Couch Potato Series: Saraswatichandra Review

Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s foray into television has not been short on OTT dramatics, overdone cliches and loads of crap

Jas March 7, 2022
  • Direction
  • Story Adaptation
  • Acting
  • Production

When it was written, it was received, reviewed and raved as a landmark work of Gujarati literature. Penned by Govardhanram Madhavram Tripathi, a renowned author of early 20th century, “Saraswatichandra,” found its roots in 19th century India, trapped in tradition and feudal oppression. For its time and age, the novel was rich and bold as it explored a tumultuous love between two people. It was a forbidden feeling and Tripathi created a fictitious world bringing alive a multitude of characters, simmering potboiler of plots and schemes, and extraordinary situations.

The author had delivered a timeless classic, one that was also made into a national-award winning film by the same name in 1968. Starring Nutan and Manish, the film was directed by Govind Saraiya, and was also Bollywood’s last black and white talkie. So, when the satellites beamed the news of ‘the’ Sanjay Leela Bhansali recreating this masterpiece on the small screen, we, against all odds, allowed ourselves to be hopeful. Hopeful that finally a filmmaker of his stature, experience and expertise will prove to be a turning point on the soapy saas-bahu saga of television. That he will deliver us of all the bad and ugly choking the tube. That he will vacuum out the garbage bin the box has been reduced to.

True to his opulent signature style, SLB gave a green signal to the massive hoardings of “Saraswatichandra” put across cities. The day came when we braced ourselves, crossed our fingers and switched on to Star Plus. Hope left us like air leaves a pin pricked balloon. Like the Yankies say, it was all gas and no explosion. “Saraswatichandra” yanked us back to reality, to SLB’s reality which is a hopeless brooding “Devdas,” a draped in silk Paro dancing around the courtyard, and havelis with fountains, chandeliers and grand staircases. At least he gets the grandeur right.

The protagonists Gautam Rode (who plays Saras) and Jennifer Winget (the love interest, Kumud) are ineffective, almost like mannequins sleep walking on the show. Satish Shah did a better job as a dead body on “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.” The rest of the are just like on any other soap: overbearing, overdressed, overdramatic and excruciatingly hilarious. Seriously, who behaves like this in the real world high on coca cola and wifi? Who wears heavy sarees, prayer beads, dhoti kurta and ghaghra choli in progressive households?

While draped in chiffons and backless blouses, Monica Bedi as Saras’s stepmom Guman Vyas brings the vamp in vogue, Alpana Buch who plays Kumud’s mother is stiff, matronly and constipated with frown lines and seething anger. Yatin Karyekar as Kumud’s father is an actor wasted. The rest are like props to be used when the time for twists and turns comes.

The novel was set in a fictitious land, here the characters are in Dubai and a Gujju village. That is some imagination!

In case you still haven’t or wondering if you should, here’s the promo of the series: