Sony Entertainment Television has made the realm of historical drama its personal fiefdom. First, the much talked about Porus, its currently-running magnum opus, and before that, was the sprinkling of assorted medieval-age dramas such as Bharat Ka Veer Putra Maharana Pratap and Peshwa Bajirao. And now, the channel has gone all out to wow audiences with another grandiose historical offering– the extravagantly larger-than-life spectacle called Prithvi Vallabh.
Written by the master of period dramas, Anirudh Pathak, the show features audience favourites, Ashish Sharma as Prithvi Vallabh, aka Munj, and Sonarika Bhadoria as Princess Mrinalvati. And if the first two episodes are any indication, Prithvi Vallabh promises to be the pièce de résistance of Sony TV’s considerable repertoire.
The show has been produced under the banner of Writer’s Galaxy, Pathak’s own production house. It intrigues at the very outset, what with its enigmatic title– Prithvi Vallabh- Itihas Bhi, Rahasya Bhi. And we, the viewers are hooked, lusting to discover what the rahasya is about; itihas, we all are familiar with.
What further whets our appetite is the look and feel of the visuals- spectacular, magnificent and unlike anything seen on Indian television before. In fact, the visuals are uncannily similar to the HBO oeuvre, Game of Thrones– right from the settings, to the costumes, to the intro and promos, down to the way each character has been portrayed. Needless to say, the show has captured viewers’ collective imaginations like never before. It wouldn’t be stretching it to assert that they’ve fallen for it, hook, line and sinker!
Ashish Sharma is magnificent in the title role of Prithvi Vallabh. His flowing locks, often tied up into a bohemian top-knot, add a romanesque touch to his character. His soulful eyes– oh, those eyes– breathe life into the role of an unwarlike lover of the arts. His acting is measured and effortless. Sonarika Bhadoria, on the other hand, makes for a fiery Mrinalvati. She shines with an ethereal beauty, while her eyes spit fire in almost every scene she features in.
The show itself is based on the little-known, eponymous Gujarati novel, written by author Kanhaiyalal Munshi. At its heart, it is a war drama, based on the age-old enmity between the kingdoms of Manyakhet and Malwa.
In childhood, Princess Mrinalvati witnesses the terrible massacre of her family, at the hands of Singhdant, King of Malwa. She swears vengeance, and goes about planning it with clinical accuracy. However, she’s not prepared for the powerful force that is Prithvi Vallabh, Prince of Malwa and Singdant’s adopted son. How their enmity turns into an epic love story forms the crux of the drama.
Ashish Sharma is magnificent in the title role of Prithvi Vallabh. His flowing locks, often tied up into a bohemian top-knot, add a romanesque touch to his character. His soulful eyes– oh, those eyes– breathe life into the role of an unwarlike lover of the arts. His acting is measured and effortless. Sonarika Bhadoria, on the other hand, makes for a fiery Mrinalvati. She shines with an ethereal beauty, while her eyes spit fire in almost every scene she features in. She crawls into the skin of her character so competently that her face seems set in stone, vengeance being the only passion that shows through. The show scores a perfect ten in characterisation of the two protagonists.
Mukesh Rishi makes an appearance after a long time, in the meaty role of Karalli, Malwa Sena Adhyaksh and Guru of Prithvi Vallabh. He exudes power and enjoys a towering presence in every frame. He is one actor we would love to see more of. Industry veteran, Surendra Pal, is competent as always, in the role of Manyakhet’s resident Guru, Guru Vinayaditya.
The rest of the ensemble cast is pretty much run-of-the-mill, both in the acting department, and in screen presence. The first episode had us on the edge of the seat with its sheer energy and raw, emotional appeal. However, in the second episode, the track between King Tailap, Mrinalvati’s younger sibling, and Kosha, a prostitute and Tailap’s clandestine lover, was unnecessarily long and tedious, making the proceedings drag a bit. Even the lines uttered by Kosha were oh-so-tiresome, and frankly, got onto our nerves. How relevant this clandestine affair is to the rest of the story remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, the show is a visual delight, and has a lot going for it. Brandished as Indian television’s one of the most expensive shows till date, let’s hope it lives up to the hype surrounding it. Maybe it will, if it can keep the rahasya bit lingering till the grand finale. After all, mystery only adds to the allure of things, while familiarity, they say, breeds contempt.
We would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
(Written By Rashami Pharia)