Shakuntala…An Eternal Love Story
Starring Gautam Sharma and Neha Mehta
STAR One and Sagar Pictures
Reviewed by Venetia Ansell
Shakuntala…An Eternal Love Story is as its title suggests a loved up and wonderfully melodramatic television version of Kalidasa’s play. Dushyanta, played by Gautam Sharma, is a dashing warrior king with body-moulded leather breastplate and long black hair. Neha Mehta as the object of his affection, Shakuntala, is all meaningful looks, long sighs and sudden gasps. An almost incessant soundtrack ensures that the viewer is left in no doubt as to the import of a particular moment, and there are tantalising suggestions that a spontaneous dance, Bollywood style, is just about to burst upon the forest glade.
In fact, although Shakuntala…An Eternal Love Story does have several unmistakable Bollywood traits, it is essentially a Hindi tv serial in the mould of the hundreds of episodic melodramas which litter Indian television. In this respect, it recalls the hugely popular Ramayana serialisation of the 1980s in which most of India famously stopped everything they were doing to religiously watch the programme every Sunday. Despite the interesting special effects (as demonstrated in this clip on YouTube of the exchange of divine weapons between Rama and Ravana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8NNW8LQQJQ) there was clearly something to this serialised epic which hooked over 100 million across the country and won itself a Limca world record (something which NDTV Imagine are hoping to recapture with a rejigged version).
Shakuntala…An Eternal Love Story shows that Indian television production has come some way since the 80s, technically speaking, but the melodrama remains. “Kaun thee voh? (Who was she?)”, asks Dushyanta in agony (as the heart-wrenching score suggests) after their first meeting, “Where can I find her?” Nevertheless, although not for the purist, such stylised dramatics and disregard for realism are in fact very much in keeping with Sanskrit drama. Kalidasa himself romanticised the original story, taken from the Mahabharata, and added a happily ever after ending in keeping with the conventions of drama; STAR One is merely following his example.
Shakuntala…An Eternal Love Story is broadcast on STAR One every Monday to Thursday at 9:30pm IST. To watch the suitably dramatic promo on YouTube click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJOMTz46kME&NR=1