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The 1962 classic, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, has been enshrined in public memory, thanks to the creative acmes attained by producer Guru Dutt, director Abrar Alvi and by actress Meena Kumari in a career-defining performance.

When a television serial takes an established silver screen name like Raveena Tandon and attempts to remake such a classic film, itself based on a work of literature, it becomes the matter of much scrutiny and evaluation. Comparisons are inevitable, especially in showbiz.

rediff.com assesses the impact of the maiden episode of the television serial, Sahib Biwi Ghulam.

The Visual Style: Opulent Enough?

The subject of Bimal Mitra's novel, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, is too fascinating and emotion-soaked for any interpreter to easily fritter away -– only a total novice could botch it up beyond redemption. Thankfully, we are spared that in both the big and small screen versions.

Photos: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/Getty Images

  The pain felt by the rich but neglected-by-her-husband Chhoti Bahu and by her faithful factotum Bhootnath who tries to make her life easier remains perenially involving.

But Guru Dutt let the emotional excesses of his complex characters be played out against an intrepidly stylised, black and white look. This instantly evoked the correct atmospheric look for this period film set in the early years of the last century. The film is set in a disintegrating haveli lit by a charming chiaroscuro of light and shadow. Mirroring the tortuous lives of its inhabitants, the haveli had unending passages and secret rooms, and even a horse-driven buggy waiting on call in the porch.

The serial fails to match the exterior opulence of Dutt’s film, brick for brick. But one must cede that there is a definite display of visual grandeur not normally associated with the small screen. Aided by colour, Raveena looks resplendent in a Bengali sari while Ayub sports rich shawls and expensive ittar. Whether it is the lane leading up to a kotha or the exterior of the haveli, the sets reek of money well spent.

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