A peek into Zee TV's rendezvous into pre Independence era
The story begins in 1942.
It was an era, when the independence movement was gaining momentum. Royalty too was under siege – however the grand lifestyle continued. Classy cars, grand palaces, impeccable attire, coterie of people and army of servants marked the royal lifestyle. Though there were worries unlimited, there was no dearth of grandeur being flaunted.
It is in this backdrop that the fictional story of Ek Tha Raja, Ek Thi Rani has been set.
This is an account of the royal family of Ameerkot headed by Rajmata (Anita Raj) and her son Rana Indravadhan Singh Deo (Siddhant Karnik). Rana Indravadhan is compelled to marry Gayartri Seth (Drashti Dhami), the daughter of the state’s biggest moneylender Gopal Seth due to the flailing fortunes of the royal family.
The opulent show that goes on air today is being produced by Sphere Origins (headed by Sunjoy Waddhwa), and Nilanjana Purkayastha. It would be shown on Zee TV from Monday to Friday at 9.30 p.m. The initial 10 episodes are being directed by well-known film Director Bhushan Patel. The show direction would then be taken over by Santram Verma.
The show is an outcome of rigorous research undertaken over eighteen months. Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins Multivision Pvt Ltd, explains, “When you talk of a period drama - one usually expects it to be set 1600-1700 years ago. No interesting story was being set in pre independence era – when the struggle for freedom had intensified. Hence, both I and Nilanjana (Purkayastha) wanted to do a story set in this time period. We didn’t want it to be a love story alone, but a show reminiscent of that era, where all the characters were highlighted. We also wanted to address the intrigue factor and provide a panoramic picture of royal life. Hence over a year was spent in understanding the nuances of royal life. The texture, the tone and the kind of sets we are creating, outfits etc. are an outcome of the research.”
While on one side, research was being conducted, on the other story was being built. The simultaneous efforts made sure that nothing went amiss.
From whatever glimpses we have had of the show so far, mood of the era has been captured to perfection. The show has a dream like quality, soft lights, background scores everything adds to it. While handling the love story with all the tenderness it deserves, effort has been made to capture the turmoil India was going through as well. Sunjoy Waddhwa states, “Mood is essentially of change. Having said that, it is essentially a love story. The concept is ‘once upon a time there was a king and a queen,’ hence the fairy tale kind of feel. Also, there is some sort of intrigue attached to Rana Indravadhan. It would bring a thriller element to the story.”
Hues of the times have been beautifully elaborated by the perfect selection of protagonists and other key characters. Drashti Dhami as Gayatri Seth fits the character beautifully – from riding the bicycle to being awestruck by royal grandeur, nothing is laborious. Siddhant Karnik as Ranaji Indravadan Singh Deo, the intense and brooding prince of the royal family of Ameerkot is princely. Anita Raj as Rajmata is suave and picture perfect. Other key characters of the show are Surekha Sikri, (of Balika Vadhu fame), National award-winning actor Darshan Zariwala, enchanting Moon Bannerjee and popular actor Akshay Anand. As per the producers Drashti and Sidhhant were the preferred choices from the beginning. Sunjoy Waddhwa says, “We auditioned nobody else. Most of the star cast was decided without much deliberation”.
Zee TV, in conjunction with the producers of the show, has put together a team of more than 500 including set and costume designers, engineers, architects and others, who have worked together to bring to life glory of a bygone era. The grand palace constructed on the outskirts of Mumbai is exquisite and every aspect from carpets to chandeliers to furniture has been worked upon. Comall Sunjoy W, Director, Sphereorigins Multivision Pvt Ltd, explains, “It took us about 6 to 8 months to get the look right. The entire team was excited to work on the project and the outcome is magical. Sets have been designed by National Award Winning Art Director Chandravardhan More. He has done a fabulous job. Before constructing the set we built a model with complete detailing. As you would notice, we have opted for Edwardian architecture, as British influence was there on architecture of that era. A very French art deco feel has been created. Each and every pillar, the motifs used, the birds and the flowers, and the colours that have been used are completely on those lines.”
Attire, of course, plays a key role in building the characters as well as the era, and hence were chosen with great discretion. Jewellery and royal poshaks for the cast have been sourced from traditional kaarigars of UP, Delhi and Rajasthan after much research. Comall Sunjoy W informs, “We have an in-house research team for costume detailing. Costumes have been executed by the team of Winnie Malhotra who has done our Balika Vadhu and Ritu Deora.” Sunjoy Waddhwa adds, “I have an old connection with Rajasthan and I have been visiting Rajasthan and Baroda, so I am aware of their clothes and living style. I have shot a lot of our shows there that also helped.”
Coaches and trainers have been brought on board to train the cast in horse-riding, polo and the finer nuances of diction, body language and mannerisms of the people from that era. The cast and crew have also shot extensively in the palaces of Rajasthan.
As it is a fiction story, creativity is not strangulated by the need to tell the story as it was, or face the audiences’ unacceptance. Hence the story might see a few turns going forward. Sunjoy Waddhwa states, “It is a fictitious story, and hence we have liberty to make changes. However, we will be true to the era for sure. Happenings in the country in that timeline can, of course, not be altered.”
The serial has already captured the audiences fancy. Build up on radio and social media has been tremendous. Zee TV seems to have a winner on its hands. Condition is that the mood remains the same, and the story does not get lost in unnecessary twists and turns.