I am not a regular watcher of TV, being more of a reader – and I love a well-told fantasy. I see the popularity among Indians, of western fantasy tropes such as vampires and werewolves and wondered, why, despite a vast tradition of homegrown fantasy, Indian fantasy was not given prominence in our movies or TV.The one exception to the lack of Indian fantasy on screen is the Naagin story which remains ever-popular.When I first heard that the very talented Mouni Roy was doing Naagin, I was puzzled – What was in this tale,even if she was playing the lead, to attract Mouni?The good thing is that the show is one of Ekta Kapoor’s, the Queen of Indian soaps, who has an uncanny knack for
finding the pulse of the Indian TV-watching public. I have been a major fan of Mouni since her “Sati” days, and started watching Naagin solely for her. But the show has reeled me in, and how!
The first thing the show has gotten right is the casting. Starting with the supporting characters of siblings, early love interest, to the parents, leads, and even the guest characters, all the actors are chosen well for their roles.Sudha Chandran, known for her vampish roles plays the mastermind disguised as matriarch with great elan.Beautiful as she is, she suits the regal role she’s called to play perfectly. She is ably supported by Manish Khanna as her husband – he uses his light eyes to sinister effect that is very appropriate to his alter-ego as one of the main villains. Adaa Khan, initially billed as a negative character later turned fiesty sidekick to Shivanya is a crowd-pleaser with her take-no-prisoners approach. And last but by no means the least, the leads, Shivanya and Ritik,played by Mouni Roy and Arjun Bijlani share a chemistry that could rival SRK-Kajol! I was familiar with the depth of Mouni’s acting – she emotes so beautifully, and carries herself so well that she makes every character her own.I had not seen Arjun act before this and have been impressed by his ability to inhabit the skin of Ritik Raheja so well.
The next thing that Naagin surprises with is character development. Minor characters like Ritik’s siblings are written as whole people. One sister is presented with a drinking problem, but thete is no judgement, and the family continues to love and support her. Tanvi, the early love interest, is a believable character, you feel for her loss of face, and root for her to find a partner.There are the obvious bad-guys – the five who killed Shivanya’s parents and upon whom she and Sesha (Adaa) swear revenge. While the first two villains have been depicted as sleazeballs, the main conspirators Ankit and,as it was recently revealed, Yamini (Ritik’s putative parents) – are written in many tones (shades? 🙂 of grey.Ritik seems genuinely fond of them, and they treat him with respect. That respect extends to Shivanya too – as the bahu of a wealthy family, she does fulfil a traditional role but Yamini has not, thus far, behaved like the typical saas. She teases Shivanya about her fondness for Ritik, and even apologizes over accusing her wrongly. Of Course, this might be a smokescreen for her true nature which we will see as the mystery is unveiled, but it is refreshing to see a normal adult relationship! The character of Sesha is another unexpected gift – Sesha is hot-headed, stubborn and brash, always rushing towards her goal of annilating the killers of Shivanya’s family, with little regard for anyone who gets in her way. But despite this trait, she is shown as being Shivanya’s ally, even if her help is sometimes clumsy, leaving Shivanya to clean up the resulting mess. And Saving the best for last – Ritik and Shivanya – ooh la la! Ritik Raheja is the ultimate modern hero – handsome and utterly smitten by his wife. Her every word is his command and he defends her against anyone who dares to say something against her. Having fallen so deeply in love with her, he woos her – so charmingly, anyone would be hard-pressed to resist! Poor Shivanya – as a Naagin whose only motive for marriage was to gain entry into the Raheja household for revenge, she has her hands full trying to determine the story behind her parents’ murder. Despite being brought up with the motive of revenge dinned into her, she is a fundamentally nice person who wants love and laughter in her life. She has no defense against Ritik, to no one’s surprise, but she cannot tell him she loves him -for their marriage, as it stands, is doomed. Shivanya’s sense of right and wrong is strong – she does want revenge for her parents but is not willing to kill anyone without proof of their involvement. She is the voice of sanity to Sesha’s full-tilt approach, and often saves the situation. She is also shown as having great powers that she is only learning about now, so there’s a magical coming of age as well.
The last reason Naagin is so engaging is, of course, the story. The writers have managed to make a trite revenge tale interesting by means of believable (within the context of this universe) twists to keep the audience involved and eager for more every week.
Avoiding the usual TV cliches of the other woman, and instead having two women working together to achieve a goal,and a saas-bahu who don’t snipe at each other verbally has added to the charm. Inadvertent humor by way of a menagerie of ichadhari animals and rather strange Vfx is a bonus.