IN DECEMBER LAST YEAR, between takes for the Hindi romance serial Pyaar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyaara Pyaara, Mukesh Khanna, dressed in a brown three-piece suit and a polka-dot tie, walked to his dressing room on the set of Rajshree Productions in Mumbai’s Film City. On the way, Khanna, who plays the leading man’s grandfather, ran into Kanwarjit Paintal, who plays a friendly in-law. The two men, both slightly bulging at the waist, exchanged pleasantries and discussed the day’s shooting schedule.
It was, in many ways, a banal moment: two spent actors casually chatting before their next takes for a regular television show. But there was something striking about it, too. Twenty-five years ago, at the very same location, these two actors were locked in battle as two of the most crucial characters in the most significant programme ever shown on Indian television: BR Chopra’s Mahabharat. (Paintal’s androgynous Shikhandi was used by the Pandavas to take down Khanna’s indomitable Bhishma in the battle of Kurukshetra.)