk of the special effects or locations or sets. What does work is the story (well, how can you go wrong with the story of Shiva?), the actor who plays Shiva (Mohit Raina), the background music (it’s beautiful), and some of the dialogue. And the fact that the producers have concentrated on the Shiva-Sati and now the Shiva-Parvati love story.
But imagine this serial as a grand, Rs 50 crore project...