New Delhi: Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not known for planning medium-sized, lukewarm romances. He likes to stretch himself out on a canvass the colour of evening sky. So it's baffling why he would start a debut TV series based on a popular Gujarati novel set in the early 20th century with a whimper of a first episode.
Bhansali has adapted 'Saraswatichandra', a novel by Govardhanram Madhavaram Tripathi that revolves around two Gujarati families, to a television series on Star Plus. Although he has given the lead characters Saraswatichandra (Gautam Rode) and Kumud (Jennifer Winget) a modern setting.
Bhansali promised the serial will be a "poignant love story of two soul mates Saras and Kumud, who are denied the joy of becoming one by destiny and tradition," not unlike his own adaptation of 'Devdas', an eternal story of unrequited love.
Yet the first episode, in which we get a glimpse of Saraswatichandra (a very toned Rode), praying in waist-deep water, lacked the bite that television demands of its prime time soaps to stay in the ratings business.
Monica Bedi, who plays a significant role in the series, seemed to lack the confidence to dominate the camera that major stars do.
But Bhansali is not known to rush into a story; he likes to take his time in building brick by brick his romances. So Saraswatichandra should do well to pick up speed as it unfolds.
The plot involves several ups and downs in the life of the protagonists, including Kumud's marriage to someone else. Saraswatichandra is described as "a modern yet traditional young man, who has completed his education from Harvard, has a keen business sense and does not miss out on any single opportunity to do charity".
Bhansali has tried to move away from the popular prime time genre of family drama and comedy and played safe with a serial that neither stands out as exception in its first episode nor sets any great standards of acting. It isn't bad for a family crowd and mercifully steers clear of the typical melodrama associated with soaps.
In his almost 20 years in showbiz, Bhansali has for the first time produced a TV show. Bhansali is known for dramas on a wide canvas like 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', 'Devdas' and 'Black'. (With inputs from agencies)