The Buddha of our time
Gajra Kottary, the scriptwriter of the forthcoming TV series, tells Divya Kaushik that the show focusses on Gautama Siddhartha’s life after he attained Enlightenment and shares how he played an important role in the political situation of that era
It is believed that television follows cyclic trends and most themes are recurring. But what has been changing over a period of time is the treatment of these themes as per the changing demand of the audience. Period dramas seem to be the flavour of the season, with Bharat Ka Veer Putra Maharana Pratap on Sony, Jodha Akbar on Zee and now Buddha on Zee TV again. While the first two shows were discussed for the grandeur of sets, costume designs and other props, Buddha is in news for bringing the entire life of Gautama Siddhartha on the small screen, probably for the first time. “It is ironical that the Buddha was born in India and Buddhism is the most followed and believed religion across the world, not much has been produced on the audio visual medium. The show is being produced by BK Modi under his banner Spice Global and he almost made two films on the life of Lord Buddha that could not see the light of the day due to certain reasons. So he is emotionally and personally committed to the subject. We believe that the Buddha is perhaps the most important personality born in the recorded history of India and we are leaving no stone unturned to tell the story of Buddha in the most extensive and detailed manner. The 52 episodes, for which we have been working for a long time now, are an hour’s duration and when you will watch them you will realise they are like one-hour telly films on the Buddha. We have researched widely to get the facts and information. We have humanised his story. The aim is to present him as the human being who evolved to being a Yugpurush,” informed Gajra Kottary, the famed writer of the show.
The biopic, featuring Kabir Bedi in the lead role will highlight the unknown facts on the Buddha’s life. The writer of the show says that it was the most challenging part for her to delve into the times which have no concrete historical references. “I wanted to open a whole new world of facts to the audience. We want to concentrate a lot on the latter part of the Buddha’s story which is yet untold. We all know and read about the birth of Prince Siddhartha and how he left his wife and the newborn child to go out in the world to seek enlightenment. But this is only one part of his story. We have focussed on what happened in his life after he attained the Enlightenment,” shared Kottary.
Talking more on the unknown aspects of the Buddha’s life, the writer informed, “We all know that he was born as a warrior prince and major part of his growing up years were spent in the palace, under the supervision of his loving and careful parents. His father protected him from human sufferings and this was one reason that when he was exposed to human sufferings he was so shocked, the impact was so strong that it was hard for him to go back to his own life. It was not like that he just saw human sufferings and he transformed, there was a reason why sufferings impacted him so much. The other part is that after his Enlightenment the Buddha played a major role in political situation of those times. A lot of history is woven in that time and how many people became his followers. It is interesting to note that he became like a spiritual statesman between the major kingdoms, like that of a Magadh and Kosal, that shared an interesting history of interpersonal relationship. He played an important role in transforming people like king Ajatashatru, who is known to be the most cruel and ambitious kings of his time. So as a writer my challenge was to understand the subtext of what happened during that time and how it happened, as there are no recorded sources for most of the facts.”
In most of the historical shows facts are fictionalised to suit the demand of the day, but Kottary maintains that “there are certain fact that we have to stick to. Beyond that it is fictionalised. It is a series being prepared with utmost care and caution and everything is very organically woven.”
The story will be told in a linear fashion, starting from the birth of the Lord Buddha. “For a weekly it is important that we follow a straight pattern, then the situations and characters are easier to understand,” she said.
On how relevant is the Buddha for the present generation, Kottary said, “Surprisingly there is a resurgence and lot of young people are draw towards Buddhism because of its core philosophy and concept, which says embrace all living beings without discrimination and lead a happy life. The series will have an obvious connect with the audience for it has well-researched data and interesting facts on the Buddha’s life. And it will also inspire youngsters to be fearless and to believe in non-violence,” the writer ended.
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