Last we saw king Bharat establish a new trend of choosing the ruler by merit and not by right of birth. Many years have passed since then and now we look at another king of Hastinapur, Shantanu.
The wedding of Shantanu
To ek vachan dijiye.
Aaj se mere saare vachan tumhare
Shantanu, who is out to hunt deer (because that’s what kings do in their free time) spots a beautiful lady come out of a river. Come out as in green-screen-walk-out-of-a-river come out, but judging by the time this series was produced in, the effects are top notch. The lady that he meets, is Ganga. (as in the river Ganga).
Personally, for me, the only redeeming quality about Shantanu is his pickup lines. He flirts very well. He is a smooth talker. A silver tongued snake, if you will. He also falls in love very easily, as you will see in upcoming episodes. I am still not sure if I am supposed to sympathize with his plight, or have disgust for his weak will. Moving on, he tells Ganga that only she can save his kingdom. Ganga, being the mysterious lady she is, tells him that she will have a talk about this tomorrow.
Sure enough, the next day our king is present on the banks of Ganga, waiting for her and sure enough Shantanu brings up marraige. Ganga though has a condition, that he should never question her or her actions, failing which she will leave him. (big red flag)
Halfway through this episode, you will see why Shantanu’s words are his redeeming quality, and his love for women his destruction. We hear his subjects talk about how the king is confined to his chambers and his new queen, and how he doesn’t care about his kingdom anymore. A counterpoint also exists, that if a king is supposed to care about his subjects, then it is also the duty of the subjects to care about the happiness of their king. Letting the king enjoy his newfound love should be the duty of the kingdom as well. I don’t know what to make of this, it is up to interpretation.
Now comes the part which can be called the real starting point of this story. Ganga and Shantanu have their first son, and Ganga does something which no mother can even think of. She takes the child, and drowns it in the river. You can see the pain in Shantanu’s eyes, and the coldness of Ganga’s heart sends chills down your spine as well. What mother would do that? What reason could she possibly have? We cannot know, and neither can Shantanu because of the promise he gave her. If he asks these questions, she will leave. So one after another we see Ganga drown every child she has, and one after another we see Shantanu with a rage within but no words to speak. He is a husk of himself. His subjects wonder why he doesn’t stop her, unaware of his promise.
Who is Shantanu supposed to be at this point? The husband Shantanu, with feelings for Ganga and a promise to keep? Or King Shantanu, with a duty to his kingdom of saving his children and possible future heir? Or the father Shantanu, who up until this point has done nothing but cry in agony as his children died without knowing the world as it exists? These questions come up later in Shantanu’s life as well, where he is being pulled into multiple roles, unable to choose which life to live.
How long can he hold true to his word? five of his children are dead on arrival. Some of the dialogue in this episode is so fantastic, it is a stark contrast to some dumb lines you will hear in the future. Discussing every line in this episode will take a seperate article, so I won’t go into that, but I hope you will give it a good listen.
Thus ends episode 1, and this review. Shantanu’s mouth is sewn shut by his promise, his eyes teary, his mind in shambles. Ganga is as heartless as we saw her, and now we wait and see if Shantanu stands up to her.
Some moving lines from this episode
Maharaj, I came to mourn the death of the fourth child.
You mistake a murder for death, mahamantri.
But if it is murder, then why haven’t you punished the killer?