's First Take on Star Plus' 'Hatim'

'Lord of the Rings': the 'desi' version

(Posted on 24 December 2003)

Hooded horse-riders riding in the dark, wizards in long robes waving their sceptre, huge castles, dragons, angels and witches - right down to the eerie orchestra in the background - a desi Lord of The Rings with a dash of filmi masala, that's how one could sum up Sagar's latest fantasy saga, Hatim. The serial - a weekly - will launch on Star Plus from 26 December in the 8 pm slot.

Directed by Amrit Sagar and Shakti Sagar, Hatim is the typical Middle Eastern adventure of the prince of Yemen - the brave Hatim (Rahil Azim) on his mission to rescue his beloved princess and the world from the clutches of the evil Dajjal (Nirmal Pandey).

His quest leads him to strange lands and alien creatures, and he find the answers to seven questions that can save the world. So what's new? As a tale, this is a story that has been told several times over through films and TV serials. But what's unique about Hatim is the sheer grandeur and pace of the production.

The very first episode packs quite a punch. On the one hand, it describes everything from the hero's birth to the king and queen of Yemen, his growing love for horseriding and adventure in his youth. As the show proceeds audience get a glimpse him rescuing the princess of Paristan- Jasmine (Pooja Rawal), and the subsequent romance and betrothal. On the other hand, it juxtaposes the narration of the villain's birth as the human incarnation of the evil force, who wants to control the world. Evil incarnate- Dajjal murderers King Jaffar, usurpes his throne and then connives to marry a good, righteous girl, the Rajput princess Sunayna.

HE-MAN! Rahil Azim as Hatim, the brave prince of Yemen

Director Amrit Sagar explains, "We didn't want to make a typical TV serial where even after 10 episodes the story doesn't move ahead. Every one-hour episode of Hatim will have the hero presented with a new riddle and how he solves it at the end. We wrote this serial like a film script, where every scene takes the story forward."

Indeed, in some places Hatim's production values, evident in the 3D characters, sets, graphics and visual effects that producer and visual effects expert that Jyoti Sagar has woven into the story, do aspire to the silver screen.

But where production values stand out, story narrative lags. Particularly, scenes like the one where the prince saves the princess from some villainous alien creatures following her (no one has explained why) seem contrived.

Performances are needlessly loud and costumes, hair dos and make-up appear a bit shabby but overall impression remains good. Also, as is the current popular trend on TV, the evil Dajjal has been glamourised far beyond necessity. Apart from more footage, Najoomi's malicious machinations and sheer screen presence of a familiar Hindi film villain like Nirmal Pandey make more impact than the hero himself.

A still from 'Hatim'

But the directors just shrug it off. "I think it's because the sets of Dajjal's castle are done so well. Also, as a story, the villain has been given more prominence to build the whole base of the conspiracy for the forthcoming story. You'll see that the hero will shine through later. In the second episode itself, the hero will be leaving Yemen to start his adventures," defends Amrit Sagar.

Then will start Hatim's triumphing operation after operation, episode after episode.

However, neither the Sagars nor Star Plus are willing to commit to the longevity of this weekly. Star India VP content and communications, Deepak Segal comments generously, "There are questions within questions and riddles within riddles. So the show can run as long as it wants." Sure, considering the haste with which channels discontinue slow-running serials these days, let's hope the channel allows Hatim to at least answer all seven questions.


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