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Hatim, a low-budget epic about an Arabian prince, gripped Indian viewers in the early 2000s

The series was only on air for a year, but stood out from saas-bahu staples with its unapologetic fantasy storytelling and novel CGI to become cult classic

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New Delhi: If you grew up in India during the late 90s or 2000s, you surely remember the epic adventure TV series Hatim, which used to air on Star Plus. Thousands of households across the country were glued to their screens every weekend to watch this fantasy drama.

The Hatim al-Tai saga, based on the legend of a sixth-century Arabian prince, has been adapted for TV and the big screen multiple times. But something about this rendition of the tale clicked.   

“I still remember watching it every weekend with my grandpa. We used to get super excited when an episode started. It is one of my fondest memories of him”, said Neelaksh Miglani, a 23-year old artist and content moderator at business services firm Concentrix India. 

The storyline of the saga, directed by Amrit and Shakti Sagar, revolves around the prince of Yemen, Hatim, played by then popular actor Rahil Azam

The hero embarks on the prototypical mission to save the love of his life and in doing so, saves the world. Hatim must travel to dangerous lands, fight fiends, and find answers to the seven most important questions to set the world free from the antagonist, Dajjal.  


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What made it special?  

The show aired at a time when high-speed internet wasn’t around and the possibilities offered by CGI were still unknown to the eyes of the Indian audiences. Television was the only source of entertainment, and for the most part was dominated by the saas-bahu concept, which took on like wildfire. 

A heavy dose of CGI complemented the storytelling style. While this might appear odd today, for the people viewing it during the early 2000s, it was something they’d never seen before on television. It was fun, absorbing and delighted the eye as no show ever had. 

Hatim was also wildly different from mundane daily soaps and offered an escape into the realm of fantasy fiction. In just 47 episodes, the show was able to exceed viewers’ expectations and enshrine itself as a favourite.     

The actors complemented the storytelling and almost created an aura of believability despite the ramshackle CGI. 

Rahil Azam suited the character of Hatim to perfection, and came across as a prince dedicated to the cause of the people. The role won him much popularity, and Azam became a familiar face in almost all households with cable television sets. 

The character of Hobo the elf, played by Kiku Sharda, a cowardly yet funny sidekick to Hatim, brought much-needed comic relief to the show. Children began dressing up like the duo in fancy dress competitions and school plays, and it really became a buddy cop show — just one with magic and mysticism instead of cops. 

The score 

The score encapsulated the show’s theme and delivered a sense of adventure and mystical drama to the viewership. 

 

In addition, a great deal of thought went into directing the music and sounds. For instance, every action had a particular and separate score to it. Be it our hero chasing someone, Hobo being scared by a bee, or villain Dajjal concocting one of his evil plans. Well-thought-out sound effects were applied to fit the tone of direction, becoming one of the show’s most widely recognised features.    


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Ratings

The show brought in exceptional numbers at the time, knocking up healthy TRPs at every turn. Hatim is also among the most highly rated Indian shows on IMDB with a score of 8.6. 

Its success became a landmark in the Indian television industry. Even now, there are posts and petitions on social media seeking to make the show available on OTT platforms.  

Similarity with shows from the West  

Many viewers drew parallels between this low-budget venture and several epic fantasy productions made in the West on a much grander scale with huge budgets, such as Harry Potter’s quest to destroy all the seven horcruxes, or even the storytelling and cinematography of The Lord of the Rings

Following its success, the makers climbed onto the bandwagon and created a number of fantasy adventures, but none could come close to Hatim. Not only was it a financial blockbuster success, but the currency of appreciation it garnered from the audiences was immeasurable. 

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)


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