‘Mahabharat’ remake brings epic to life on Indian TV

Posted May 19, 2014 by Sravanth Verma
Launched in September 2013, the TV series "Mahabharat" re-enacts the story from the ancient Indian epic and the world's longest poem.
Screengrab from the show.
Screengrab from the show.
With a budget of Rs.100 crore ($17 million), producer Siddharth Kumar Tewary created massive sets to replicate the palaces in which much of the show takes place. After a long research period of four years, the show began shooting on the massive sets. “We spent close to two years in preparing the designs, after which it took us almost eight months to construct the sets. It was just barren land, so we constructed the floors on which the different sets were made,” says Tewary.
The palace of Hastinapur, the main location of the show, was created in the town of Umargaon. “Whether it’s the coronation ceremony, or the drama sequences in the courtroom, they’ve all been picturised there. In fact, around 35 per cent of the scenes in Mahabharat were in the Hastinapur darbar,” Tewary said.
The show follows the Mahabharat's story closely. Saurabh Raj Jain, who plays Lord Krishna, the divine incarnate says, “Each person has different elements to his personality and for a long time, I wondered what could be Krishna’s element. Apart from the fact that he’s charismatic, for me, I could associate Krishna with water. He exudes a flowing smoothness in the manner in which he carried himself, so I thought that while I essay Krishna, my hand movements and the way I talk should be in a smooth flow depicting a calm demeanor. I also read a lot of books. Before the shooting, we attended numerous workshops conducted by the film and theater personality Rajit Kapoor.”
Model-turned actor Pooja Sharma from Delhi plays the role of Draupadi, the common wife of the five Pandava brothers who are the protagonists of the epic. She considers it her good fortune to be associated with the show. "It’s been a life changing experience for me and I give the credit to my father for supporting me."
The actors have also been rigorously trained for the action sequences that are a major part of the show. “We had to prepare for horse-riding and sword-fighting, among other things. We needed to have a body language of a warrior, and handle weapons with ease. So, we trained for all of it,” says Shaheer Sheikh who plays Arjuna, one of the Pandavas. According to Nirbhay Wadhwa who plays one the antagonists, the Kaurava Dushasan, a muscular body was an essential in being able to essay the role of a warrior.
The half-hour show airs on the Star Plus channel every weekday at 8:30 p.m, and features a cast of Saurabh Raj Jain, Shaheer Sheikh, Pallavi Subhash and former Mr. India Arav Chaudhary. Produced by Siddharth Kumar Tewary'’s Swastik Productions, the behind-the-scenes team includes writer Salim Khan, author Devdutt Pattanaik, Oscar-winning designer Bhanu Athaiya, music directors Ajay-Atul and Ismail Darbar, action director Ram Shetty and set designer Omang Kumar.