31 years of Mahabharat on Doordarshan: Interesting facts about one of most popular TV shows ever

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Updated: October 03, 2019 12:44 PM

Rated 8.9/10 on IMDB, Mahabharat is considered as gold-standard in terms of popularity for TV series. It left maximum impact on a generation that got addicted to watching it religiously.

Mahabharat, Mahabharat episode, mahabharat draupadi swayamvar, Mahabharat song, mahabharat story, mahabharat TV serail, mahabharat BR Chopra, mahabharat facts, arjun in mahabharat, purana mahabharat, ravi chopra, roopa ganguly, Rahi Masoom Reza, Gufi Paintal, Doordarshan, Old DD mahabharat, Old DD TV serialsDD’s Mahabharat broke all TRP records in India, it also become superhit in the UK and other countries.

Based on the Hindu Epic Mahabharat written by Ved Vyas, the Ravi Chopra directed TV serial Mahabharat is one of the most famous shows on Indian television history. Produced by BR Chopra, Mahabharat’s first episode was aired on Doordarshan exactly 31 years ago, on 2nd October 1988. It had 94 episode and the final installment of the series was aired on 24th June 1990. Rated 8.9/10 on IMDB, Mahabharat is considered as gold-standard in terms of popularity for TV series. It left maximum impact on a generation that got addicted to watching it religiously on Sunday morning prime-time. During the broadcasting of Mahabharat, and earlier Ramayan, streets across the country used to get empty and people would leave or stop their work to watch the episode. In the days of OTT platforms, this kind of massive popularity can only be imagined. While it broke all TRP records in India, it also became superhit in the UK and other countries. According to the Guardian report, Mahabharat TV series attracted attracted up to 5 million viewers in a Saturday afternoon on BBC2.

Here are some interesting facts about Mahabharat TV series:

  • In the documentary Mahabharat Ki Mahabharat: The Making of B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat, Kishore Malhotra, a production team member said that the total cost of producing the TV series was ₹9 crore
  • BR Chopra wanted a strong narrator for Mahabharat and considered legends like Dilip Kumar and NT Rama Rao to play that role but Dr Rahi Masoom Reza convinced him to have “Samay” or the time as the narrator when he said the phrase, “Main Samay Hoon” or “I am the Time”
  • Satish Bhatnagar and his team, who did research for Mahabharat TV series, studied all available books in different languages on Mahabharat
  • Dr Rahi Masoom Reza said he accepted the challenge of writing Mahabharat because he knew he can connect the past of India with its present
  • BR Chopra’s team submitted the final story-line of Mahabharat TV series to Doordarshan in 1986 with breakdown of all 104 episodes which were later shortened to 94 episodes
  • Ravi Chopra helmed the project with his father BR Chopra. Dr Reza said that he did a better job than his legendary father
  • 15,000 people applied to play different roles in Mahabharat TV series. The casting team shortlisted them and called around 1,500 for video screen tests
  • Gufi Paintal was the casting director for Mahabharat, and also played the role of Shakuni. It took him 8 months of video testing and checking Hindi diction to finalise different characters
  • Almost all actors in Mahabharat TV series were newcomers, barring Raj Babbar who played King Bharat and Debashree Roy who played Satyawati, second wife of King Shantanu
  • For the role of Krishna, 55 screen tests were conducted and actors including Gajendra Chouhan (who played Yudhishthir) and Rishabh Shukla (who played Shantanu) were also considered for the role. Nitish Bhardwaj clinched it because Ravi Chopra thought his smile is suited for someone playing Krishna
  • Mukesh Khanna was first offered the role of Duryodhana which he refused. He wanted to play the role of either Arjun or Karna. He was then offered Dronacharya and attended the muhurat as the sage. Later, BR Chopra asked him to dress as Bhishma and finalised him for the role
  • Praveen Kumar, who played Bhima in the serial, was a known Indian athlete. He had participated in Olypmics and won gold medals in Asian games. He saw its casting advertisement in a newspaper and then applied for the role. In 2013, he joined AAP and in 2014 he switched to the BJP
  • Sameer Chitre and Sanjeev Chitre, who played twins Nakul and Sahadeva respectively, are brothers in real life as well
  • Before Firoz Khan got the role of Arjun, name of Jackie Shroff was also considered but Khan got the role despite being rejected in the auditions. He later adopted his screen name and is popular as Arjun
  • From Juhi Chawla to Ramya Krishnan, six actors were considered for the central role of Draupadi. Juhi reportedly opted out after she signed a movie. Later, Roopa Ganguly was chosen because of her correct Hindi diction. Ganguly has now joined BJP and is a Member of Parliament
  • Master Mayur got the role of Abhimanyu after both Govinda and Chunky Pandey opted out after signing films
  • For the Maya Mahal sequence, Chroma technique was used to create illusions but to create the water-pool in which Duryadhana slips, the production team used thermocol powder to create the design. It took them two days to make the design on still water
  • For Draupadi Vastraharan sequence a 250-meter long saree was used. The saree worn by Roopa Ganguly was 6-meter long

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