New Delhi: The announcement of a new megabuck adaptation of The Mahabharata has renewed the curiosity around B R Chopra's legendary adaptation of the epic for TV. While Mr Chopra's series was based on the traditionally accepted version of the text attributed to Ved Vyas, the new Mahabharata, to be made on a budget of Rs 1000 crore, will adapt MT Vasudevan Nair's critically acclaimed novel Randaamoozham. The principal character of the novel is the third Pandav brother, Bheem, which will be played by south superstar Mohanlal. The film is touted to be a game changer in the big-budget projects segment of the film industry, just like B R Chopra's Mahabharata, which was (and still is) one-of-a-kind on the small screen. Though there have been attempts to re-adapt the epic, none matched the iconic status of B R Chopra's version, made at a time when Sunday mornings were dedicated to watching what Doordarshan had to offer. This, as everyone who grew up in the Eighties and early Nineties, was often a community activity.
- A redux of Mahabharata has been envisioned with a budget of 1000 cr
- B R Chopra's Mahabharata featured many celebs of the time
- It was also the ticket to fame for many actors
B R Chopra's series cast some famous names like Mukesh Khanna, Raj Babbar, Praveen Kumar and Rupa Ganguly but for many, the show became pretty much their identity. Mr Chopra's Mahabharata originally aired from 1988 to 1990. Here's a look at some of the members of the cast after almost three decades.
Raj Babbar - Bharat
Actor Raj Babbar started his Bollywood career with 1977 film Kissa Kursi Ka and starred in several popular films like Umrao Jaan, Nikaah and Kalyug. But his portrayal of Bharat in the television series is one of his most popular roles. Mr Babbar was last seen in Bollywood film Tevar. He joined politics in 1989 and is currently a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttarakhand for the Congress.
Kiran Juneja - Ganga
Actress Kiran Juneja started her small screen career with critically acclaimed show Buniyaad in 1987. The next year she took the role of Ganga in Mahabharata. She has also starred in supporting roles in films like Fashion, Jab We Met and Khosla Ka Ghosla. She is married to Sholay director Ramesh Sippy.
Debashree Roy - Satyavati
Bengali star Debashree Roy started her career in 1978 and, after a brief struggle, shot to acclaim with a role in Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringhee Lane. Though she was applauded for her performance, the film failed commercially. 1982 film Troyee made her a star. Debashree Roy was at the peak of her career when she signed up to play Satyavati in Mahabharata. Her career graph took a downward dip after 2008 and she was last seen in 2014 film 24th July. She was briefly married to Bengali actor Prosenjit Chatterjee.
Mukesh Khanna - Bheeshma
After starring in several Bollywood films, actor Muukesh Khanna was cast as Bheeshma in Mahabharata. He later worked in other popular shows like Chandrakanta and Shaktimaan and currently stars in TV series Waaris.
Girja Shankar - Dhritrashtra
Apart from Mahabharata, actor Girja Shankar was also a part of TV show Alif Laila. He has worked in several films like Divine Lovers (1997), Irada and was last seen in Punjabi film Gadaar: The Traitor.
Renuka Israni - Gandhari
Actress Renuka Israni's claim to fame has been Mahabharata. After the show, she starred in small roles in films like Rishtey, starring Anil Kapoor and Karisma Kapoor. She played the role of Sakshi Tanwar's mother in Bade Achche Lagte Hain.
Gufi Paintal - Shakuni
Gufi Paintal made sure no one forgot the character of Shakuni for a long time. The actor has featured in small roles in films like Dillagi and Samrat & Co.. On television, he played the role of Mughal Emperor Humayun in 2013 show Maharana Pratap and currently stars in Shani as Vishwakarma.
Puneet Issar - Duryodhana
Actor Puneet Issar will, perhaps, never shake off his controversial big screen role as antagonist opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie (1983), when Big B suffered his infamous and near-fatal injury while filming a fight scene with his co-star. In the weeks that followed, Puneet Issar was demonised by Big B's adoring public while the star lay comatose in hospital. Amitabh Bachchan made a full recovery and so did Puneet Issar's career, although he was typecast as a villain - he played Duryodhan in the B R Chopra version of Mahabharata and was later cast as Parshuraam in Mahabharata redux, which aired in 2013 and was produced by Ekta Kapoor.
On TV, he last appeared in Bigg Boss season 8 in 2014.
Pankaj Dheer - Karna
Mahabharata was actor Pankaj Dheer's big break after which he starred in films like Sanam Bewafa, Badshah and Gippi. His other popular television shows are Chandrakanta, where he played Raja Shivdutt, King of Chunargarh, and Harishchandra. The actor, whose son Nikitin Dheer starred in Shah Rukh Khan's Chennai Express, currently plays a pivotal role in TV show Badho Bahu.
Gajendra Chouhan - Yudhishtira
B R Chopra's Mahabharata remains actor Gajendra Chouhan's most recognized show in his body of work. In 2015, Mr Chouhan was controversially appointed the chairperson of the Film and Television Institute of India. FTII students went on strike, citing Gajendra Chouhan's perceived lack of qualifications. His appointment was also widely criticized by celebrities like Ranbir Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Rishi Kapoor and director Kiran Rao.
Arjun - Arjun
Actor Firoz Khan, popularly known by his screen name Arjun, starred in several films before landing the role of Arjun in Mahabharata. He's also worked in films like Mehndi, Aa Gale Lag Jaa and Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat. He was last seen in Yamla Pagla Deewana 2.
Praveen Kumar - Bheem
Before becoming Bheem for B R Chopra, Praveen Kumar was an athletics star, who won several championships in his field of discus throw. He won a silver medal in the 1966 Commonwealth Games and represented India at 1968 and 1972 Olympics.
Apart from Bheem, he popularly portrayed Saaboo in the Chacha Chaudhary series. In films, he was mostly cast as the villain's henchman or a goon. Praveen Kumar quit acting to become a politician.
After losing from Aam Aadmi Party ticket in Delhi's Wazirpur constituency in the 2013 elections, he joined the BJP.
Rupa Ganguly - Draupadi
Actress Rupa Ganguly debuted opposite Anil Kapoor in 1985 film Saaheb but her ticket to fame was (like for many others) Mahabharata. After that, she starred in acclaimed Bengali films like Gautam Ghosh's Padma Nadir Majhi and Rituparno Ghosh's Antarmahal.
She also starred in TV shows like Kasturi, Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil and Kuch Toh Hai Tere Mere Darmiyaan, her last television appearance.
Surendra Pal - Dronacharya
Actor Surendra Pal played the role of Dronacharya in Mahabharata and later starred in several other television shows like Chanakya, Shaktimaan, Maharana Pratap, Devon Ke Dev...Mahadev, Siya Ke Ram, Maryada and Shagun. He currently stars in Jaana Na Dil Se Door.
Surendra Pal has also played small roles in films like 1920 London, Seher, Jodhaa Akbar and Khuda Gawah.
Nitish Bharadwaj - Krishna
Nitish Bharadwaj started his small and big screen career simultaneously. He featured in National Award-winning film Trishagni and Mahabharata at about the same time. He reprised the role of Krishna in 2014 TV show Ajab Gajab Ghar Jamai and was last seen in 2016 film Mohenjo Daro. Nitish Bharadwaj also joined the BJP in 1996.
Varsha Usgaonkar - Uttara
Varsha Usgaonkar had a thriving career in Marathi films when she was cast as Uttara in the show. She's also known for her portrayal of Rani Laxmibai in 1990s series Rani Of Jhansi. She reprised the role years later in The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, starring Aamir Khan.
She has also featured in Marathi television shows like Aakash Zep and Eka Mekansathi.
Ayub Khan - Parikshit
Actor Ayub Khan is the nephew of thespian Dilip Kumar. Ayub has starred in several films like Dil Chahta Hai and Gangaajal, but he's mostly known for his roles on the small screen - from earlier shows like India Calling to Uttaran and Ek Haseena Thi. He currently stars in Shakti - Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki.
Pradeep Rawat - Ashwatthama
Pradeep Rawat's first role was that of Ashwatthama in Mahabharata, after which he starred in several Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films. He played the principal antagonist in Aamir Khan's Ghajini and Deva in Lagaan, also starring Aamir. His upcoming film is Salman Khan's Tiger Zinda Hai.
Goga Kapoor - Kans
Goga Kapoor played the role of a villain in most of the films he starred in - Amitabh Bachchan's Agneepath and Toofan, included. He played a negative role again in Mahabharata as well. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Ho Gaya and Refugee are a few other films he starred in. Goga Kapoor died in 2011 due to prolonged illness. He was 70.
Paintal - Shikhandi
Comedian Paintal, brother of Gufi, is known for his roles in films like Jawani Diwani (1972), Rafoo Chakkar (1975), Bawarchi (1972) and Piya Ka Ghar. He was last seen in Hindi film 30 Minutes, along with his son Hiten.
Rajesh Vivek - Ved Vyas
Actor Rajesh Vivek starred in Mahabharata as Ved Vyas but before that, he played the role of Dr Rajendra Prasad in Gandhi (1982) and was also seen in Ram Teri Ganga Maili. The actor also starred in TV show Devon Ke Dev Mahadev and in films like Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar. He died of a heart attack in 2016 at the age of 66.
Chetan Hansraj - young Balram
Chetan Hansraj started as a child artiste in Mahabharata and later continued his TV career with Kkusum. He worked in other popular Balaji television shows like Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. He was also a part of TV shows like Jodha Akbar and Devon Ke Dev...Mahadev. He currently plays the antagonist in Chandra Nandni.