The latest mythological offering on Indian Television has arrived on &TV and it is based on a little-known legend of Lord Shiva according to which he took a child’s form. Aptly named Baal Shiv, this show is intriguing for two reasons. Firstly, it is an unknown story in the real sense. The information on the internet is scant which means it holds an element of surprise, which can’t be said for other productions in this genre. Secondly, it has been written and created by Anirudh Pathak, whose last show on Shiva, Devon Ke Dev Mahadev attained a cult status reminiscent of Chopra’s Mahabharat or Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan in the eighties. So it remains to be seen if this new creation can bring about the same quality of storytelling that made Mahadev an absolute favorite of both critics and audience alike.
The show is currently three episodes old and has established an interesting premise. Anusuya, the wife of Rishi Atri has it all. As the vice-chancellor of a reputed Gurukul where all young people of Antiquity get their education, she commands respect and causes envy (especially to colleagues like Dandapani) all around. Owing to her asceticism and mahasatitva, she holds mystic powers and ends a long-standing famine by her individual shivpujan while other rishis are investing in elaborate yagnas without success. But she has one major flaw that makes her a subject of constant judgment and social stigma: Devi Anusuya cannot conceive her own children. Tired of getting taunted & judged, she quits her position and starts a tapa to beget the Tridev as children.
Meanwhile, there is a parallel story running at Kailash, where Parvati, under the influence of her mother, is silently beseeching Mahadev for a palace so that they can live like a normal family. Mahadev eventually gets it built by Ravan, but thanks to the scheming of Narad Muni, who has just taken shelter at Kailash, Parvati has no time to enjoy the grand palace as Ravan promptly asks it back as his dakshina. This issue is all set to become the bone of contention between the power couple and perhaps will lay a foundation for the coming story.
So far I have really liked the tight screenplay which makes for an interesting watch. The show has several scenes that leave a lasting impression. The introduction scene of Shiv-Parvati deserves a special mention. The contrast between their physical appearances and their way of life is poetically accentuated by clever camera angles when they walk out of their cave. Shiv has his palms over Parvati’s eyes, and the visual of the ash-smeared bare hands juxtaposed against the bejeweled beautiful face makes for a strong commentary. Similarly, when Shiv appears to answer Anusuya’s prayers in order to end a famine, Anusuya sees him as a silhouette atop a cliff – and that image is powerful, gratifying, and beautiful at the same time.
The picturesque backdrop against which the show is set makes for a pleasant experience. The Gurukul is nestled in the midst of exquisite valleys, cliffs, and natural fountains. This imagined world from Antiquity possesses an alluring beauty that extends to even the icy cold Kailash. The special effects are impressive as well. When Ravana makes the grandest palace he has ever made, his magic comes across as believable.
Baal Shiv also looks like it has gotten its casting just right. Mouli Ganguli as Anusuya brings the maturity and gravity that are essential to her character. Shivya Pathania makes for an innocent Parvati, who is head over heels in love with Mahadev but hasn’t fully grown out of her longing for her old life. She conveys her feelings perfectly with just a look at her husband- whether it’s guilt, apprehension, longing, love, or heartbreak. Although Danish Akhtar Saifi as Nandi hasn’t gotten a lot to say till now, his portrayal holds a lot of promise. But undoubtedly Siddharth Arora has the toughest shoes to fill as Mahadev. As the show will cater to the same audience as that of the mega-popular DKDM, the comparisons are obvious albeit unfair. When I watched ( and I had my own apprehensions) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the fresh benignity that he has brought to Shiva. Although his postures and body language are bound to remind you of Mohit Raina’s unsurpassable portrayal, Arora’s Shiva has an approachable quality with an eternally kind face. He listens with compassion & patience, never lets the smile waver, and reverberates with love and concern for Parvati. Together Shiv & Parvati create natural chemistry, where he is always putting her concerns before his and she is always overflowing with love for him, even in times of arguments.
As each episode has managed to deliver just the right amount of drama without compromising on the natural flow of the story, I am looking forward to a long watch. Watch this show if you like the genre of mythology because of Baal shiv’s good storytelling and watch this space to see how the show progresses.