An epic cast!

By Koral Dasgupta

The 'original' Mahabharata of BR Chopra

The ‘original’ Mahabharata of BR Chopra

Koral Dasgupta

Koral Dasgupta. Photo by Dipanjan Mitra

Lord Krishna said, he would come to save the world each time it gets drowned in Adharma! According to the epic, the chief executor of Adharma was Duryodhana, who bled to death and reached heaven. Barring Yudhishthira, however, the warriors who fought in favour of Dharma reached hell!

The dharma-adharma (corruption and anti-corruption are more pleasant, relevant and comprehendible terms as in June 2014!) equation and its correlation with Karma (action), which eventually leads to the ultimate destination, is a complicated analysis which we’ll reserve for a more opportune session. What inspired my immediate attention are some characters from the epic, who are flawed by their own rights; yet they support their existence and actions with impactful explanations!

We may debate over the fairness of Draupadi being married to five brothers or Krishna’s contribution in the war of Kurukshetra, but the fact is, with flaws and perfections, rights and wrongs, the characters together constructed the biggest Indian mythology. However, the myth about this mythology is not restricted to the Satya Yug or The Mahabharata. The characters exist in macro and micro levels, in every life and space, be it politics, sports, films, or business.

The Indian Film Industry accommodates diverse personalities, who are distinct and unique in their deliverables. Their body of work is unparalleled and defined as per their own unique portrayals. I would like to believe that their success, failure, popularity, prosperity and affluence are a result of their Karma. Yet, if Karma is mutually exclusive to destiny, then the later too offers a non-negotiable role at regular intervals. Interplay of forces that are often beyond human comprehension, bring alive The Mahabharata at every age; we don’t realize it because the executor of Adharma usually doesn’t repeat himself. Had there been a Duryodhana to oppose these forces and a Dhritarashtra who would be blind in support of his progeny, Kurukshetra would not have silenced its trumpets.

The following pages are a fictional attempt to point out some Karmic similarities that equate players of Indian Film Industry with selected mythological characters!

Aditya Chopra as Bhisma

Aditya ‘Bhisma’ Chopra

In this business, Yashraj Films stands out like the Bhishma Pitamah, who remains in administrative functions and yet never opts to take the throne. They are the king-maker. Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra enjoys the reputation of being the most reputed and respected film makers of the industry, who have created masterpieces and contributed to the making of some of the most prominent stars of the era. But mysteriously they have always avoided direct limelight and stayed away from media interference. Unlike the Farha Khans or Sanjay Leela Bhansalis of the industry who are quite “visible”, the Chopras (barring Uday) have maintained their “celibacy” keeping safe distance from direct public affection or glare.

Amitabh 'Drona' Bachchan

Amitabh ‘Drona’ Bachchan

Dronacharya, the royal guru of the Kauravas and Pandavas, was a master of advanced military arts. He came without a royal pedigree, with one skill that he mastered and carved his name in history. He is remembered as the teacher of all teachers, who was divinely skilled in his business and set a benchmark for the royal boys, especially Arjuna, his favourite student. This is a role defined by Amitabh Bachchan. The actor is second to none regarding his craft; he is invincible and no one can match his steps. His contemporaries and juniors have learnt immensely from his expertise, though he has never specifically coached anyone. Such strong is his hold that Mr. Bachchan’s fall can never be destined by any fair means, just like it had been for Dronacharya.

Sonu 'Ekalavya' Sood

Sonu ‘Ekalavya’ Sood

If you closely follow Sonu Sood, you will find an Ekalavya in him, trying to follow Mr. Bachchan with extreme devotion. He does not openly copy the legend, but his mannerisms reflect the charm of a younger Big B. This did not cost him his thumb, but Sonu Sood has not been able to foray as one of the prominent mainstream actors either. Is this the “guru dakshina” he pays for following AB from a distance?

Dharma and Adharma are relative terms. The epic defines Pandavas and Kauravas as representing two distinctly different sides of righteousness. But logically thinking, Duryodrana’s claim to the thrown and the resultant negativity that aroused in him because of denials was not too inappropriate. Equally unexplained is Krishna’s politics that at times seemed biased towards Pandavas. Given this truth, what haunts me is that how Arjuna must have felt when, because of elder brother Yudhishthira’s miscommunication, his trophy wife was wed to all the brothers? And because of the same elder brother’s callousness, the same wife was dragged to court and humiliated when he had to sit watching, philosophically hand-tied? How was the relation between Arjuna and Yudhishthira post this? Was it devoid of complications? Equally intriguing is the relationship between two most talked about characters of Mahabharata – Arjuna and Karna! These were two extremely deserving men, both being the best in their crafts and suffering a pride that never allowed them to bow before each other! Even Arjuna’s sensitivity (he refused to participate in Kurukshetra) and Karna’s generosity (he gave away his life saving ornaments) failed to arouse feelings of fraternity between the two warriors. Karna and Arjun were representing two different logics of Dharma, and hence probably they were destined to remain in conflict!

Aamir 'Yudhisthira' Khan

Aamir ‘Yudhisthira’ Khan

Aamir Khan, the thinker, philosopher and perfectionist would be an ideal Yudhishthira. In his own way he does all right things that audience respects him for. He openly and visibly stands against Adharma (read corruption), thanks to his involvement in social causes that came through Satyameva Jayate, Incredible India, etc. He is true to his deliverables, uncompromising on the knowledge and experience that he generates with his body of work. Many of his films voice out social messages that talk about correct social existence and behavior. He is one person who follows and means to make it meaningful rather than “larger than life”.

Shah Rukh 'Arjun' Khan

Shah Rukh ‘Arjun’ Khan

It’s Arjuna, who always favoured the “larger than life” existence. The most legitimate student of Dronacharya, was not only a great warrior but he was also known for his courage. Shah Rukh Khan finds a fitment here because the world recognizes him for his acting prowess along with fierce entrepreneurial zest and eternal risk taking abilities. He has been goal oriented and experimental with himself right from the beginning of his career and no one probably is as focused on the destination as much as he enjoys his journey. Well known for his sensitivity, this Arjuna proudly accepts his feminine side and doesn’t shy away from crying or lying in a very “feminine” bath tub for endorsements. He thus, easily supports Brihannala as a part of his being, and yet, he stands to be a man’s man who makes women feel weak in their knees.

Karan 'Krishna' Johar

Karan ‘Krishna’ Johar

If Arjun is here, can Krishna be far behind? That’s Karan Johar, strategizing the moves of Arjuna and the entire film business with his wit and expertise. No one can ever ignore the contributions of Karan Johar in “designing” Shah Rukh Khan and his career. The excellent orator that he is, he manages to peacefully come out of controversial situations without compromising on the point he wishes to make. He is playful, friendly and considered to be a blessing for anyone he hand-holds. Karan Johar undoubtedly has the reigns of Shah Rukh Khan’s chariot.

Shahid 'Abhimanyu' Kapoor

Shahid ‘Abhimanyu’ Kapoor

Abhimanyu, a rare talent got assassinated because he could not play on with the politicking of other warriors. Shahid Kapoor reflects the same fate. He was as promising as “the next Shah Rukh Khan” when he joined the film business. He entered the game with style and panache, but did not know the way out!

Salman Khan belongs to the same fraternity of valour as Arjuna, yet for a very long time he has been considered to be the bad boy of the industry. As discussed above, he belongs to the other side of Dharma! May be the wrong side, which is not the media-friendly side, as compared to Arjuna, who is a darling of the media. He is no less talented than Shah Rukh Khan, neither is he any less on glamour. Tabloids today are increasingly talking about a beautiful heart that he hides behind his machoism. Generosity is said to be a word synonymous to this Khan! Dus Ka Dum made him a darling with the masses. Being Human, his NGO bears testimony to years of thankless job that he has been committed to.

Salman 'Karan' Khan

Salman ‘Karan’ Khan

Salman Khan is a great personality by himself, with all that has gone right or wrong for him. But probably he had embraced too many controversies in his lifetime. With too many cameras of journos broken, people abused, whimsical actions performed, media was once happy to call him a monster. The evils of his personal life too became public, a little more than what was required. An achiever thus had faced many humiliations; yet his work shines bright. By his own admission, he’s too loyal to being himself! No one else can be a better Karna, who is courageous, skilled and well deserved, but suffered for belonging to the “other” side!

Ironically, this Karna-Arjuna actually shares a film called Karan Arjun between them!

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