Colors' dream project Shani went on air today. It replaced the historical Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat. Earlier, Shani was supposed to be a weekend show but the channel decided to make it a weekly affair. Mythological stories are a huge hit with TV producers as they find a loyal audience but this one should stand out because of two reasons - the hitherto unexplored tale and the special effects. All of us dread Lord Shani or Saturn. He is someone whose name evokes a sense of fear. However, as a God he is the one who rewards or punishes you solely on the basis of your karma. A dispenser of justice and equality, this is the aspect of the God that the makers intend to explore. Addiction, greed, inhumanity are vices that are present in modern society as well. The story of Shani has a social resonance and we can understand why the channel decided to air it on prime-time. It is produced by Siddharth Kumar Tewary who gave a rather contemporary interpretation to Mahabharat on Star Plus, a couple of years go. And going by the first episode, this one too will have its sensibilities relating to today's times.
There is a war raging between the Gods and Asuras (Demons), which is headed by Lord Indra and Shukracharya respectively. Both of them want their share of heaven but Indra/Gods are not willing to part with it. Lord Surya sides with Indra in this war. The epic battle threatens to destroy everything but Lord Shiva comes and halts it. He says they are no one to decide on their deeds and its rewards. When an asura accuses him of being biased, he says we will have a new God who will be the judge of karma by Gods and humans. They set about creating the new entity who will be without friends or foes and just evaluate people through their deeds.
Lord Surya lives in Surya Lok with his wife, Sandhya. They have two children, Yama (God of Death) and Yami, his sister. His wife is however unable to bear his burning prowess and has to maintain a physical distance from him. Distressed, she begs her father, Vishwakarma, the scientist of the Gods to help her out. He is unable to do so but seeing him, she gets the idea of create a replica of herself. It is called Chaya (shadow), who won't get burnt with the Sun God's heat. Entrusting her with the children, she leaves to do penance to attain strength that'll help her bear the sun's blazing radiance. Sandhya tells Chaya not to have any physical contact with her husband in her absence. However Lord Surya insists that she fulfill her wifely duties. Chaya is sworn to secrecy and cannot say that she is a clone of his actual wife. A son is born to Chaya (shadow) and he is slightly dark complexioned. Lord Surya is aghast to see such an ugly-looking child and accuses Chaya of infidelity.
The idea of telling a story on Lord Shani is a very novel concept in itself. Moreover, the decision to align it to karma also make it palatable for urban viewers, who might not like pure mythology. The cast is in good form. Salil Ankola makes for a solid egoistic Lord Surya while Juhi Parmar is the pretty Sandhya. The actress who has slimmed down tremendously is weighed down by the costume. It was Gufi Paintal who stole the show as Vishwakarma, the engineer/scientist. We remember him as Shakuni from BR Chopra's Mahabharat and he is top notch. The VFX is much better than many of the top-ranked supernatural shows ruling TV. Yes, the giant asura unleashed by Shukracharya looked a lot like a cross breed between The Hulk and The Flying Jatt's Nathan Jones but it was a minor glitch in the entire episode. The makers have shot the outdoors in Ladakh and that is truly one of the high points of the show. The scene where Sandhya (Juhi Parmar) sets off on her horse is shot on Ladakh's winding roads, which represent the lunar landscape. That scene is stunning with aerial views of the Pangong Tso Lake. The sets look lavish, especially Surya's royal chamber. We also liked the sequence where Lord Shiva gives a glimpse and stops the battle. It was done quite aesthetically.
Technically, there is little to dislike about Shani so far, especially if you compare it to the rest. The narrative is slightly over-dramatic but engaging nevertheless. Mythology has a select fan base but we are sure Shani will find favour, especially with kids.
Verdict: If Indian mythology intrigues you then definitely give Shani a watch. Ignore the small technical misses and you will hear a tale that is not at all explored before.
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