‘Adipurush’ is the beginning of a journey to take Bharatiya stories global

 ‘Adipurush’ is the beginning of a journey to take Bharatiya stories global

Sandeep Krishnarao Patil

Hari Anant Hari Katha Ananta,
Kahahin Sunahin Bahuvidhi Sab Santa

Bharatiya Itihaas and Puranas, in their truest sense are a compendium of vast knowledge and encapsulate in itself unparalleled wisdom. They are sources of knowledge that have guided people since eternity in their voyage from the known to the unknown.

But foremost, they are an integral part of the deepest faith and highest reverence for the billions of people who abide by them in their daily lives. Thus, when there are attempts made to adopt the Itihaas on the big screen, the emotions are bound to be high.

This is more so when a movie is made on something as revered as Ramayan. There is a deep connection and great reverence with not just the tale of Ramayan but even the characters that are a part of it. Hence, when the teaser of Adipurush was released, there was much hue and cry all around.

The director, VFX designer, the actors and almost everyone faced flak. Some were genuine reactions and some were orchestrated. This brought forth a rousing debate between cinematic liberty and the sanctity of epics.

However, before we jump to conclusions, let’s understand the acceptability of various versions of Ramayan, the arguments from the audience’s perspective and the authenticity of boycott culture which has hit the Hindi film industry.

Ramayan is not just the greatest epic ever written but also our history and identity. However, this has never been an embargo in the way in which the story of Shri Ram and Mata Sita is told in different geographies.

The visualisation of characters has varied according to the versions adopted in different geographical locations. The visualisation of Ramayan characters in south-east Asian countries like Japan and Thailand varies immensely from the visualisation of characters in different parts of Bharat.

Moreover, different forms of the deities are also worshipped. Bhagwan Hanuman temples in different parts of Bharat have different figures. From the ‘lete hue Hanuman’ in Prayagraj to the different forms of Bhagwan Hanuman deities in Salasar and Mehandipur, the reverence for different forms of Bhagwan Hanuman temples is the same.

Also, different interpretations of Ramayan have been made, from Valmiki Ramayana to Ramcharitra Manas, from Kambh to every language of Bharat having its own version. Furthermore, Ramayan has been subject to multiple interpretations. For example, we have always known that Bajrang Bali could not decipher ‘Sanjeevani Booti’ on the Dronagiri mountain range but was it the fact?

We adore Hanuman Ji as Devta of buddhi (intelligence) and vidya (knowledge) then how can he fail to identify a herb? In the ‘Ramyug’ web series (The learned Narendra Kohli Ji was the consultant on it) we see that it was not just Laxman, but the entire Vanar Sena was unconscious and everyone needed the ‘Sanjeevani Booti’ and, therefore Hanuman Ji brought the whole mountain to serve all.

This interpretation, which is true, was never ever explained or shown to us. But we never hold the makers of earlier versions of Ramayan responsible for hurting Hindu sentiments or distorting the facts. We celebrate every version with the same bhakti and bhav. This is the beauty of Ramayan, which allows for multiple interpretations with one being more beautiful than the other.

Even after thousands of years epics such as Ramayan and Mahabharat are part of our daily lives and discourses, not just because of the characters and their appearances, but for their universality and Sanatan teachings and their eternal relevance (Chir Puratan & Nitya Nutan).

The epics have been an integral part of every Hindu’s life, guiding and advising at every moment of life. The life lessons coming from these two epics are the pivotal takeaways rather than the looks and appearance of the characters. The sooner we understand this, the better it is for us.

All versions and visualisations of Ramayan have found acceptance as long as the soul of Ramayan remains intact. Distortions in the soul are what creates issues. For example, Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, which was again an interpretation of Ramayan depicted the character of Sita falling in love with the character of Ravan. Such distorted interpretations are rejected outright.

Ramayan characters have evolved over the years. The visualisation of Ramayan’s character as put forth by Raja Ravi Varma has taken many forms since its inception. With Ramayan being a household tale, almost everyone in Bharat has a particular visualisation of the characters, their behaviour, their attire and the geography they live in.

Also, the previous versions of Ramayan by Ramanand Sagar and the Japanese animated version of Yugo Sako, Ram Mohan and Koichi Saski are very close to everyone’s heart for its depiction and have created a visual world of Ramayan. There has been a subtle modernisation of characters with each visual interpretation of Ramayan over time.

In fact, depictions of all epics have evolved over the years. TV series Mahabharat, which was made just a couple of years later than Ramayan by Ramananda Sagar, still had differences in which characters were portrayed and depicted.

This process of evolution has currently taken the form of Adipurush where the director is trying to take a leap for the global audience with the tools of modern filmmaking. It’s evident that he is attempting to create a superhero from the epic and aims to reach the GenZ and the millennials who look towards Hollywood for their idols and heroes.

The audience can give the filmmaker a chance and wait to see how the movie plays out on the big screen. Being closed to any particular variation of Ramayan is not part of our Sanskriti. It is true, however, that distortions are not welcome.

Ramayan is a story of our much-revered Prabhu Ram and even a slight diversion in its depiction is met with amplified resentment because of the honest faith and devotion which billions of people have towards Shri Ram. There are high hopes from anyone creating Ramayan and telling the story of Shri Ram and Mata Sita.

The anger of the audience regarding Adipurush is justified from the filmmaking point of view. The film’s teaser may have not lived up to the expectations of the people. But then every creative endeavour is subject to criticism and improvement.

The VFX of the movie tries to create a different world that didn’t sync well in the teaser. There has been harsh criticism of the depiction of Ravan as well. People were so outraged that social media was flooded with the ‘virtues’ of Ravan.

Even the indefensible found a defence in the form of an outraging Bharatiya audience. The scenes as well as the entire aura which the teaser might have aimed to create didn’t resonate with the audience. But should we boycott such a movie based on just the teaser?

Boycotting movies that depict our Sanskriti and heritage will be detrimental in the long run. The resentment around Adipurush is genuine, but the audience need to wait for the full trailer and the movie to understand the vision of the filmmaker.

Also, some of the criticism around the movie is highly uncalled for. Targeting the choice of actors and actresses to play the role of Shri Ram and Mata Sita is driven by agenda. Many are criticising just for the sake of it.

Some netizens started referring to Hanuman as Abdul because of his beard structure with no moustache. If we maintain our sanity and try to understand, we will realise that we have always seen, prayed and adored Bajrang Bali Ji without a moustache and with a beard only.

There was also a statement by a self-declared saviour of Hindu Dharma and Sanskriti that the character of Hanuman Ji in Adipurush did not conform to the characterisation as mentioned in Tulsidas Ji’s Hanuman Chalisa. The absurdity of this claim doesn’t have a peripheral boundary.

Firstly, Hanuman Chalisa as created by Tulsidas Ji is not the original characterisation of Hanuman Ji like in Valmiki’s Ramayan. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, Hanuman Ji is worshipped in various forms across the country which do not conform to Tulsidas Ji’s Hanuman Chalisa.

For example, the ‘Na Gadda Maruti’ temple situated in Sindhudurg district has a Hanuman deity without a ‘Gadda’. One should probably answer the question of whether anyone will stop worshipping the different forms of Hanuman Ji because it doesn’t conform to a particular text? It’s okay to have an opinion, but there needs to be a boundary to the absurdity of arguments.

Many critics compared Adipurush character depiction with the depiction of characters in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan. This is again a myopic approach as the character depiction of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan demonstrates only his vision.

As a matter of fact, as per Valmiki Ramayan, Ram and Laxman had grown a beard when they were in forest. (Yuddha Kanda 6.128)

Tatah shatrughnavachanannipunah shamashruvardhakah |
Sukhhastah Sushighrascha Raghavam Paryupasat ||

This was never depicted in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan. Thus, creative liberties have always been in play while portraying the epics. The eruption of controversies and disappointments around such a project was obvious, as whenever a new attempt is made around something as pious as Ramayan, it is bound to be subject to a high level of scrutiny. But what was obnoxious to see was the way some gangs and vested interest groups were attacking the very intent with which the film is made.

There was also a great deal of hue and cry around Ravan looking like a Mughal rather than a Shiva bhakt or a learned Brahmin. This debate is driven by ignorance. I go a step further and say that even if he looks so, there is nothing is wrong.

Ravan stands for everything wrong and so do the Mughals. So, if you are witnessing evil in Ravan’s appearance in Adipurush, then the makers are indeed successful in their motto.

No amount of words can epitomise the devilish nature of Ravan. He terrorised and killed sages, Devtas and Yakshas. He was an egregious being despite his vast knowledge. Several verses in the Yudh Kand and Uttar Kand mention it.

Ravan tried to have his ways with Tapasvini Vedvati when she was meditating in the Himalayas (17.31 Uttar Kand). He also raped his own would-be daughter-in-law, Rambha, affianced to be the wife of his nephew Nalakubara, son of Kubera.

Furious at this, Nalakubara pronounced this curse, “You, who have become blind with lust, shall not touch a woman who does not reciprocate your love. If you do so, your head will be split into seven pieces.” He even tried to humiliate Punjikadevi, the daughter of Brahma, who reiterated the curse of Nalakubara that he would die with all his ten heads broken if he touched an unwilling women, and that is the reason he never dared to touch Mata Sita.

However, some great Hindus try to defend Ravan saying his only mistake (they do not even call it sin) was the abduction of Mata Sita and even though he kidnapped her, he never touched her against her will. Nothing can be more absurd and obnoxious than this.

Moreover, his Shiva bhakti is blown out of proportion. He even tried to destroy Kailasha with Shiva seated on it. Such a vile character is today defended for the sake of opposing the cinema and bashing the teaser of the movie which I didn’t like. Such a defense of Ravan appears laughable on one hand and dangerous on the other.

Some more great deeds of Ravan were:

In Mahabharat (3.259.27), Ravan is described as Purushadak = eater of Humans.

Whenever Ravan saw any beautiful woman, he used to kill all her family members and abduct her. The women used to cry “Oh death, please embrace me. I cannot take it anymore.” – Valmiki Ramayan (critical edition 7.24)

The first Jauhar known in Indian literature was committed by Vedavati when she found no way out of rapist Ravan’s claws. In Valmiki Ramayan (critical edition 7.17), Ravan warned Sita: “Oh Sita, if you do not accept me as your husband within 2 months, I will kill you and eat you for my breakfast”. (Valmiki Ramayan 5.22)

Yes, Ravan was a ritualistic Ahitagni Brahman and a scholar of the Vedas, but that cannot justify his sins and barbanism.

The outrage around Adipurush is unwarranted, unwanted and unnecessary. We need to clearly think whether such unnecessary criticism is driven by an agenda managed by people who don’t want Hindi cinema to get over the Marxist hangover and start telling the tales of Bharat.

The Hindi cinema industry is still evolving and has just restarted telling Bhartiya stories from its own perspective. We need to be careful. If a colossal effort such as Adipurush is not given a preliminary viewing, then it will wither away the confidence of many filmmakers who are looking to make movies about our itihaas, traditions and heritage.

We might not see a resurgence and renaissance in the Hindi film industry which we so dearly long for. We can reject Adipurush if we don’t like it after watching it – word of mouth will anyway be responsible for deciding the fate of the movie.

However, boycotting the movie would be a deadly blow to the morale of many right-thinking filmmakers. If filmmakers are not supported and such big ventures are allowed to fail without giving them a proper viewing, then no filmmaker will dare to tell our stories to the world through a big budget venture.

Our focus should be on weeding out the evils of the industry rather than destroying the industry altogether. Post Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, treatment of Hindi cinema by some vested interest groups is unhealthy and disappointing. They are on a mission to kill cinema itself and not the bad part of it. Such an approach should be shunned.

We need to be patient with a movie like Adipurush and wait for its release. Impatiently jumping the gun will serve no purpose. Movies such as Adipurush are the arambh of taking Bharatiya stories to the globe. It deserves all our attention, support, respect and appreciation.



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