You know, when this new Mahabharat (Star Plus) began, I thought it better to lie on a bed of arrows and wait for death than watch this show.
Characters, if they were lucky, had been reduced to one-characteristic-only and the good and bad had been exaggerated so much that there was no dilemma left for Krishna to sort out.
But for the last two-three weeks, I have been noticing that every day at 8.30 pm, our insanely noisy house goes completely quiet. Everybody is huddled in front of the TV and concentrating so hard that if a haathi walked in through the main door, went into the kitchen, poured itself a glass of ice tea and sat down with the others, sipping tea and beech-beech-mein commenting on Mahabharat,no one would notice. Only at 9, when the episode would end, would the screaming start, scaring the crap out of the poor, by-now-very-comfortable-and-feeling-at-home haathi.
For those of us who can say with authority, “Pachchis saal pehle ki baat hai...”,this is deja vu. For almost two years, starting in 1988, on every Sunday morning India looked like it was under Emergency. Deserted roads, closed shops, and no dhobi, no autorickshaw could be found for love or money. Everybody would be huddled in front of a TV set. In our DDA flat’s drawing room, there would sometimes be four families plus some.
The youngest and the tiniest, in frocks and shorts, would sit on the floor, two inches from the TV. Behind and around them, on sofas and diwans, aunties and uncles. Dining table chairs were reserved for young girls, and behind them stood teenage boys. Squatting in the passageway, with their hands joined in respectful anticipation, would be the colony’s maids and safai karamcharis.
We can still watch B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat, but something very precious is lost forever — how India watched that show. Someone should have placed cameras focused on the faces, in city homes and villages. Just from the tears, frowns, reactions on faces big and small, dark and fair, old and new, we’d know exactly what was happening.
Like, for example, behen Draupadi’s cheer-haran.
The moment Dushsasan would grab Draupadi’s hair, all ladies would start weeping. Some hands would be folded, begging Krishna to hurry up with his saris. Some mouths would be murmuring expletives, not just at the Kauravas, but also Pitamah and Yudhishtir. And then, when Duryodhan would slap his thigh, all aunties would want to rip every single male thigh in sight, while the men would sit cradling their innocent thighs, mentally reassuring them. A little later, as the camera would pan and we’d spot smiling faces, tiny droplets twinkling in all eyes, we’d know that Krishna, he was in the building.
We still watch every retelling of Ved Vyasa’s story with great interest, but that passion was like first love. It can’t be repeated.