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Performances: Does Raveena Match Up To Meena Kumari?

Raveena is no bimbette. Her trysts with art cinema have time and again proved that she is an actress with an insatiable appetite. But she has not acquired Meena Kumariís cult status. Yet. Also, Meena Kumari outdid not only others but even herself in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. Her angst was palpable, her tremulous voice made you sob for, and with, her.

She was ably abetted by Abrar Alvi, who wrote some soul-stirring dialogue. It is too early to write off the writer

  of the television version of Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. Itís just the first episode, but one hasnít heard any lines that evoke superlatives, so far.

Ayub Khan steps rather uncomfortably into the debauched husbandís mojris. In the film, his character was played by Rahman, who wore his aristocratic arrogance like second skin. Ayub wears it like a borrowed sherwani.

Interestingly, Joy Sengupta, who plays Bhootnath is believable. He may not have the polished technique of a Guru Dutt in the original, but being younger than the legend was when he played the role, he is endearingly naÔve and natural. He is capable of giving a interpretation to Bhootnath that is different from the one Dutt lent it, which would keep you interested to see what he can do with it.

Final verdict: Is it worth watching?

To the small screen Sahib Biwi's advantage is the fact that it has a more relaxed pace than its frenzied contemporaries. Also a plus is the music score that evokes memories of another era and creating and the serials willingness to explore elements untapped by the film (Chhoti Bahu sending prasad for the courtesan her husband visits frequently was an innovative touch in the serial). Capitalising on these elements besides its star value would add to the serialís appeal.

Spare the serial the comparisons with the classic and enjoy it. It is a notch above most of the fare being dished out week after week. In the final analysis, the serial is like a whiff of ittar in an era of mass produced soaps and perfumes.

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