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Chanakya: A great serial on Doordarshan

In the midst of so many serials about troubles within the family, about the serials that explore the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law (saas bahu) and the constant problems between them, one sometimes get a wish (driven by nostalgia) for some of the serials that appeared on Doordarshan. One of these was Chanakya; and why am I thinking of Chanakya ? Because while I was browsing on YouTube, I came across some videos of Chanakya (watch them here), and that activated the section of brain dealing with memory.
I remember Chanakya for many things. At a time when serials based on ancient India or mythology were mainly costume dramas with a heavy focus on heavy language, where every other sentence referred to honour or the lack of it, here was a serial heavy on political drama. While in school, we learnt in a few short paragraphs (or maybe it was one chapter, I don’t remember) about who Chanakya was and what he had done. However, as far as I can recall about what we were taught, we were primarily taught that Chanakya was the writer of the ‘Arthashastra, the book on Indian politics and that he was a very clever tactician who brought his favorite king to power.

However, it was the serial that presented things in a slightly different (maybe it was just more detailed) context, labeling Chanakya (known as so because his father was called Chanak) (also known as Kautilya or Vishnugputa) as a person who was inspired by a mission to bring the country together after the invasion of Alexander (or Yakshendra as I remember the name being pronounced in the serial). Just like the Discovery of India series (Bharat ek khoj) brought the history of Indian to everyone, this serial brought the life of times of one of India’s greatest thinkers and tactician to the screen.
The serial essentially captures the rise of Chanakya in those time when the Nandas were the rulers (but not very skilful). They had a superb minister, almost to the level of Chanakya himself, called Rakshas. Rakshas was able through his actions to keep the Nandas in power and ensure that no one was able to plan or execute any actions against the Nandas. It was Chanakya, a ruthless person in his mission, who was able to weld together the different states, defeat the Nandan and bring his brave protege, Chandragupta Maurya to power.
There are many examples of his determined nature shown in the serial, but the most famous of them have to be the episode of where when grass hurts his feet, he gets the grass eaten by ants; and probably the most famous one where he makes a solemn vow not to tie his hair till he has got rid of the Nandas.
The serial seemed to be very well-researched, and spent a lot of time and effort to make the entire portrayal including the sets seem authentic. The director and lead actor (Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi) essayed the role in a way that seemed to be very authentic (including the fact that people rode horses bare-back since the saddle was not yet introduced in India). One person who did not come off so well in this serial was Alexander, since the serial also mentions his brutality many times. People will also be surprised to know that the serial was somewhat controversial at its time because of the large use of saffron flags particularly because there was already a lot of feelings about the ongoing rise of the BJP and the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation.

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