Thursday, October 3, 2013


Usually the war comes only in the end. In fact, it always starts after the rivalry, the game, the humiliation and the exile. That is the pattern, we have heard, we have read and we have seen up until now. Every… other… time! So, when you are past all the hardcore drama, and reach the part where the battle begins, your excitement to find out as to how exactly justice would be served to the wronged, wanes just a bit into the 18-days-war. This is because the war lasts for more than three fourth the length of the second half, with all the different types of battle formations, and meticulous details of the weaponry and armors, and gory minutes of who killed who, and how, precisely. Yawn… Not even war could keep you up that long! This unyielding ab ovo (where the story advances in a strictly chronological manner without using flashbacks or the characters’ memories) is the only factor, if any, which works against the enjoyableness of the narrative in the titanic Indian epic MAHABHARATA. Known as the book that contains all the possible stories in the world and their varying permutations (they say, there isn’t a single story you could invent that is not already inscribed in Mahabharata), and that which is ten times the size of both Iliad and Odyssey put together, Mahabharata has numerously been adapted in theatre and on screen, in the past, with the same unkind linearity in narrative, be it B.R. Chopra’s magnum opus that was the biggest event in the history of Indian television, or Peter Brook’s celebrated nine hour long play, featuring an international cast, that was later shrunk to 6 hours for the TV. Same is the case with the recently premiered Star Plus production (although here, that was only one of the numerous reasons for frustration. Let’s not even go there!), that boasts of shit loads of dough.

It is as if understanding the setbacks of this dreary linear narration, that the new venture by celebrated comic book writer Grant Morrison and Graphic India called 18 DAYS decided to deftly break the epic down in medias res. Morrison, who is known for his non-linear narrations in his famed Superman and Batman series sets the beginning of his ambitious 18 Days just days before the Climactic Battle of Kurukshetra.

18 Days is an animated web series launched as a part of YouTube’s global Geek Week event, and is a breath of fresh air to the clique of numerous retellings of the epic already available. From the very beginning of the series, one feels the grasp of a buoyant new voice that’s going to mesmerize you, even if you knew every detail of the story already. Although Mahabharata might come across as a tad too familiar to the Indian audience, the only substantial exposure that the world outside had of it is through Peter Brook’s 1989 philosophical version.
The plot in 18 Days unravels between blows, stabs and cries emerging from the bloodied battlefield of Kurukshetra, thus making the layers of the events suspenseful to the new viewers and interesting to the old ones. Moreover, a non-Indian perception of the story is expected to flash new lights to the interpretation of the characters’ complexities. But that remains to be seen from what is to ensue.

Morrison’s retelling, while taking liberties of expanding the sci-fi element of the epic, has occasionally shrunk tongue-twisting names like Dhritarashtra and Yudhisthira. So if you are amongst those touchy Indians who got offended when black and Chinese actors played key characters in Peter Brook’s TV production, restrain! Watch it only if you can with an open mind.
The only discouraging part about this project is that each episode accounts for only four minutes, at times even less. There is one installment that runs for barely a minute and half as well, which is an alarming duration for even a webisode. If they could swell each weekly installment to at least ten minutes, one wouldn’t have had to wait for a few releases in order to watch it back to back.

This promising new web series was launched in the first week of August and is way down to its eleventh episode already. Although it would be too soon to judge, it’s definitely worth a try.  So check out !

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