If you want to recreate one of the oldest shows on Indian TV, i.e. Vikram Betaal, it better be grand in visuals, as the fun is in the screenplay rather than the story, which is already known by one and all.
Hence, when &TV announced its take on this age-old story, I was waiting to see the graphics and VFX. Must say, I am impressed so far. The different worlds of Betaal and Bhadrakaal look rich and engaging.
The story has all the grandeur that a fantasy must boast of. The writers have pulled out all stops to make Vikram (Aham Sharma) look as the most powerful emperor to have ever walked the earth.
We wonder how a mere mortal, Vikramaditya, could fire a star-splitting arrow, designed for the Gods, to save his blessed land from 50 years of drought. Hope we could use the same astrological powers that Acharya Varahamihir (Amit Behl) uses to predict when the next drought is coming our way.
Does an emperor need to go out himself, to capture the bad guys? Well, Vikram does. What was his army doing then? I know, I know, you need to make him look grand. Apart from being brave, Vikram is also a smart ruler, knowing when to lash the whip. He does not forgive the guilty, like some of our historical rulers had done, which had cost them heavy.
Aham is doing a good job, getting the required royal confidence and body language right, failing which, the character would have fallen flat. He looks good and has certainly worked on his physique.
Mytho/fantasy costumes are always glamorous. Vikram’s better half, Padmani (Ishita Ganguly), looks glamourous.
More than the protagonist, a show always runs on the strength of a strong antagonist and supporting cast. The same rule applies here as well. Sooraj Thapar is spot on as the evil Bhadrakaal, who, sensing the ego chink in Vikram’s otherwise impregnable armour, uses it with élan, making him go on a death-defying mission to get his arch rival of a thousand years, Betaal, which will enable him to rule the world. Desperate to wipe out Bhadrakaal’s IOU for saving his life, Vikram willingly jumps headlong into the fire. He heroically fights snakes and demons, gets an uber supersonic vehicle, Yakshayaan, which takes him deep into the nether world, where Betaal (Makrand Deshpande) has been hanging upside down from a tree for eons (have you wondered why?).
If anybody takes the cake along with the bakery shop in this show, it is Makrand, who is perfect as the complex, getting on your nerves, chatter box, Betaal. He is good at heart and quickly understands that Vikram might be the sheet anchor he has been awaiting, to kill the evil Bhadrakaal.
However, he does not care a fig if Vikram gets hurt while he puts him through a rigour of tests.
I wonder what special love the makers have with headless bodies. One story had two of them. Not sure if this is kid-friendly. Also, dead Vikram jumping out alive from a burning funeral was a bit tough to digest. But again, logic has to be jettisoned for watching any fantasy, be it desi or videshi. He also seems to have the power to make people alive.
As in any palace, there is always hidden intrigue. So here, Sonia Singh and her son try to get rid of Vikram and take over Ujjain.
Creative wise, there are hundreds of stories which can be told, to keep this episodic show with a linear track running (Betaal outfoxing Vikram). Ratings will decide whether the eventually slaying of Bhadrakaal happens fast or gets dragged on. Vikram Betaal has opened to 0.4, which can’t be considered good. But we also need to understand that the overall GRP of the channel itself is not great. The biggest challenge for the channel and makers would be to justify the costs. High-end computer graphics don’t come cheap.
It’s a 3.5 from us for Vikram Betaal Ki Rahasya Gaatha, produced by Alinda Srivastava and Nissar Parvez’s Peninsula Pictures.