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Review: Porus is a visual treat, and Praneet Bhat is deliciously wicked

Sony Entertainment Television’s much hyped and anticipated historical show, ‘Porus’, hit the small screen last night (November 27, 2017) at 8.30 pm. As promised in the promos and several interviews, ‘Porus’ is a grand visual spectacle. 

Right from the opening sequence, where Persian trader Darius (a superb Praneet Bhat) is seen on his ship on the river Jhelum, the serial captures the audience’s attention. It was a bit unsettling seeing Thailand’s well-known seascape being passed off as Jhelum. The very same coastline has been seen in numerous Bollywood films and song sequences. 

A fan of ‘Vikings’ would recognise the close resemblance of the opening credit scene of ‘Porus’ to that of the hit global series, where bodies, weapons and boats are seen sinking in the water. But that’s where the resemblance ends. 

The hour-long first episode introduces the viewers to the kingdom of Paurava, which is ruled by Bamani. There are many images to establish the Bharat of that age as ‘Sone ki chidiya’ with riches like gold, precious stones, exotic spices, the finest ‘mulmul’ cloth and more. But I wonder, did every person in Paurava have to be clothed in Indigo hues. There was an overwhelming use of the colour blue. 

The viewer is introduced to the world of Paurava through Darius’ eyes, who finds a ventriloquist as his guide through the kingdom! There is an elaborate dance sequence involving a few hundred dancers at least. The well-choreographed scene is a visual delight, but I wonder, were there really Kathkali dancers in Paurava kingdom that time? And I felt the ‘Baahubali’-hangover was very strong here. 

The character dynamics and politics of that era are soon established when Ambiraj, king of Taxila arrives for some kind of a bout with Bamani, King of the Paurav kingdom, for control of the trade along Jhelum’s coast. Ambiraj’s sister, princess Anusuya, is introduced in a great scene where the feisty lady is astride a horse and rescues a child who is about to be trampled under the hooves. 

After some well-shot underwater fight sequence, Bamami emerges victorious. In a trade meet following the bout, Anusuya is also introduced as an astute observer, clever negotiator and unafraid to speak her mind. She defeats Darius’ move to capture the trade through a show of wealth. “Jo ek ka daam paanch se chukaye, woh ya toh moorkh hai ya dhoorth,” says the princess, exposing Darius’ ulterior motive. This earns her Bamani’s appreciation and respect. However, Bamani’s older brother Shivdutt is unhappy about the way things are working out. It will be interesting to see what devious schemes he comes up with or how he is manipulated into committing treachery in the coming episodes. 

Those apprehensive about ‘Porus’ being just another boring history lesson need not fear. It might not be an authentic representation of the life and times of that age, but then not much is known about King Porus and his times. But the ride is a grand one, and we are hopeful of a visual treat and interesting storytelling as the series unfolds. The life and times of Alexander is well-documented. I can’t wait to see how the makers of the show present Macedonia. 

A word about the special effects, so far it has not disappointed, and the hard work by the 2,000-plus team behind the making of the series is for all to see. It has been made with a global audience in mind and the reported budget of Rs 500 crore is money well spent. Fingers crossed that the action-packed show doesn’t slip up in the coming episodes.

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