On Dr Raza's 25th death anniversary today (15 March), let's revisit how he bagged BR Chopra's classic Mahabharat serial and faced consequences for writing a 'Hindu' epic despite being a Muslim.
How uttering ‘Main samay hoon...’ landed Dr Rahi Masoom Raza his most celebrated work
Mumbai - 15 Mar 2017 12:16 IST
Updated : 15:18 IST
The year is 1988. The day is Sunday. Roads are deserted as the audio monologue ‘Main samay hoon...’ starts playing on the only television channel in the country. This was how every episode of BR Chopra’s mega television serial Mahabharat commenced. The serial bound the nation to TV sets across the lines of religion, caste, language, class and whatnot.
It was the aforementioned monologue that hooked the audience right from the start. Interestingly, ‘Main samay hoon...’ were also the words that got Dr Rahi Masoom Raza on board for the project.
On the author, poet, script and dialogue writer’s 25th death anniversary, let’s revisit how he landed his most celebrated work.
In The Making Of The Mahabharat, Chopra, the co-director, revealed that they didn’t have Dr Raza in mind for the role. “Dr Rahi was not that related to Mahabharata then. In fact, nobody was at the time. We were wondering whom we should get on board as the writer. I hadn’t thought of Dr Rahi then. He came one day and said that he would want us to listen to something. We were floored right when he said the first few words, ‘Main samay hoon...’ We were so impressed with that line. It was so beautifully written,” he said.
In the same making, Dr Raza has mentioned about his biggest challenge. “It was not at all decided that I would write the serial. The narrator of the original Mahabharata is a rishi (Ved Vyas). Much before that, it was Shree Ganesh. I agreed to write it because I knew I would be able to make it contemporary and join India’s past with the present. This was the only challenge. If we wouldn’t have been able to make the audience of today relate to it, there wasn’t any point making it,” said Dr Raza.
The thought of hiring a Muslim to write, what is considered a 'Hindu' epic, did cross Chopra’s mind. “To give the responsibility of writing a Hindu story to a Muslim was difficult. It was difficult to even consider. Although we won’t believe it’s a Hindu story, people do think that way. You can’t help it. But he had written it so well that we got him on board,” added Chopra.
But this didn’t go down well with fringe right-wing groups. Dr Raza faced threats for writing a ‘Hindu’ epic despite being a Muslim. In a 1990 interview, the writer expressed how hurt he was and how the matter was solved. “I’m hurt and amazed at the furore created about a Muslim writing the script. Am I not an Indian? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad did write a letter, to which I replied. They later sent an apology. The threats don’t worry me,” he said.
Dr Raza’s high moral values are also seen during an incident with his son, Nadeem Khan, who is a director and cinematographer. Talking to the Film Writer’s Association, Khan said, “After Mahabharat, I once suggested Rahi sahab to start asking for a bigger amount from producers. I was sure no one would refuse to pay him what he demanded.”
But his father’s reply stunned him. “I have a roof over my head. I have a house which never closes its front doors. Every day 10-15 people come and have lunch and dinner at the dastarkhaan (dining spread). I have so much wealth given by Allah, what more do I need?” he had said.
Watch the entire making of BR Chopra's Mahabharat: