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`Shaktimaan' turns `Aaryamaan'...

Mukesh Khanna may have got more than his 15 minutes of fame with `Mahabharat' and `Shaktimaan'. But there is more to come from this talented artiste. He is poised to scale stratospheric heights with `Aaryamaan' on Doordarshan. MADHUR TANKHA writes...

THINK OF Mukesh Khanna and you think of a hero? Right? Wrong. Think of Mukesh Khanna and you think of `Shaktimaan'. Right? Well, yes. Now think of the six-footer again. You think of some big, bad villain? No. He has said good-bye to all that. Now he will be on the small screen in a new avatar, in a new serial on the same old channel - `Aaryamaan' on Doordarshan. He was in Delhi this past week to talk of his likes, dislikes, his assets and more, all along giving the impression of being a man who knows what he is doing. An encounter with Mukesh Khanna leaves you in no doubt about his ability to play the big man of the small screen. Not quite an Amitabh Bachchan but a hero in his own right, his own way.

Khanna is bored playing paterfamilias to stars older than him on the marquee and has no illusions as to where he stands. He knows that he is synonymous with Bheesmpitamah after he played the epoch-making character in B.R.Chopra's TV serial, `Mahabharat'. `Shaktimaan' gave him a new lease of life.

Sitting at Hotel Taj Mansingh, Khanna gives vent to his feelings that Bollywood is only offering villain roles. In Delhi to promote his latest serial -- "Aaryaman-Brahmaand ka Yoddha" every Sunday July 21 - he reveals that its English translation means `Warrior of Universe' and will be on the lines of "Star Wars", so high-tech accoutrement and gadgetry have been used. He is not only the protagonist but also producer of this serial.

"There are three parts of my innings in Bollywood. I had acted in two films before `Mahabharat' happened. In the `80s about five films were released. I've played father to Shah Rukh in `Guddu' and Feroz Khan in `Yalgaar' but these repetitive roles don't inspire me". He recounts how the audience lapped up his performance as ACP Ashwini Kumar in "Yalgaar", even when was playing father to Feroz Khan, whose bald-pate was quite evident. He quips, "I was to look like a 55-year-old and Feroz bhai looked exactly of the same age."

Khanna continues, "In my third innings I played the role of Chaudhary Sarang in `Saugandh', who believes a girl can venture out of the house only when she passes away. Then there was Anil Sharma's `Tehelka' with Dharmendra."

On Aaryamaan, Khanna says, "In this serial we couldn't shoot in the Taj as we required imaginary scenery. We had to hire an art director and high-tech equipment was used. For galaxy we had green curtains in the background. I've got a lot from TV so I'm giving something back. We've created a space fantasy. The characters have Indian values. I've roped in Kiran Kumar, who is playing my guru."

His parting shot is: "If Kaun Banega Crorepati has helped Star Plus recover from being a losing proposition then why cannot Aaryamaan bring revenues for DD". The interview over, a channel team saunters in and places a seven-feet long studio light which hurtles down and narrowly misses a crew member as Khanna hurriedly paces in and catches hold of the light. The guy thanks Khanna, who gives a broad grin as he demonstrates that he can always do a shade better than a hero.

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