Joined: 13 October 2004
Krishna appears in his divine self in this afternoon soap. But the rest of the characters and the story has nothing to do with God. Intriguing, isn't it? Saarrthi aired on STAR Plus is a regular family drama with emotions, relationships, the works and yet it is different...
It's a pleasant afternoon as we drive to MBC studios in Powai, a Mumbai suburb. A huge set for Saarrthi has been erected on the first floor. A lavish hall with two sofa sets, chairs and a table has been created. In the centre is a big idol of Krishna and a small temple has been built around it. As we enter the set, we see a young boy praying and a pretty girl beside him wants to know exactly what he is wishing for. "Bhagwan se jo mangte hai woh nahi batate samjhi," the boy reprimands and leaves...That's a promo being shot for Saarrthi aired on STAR Plus. The promo is only of a 30 second duration but the scene is being shot for over two hours. "It has to be perfect," informs the EP on the show. As the shooting is on, we speak to the producer Asit Modi who has attempted a family drama for the first time. Known for comedies like Hum Sab Ek Hai, Meri Biwi Wonderful and Yeh Duniya Hai Rangeen, Modi was forced to move from his favourite genre as "comedies were on the wane. Channels too were preferring serious sagas." Around that time Rajesh Joshi had quit Balaji Telefilms. Modi decided to approach Joshi and produce a family soap. "Since I have always been innovative I wanted to do something novel," informs Modi. "Indians love mythology combined with family drama. I was looking for some story which was based on mythology," he adds. Rajesh Joshi had directed a play Karmadhin written by Prakash Kapadia which was a family saga with a difference. It was a contemporary story set against the backdrop of Mahabharat. A tried and tested formula, anything based on Mahabharat has always been a hit.
Modi decided that it was the right subject to be televised and approached STAR Plus. "On hearing the story, they approved and even slotted it," beams Modi who has hitherto been a regular on Sony. Aired at 2.30 pm on every week day, Saarrthi is currently getting a TRP of 3-3.5. "It may not be very great but looking at the time-slot - it's fourth in the series of daily soaps starting with Kumkum - it's not bad. You have to understand that by the time Saarrthi comes, the viewer is fatigued. Despite that, the soap is garnering 3 + which is commendable," reasons the producer.
Saarrthi is a modern-day Mahabharat in a corporate boardroom with Lord Krishna playing the lovable character he is known to be. It is a story of two brothers in conflict and their families, one who is very righteous (dharma), while the other is the wrongdoer (adharma). The story is a reflection of the new social norms, issues that the generation of today face. All the characters of the serial represent the present generation except Lord Krishna who is present amongst the characters in his divine self, but unknown to them.Hemraj Goenka, is one of the leading business tycoons of the country who lives in the Heritage House with his son Mansen and his family. The battle is between Mansen Goenka and his step brother Siddhartha Goenka, who is Hemraj's son from his first marriage. Mansen believes that Siddhartha and his family are the illegal descendants of Hemraj and hates them. But when Hemraj announces that only if both the families live under one roof will he give equal share of his property to his sons, Mansen is forced to invite Siddhartha and family to stay with them at the Heritage House that becomes a Kurukshetra. The battle then continues to ensue between Siddhartha's and Mansen's sons. It's a battle between hero Arjun and the main antagonist Yuvraj. Draupadi, in this serial, has been portrayed by different women - Bhumika, Manasvi and Shefali - each representing one facet of the multi-faceted Draupadi. To make it visually appealing, the producer has incorporated a Rajasthani touch. Marwaris are known to wear lively colours, so the sarees and salwar-kameezes here are bright maroon, rust and green. Even the jewellery is traditional. Says Mansi Prabhu who's playing the role of Manasvi, "My ornaments are minimal. You won't see me wearing chunky jewellery in a scene where someone's sick or dying." The furniture too is a fusion of the traditional and contemporary. In fact, the house looks like a modern haveli. Besides the house, Modi has set up three bedrooms in the complex so that the shooting goes on simultaneously. Though this is Modi's first attempt at a daily, he has learnt the tricks very fast. "The pace is hectic but now I have got used to it," he informs. The one thing that stands out on the sets of Saarrthi is that nobody is allowed to eat or smoke in the premises. So far, even non-vegetarian food was restricted. "But now since some of the artistes prefer it I have started letting them bring that," he says. Mansi is impressed with this approach as it gives a very "homely feeling on the sets." As far as the roles go, Dharmesh Vyas is playing a negative character for the first time in his 12-year-long career. "Initially, I was cast as Yudhisthir but the writer and director said that since I have always done positive roles, it would be interesting if I did a negative role, that of Shakuni," reveals Vyas. His convincing performance has already made Kushal Das a very popular character amongst the noon viewers. "When I enter the stage to perform a play, the audience starts mouthing my dialogue, kanhaiya bachaye sabko..." beams the actor. He, however believes that Shakuni is not really a negative character. "It's just that he was so possessive about his brother and nephews that he wanted to protect them at any cost," he says. In the soap, he is the only one who's dressed traditionally in dhoti kurta. "My attire was decided by the channel," he informs. To make his character more authentic, the actor has adapted Rajasthani lingo in his dialogue. Interestingly, his character is such that he doesn't speak a word in the presence of the family members. He just absorbs the goings-on and comes up with a plan in isolation. His ideas are executed by his nephew Mansen played by Nawab Shah. Shah who has already played the villain in a couple of films including Escape From Taliban and Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon, believes that he is the one who's creating all the conflict in the soap. He, however doesn't look at his role in the context of Mahabharat. "Mansen is a business tycoon who has his own dreams. He sees them shattering when he is forced to bring his soutela bhai's family in his house. That's when he vows to destroy them," he offers. Shah is so fond of his character that he says it fits him like the proverbial hand-in-glove. For Karan Grover and Neha who are playing the protagonists of a serial for the first time, it's a fabulous role. Says Karan who signifies Arjun, "The role is so good, that for me to consider any other offer it has to be equally good if not better." Neha who was earlier seen in a westernised role in Shh...Koi Hai was intrigued by her character-graph in the soap. She changes from an innocent lively, chirpy girl to a mature woman who learns what love and sacrifice is all about. "Personally too, I am growing as an actress," says the pretty girl who clothes herself traditionally in the family drama. Rajesh Shringarpure who plays Krishna found it challenging to play a role where even small gestures matter a lot. "I have to be divine and ethical because the role relates to God. Even if one gesture is not upright it will be critical," he explains. Before going on the set and donning the avatar of Krishna, Rajesh tries and makes his mind as pure as possible. He feels the role has been quite enlightening because he has to speak to the sub-consicous of the various characters.
So far, Saarrthi has completed over 50 episodes on air and the producer is confident that as the story progresses more viewers will tune into the soap. Recently, when the Ambani brothers were on the verge of splitting their business empire, comparisions were drawn with the happenings in Saarrthi. Whether it was a publicity stunt or a mere co-incidence, it served to promote the daily soap. Modi, however has the final word when he says, "You cannot pinpoint one story since Saarrthi has many layers. It has all typical family emotions and relationships, it's the presentation that's new." Whether the viewers agree with it, is something that only Krishna will know...
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Joined: 13 October 2004
Actor Karan V Grover, who is currently seen as Shaan in the popular TV ...
Sunday coloumn with Karan V Grover
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