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Home India Raavan 'Islamised'? Why Adipurush is Getting Hate for 'Incorrect' Ramayana Portrayal

Raavan ‘Islamised’? Why Adipurush is Getting Hate for ‘Incorrect’ Ramayana Portrayal

The head priest of Ram temple in Ayodhya has demanded an immediate ban on Bollywood movie ‘Adipurush’, alleging that it has wrongly portrayed Lord Ram, Hanuman and Ravana. A 1.46-minute teaser of the movie, based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, was launched in a grand ceremony in Ayodhya. However, it has been receiving blowback since then for a number of ‘issues’.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad echoed Ayodhya priest priest Satyendra Das’s objections, and criticised the portrayal of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Ravana in the teaser of the film, claiming that it “ridiculed Hindu society”.

As the controversy around the film heats up, News18 explains the various objections around the film, and other portrayals of Ramayana:

Another Big Budget Film Draws from Hindu Mythology

Adipurush is the latest big-budget Indian film to draw on Hindu mythology and culture, following in the footsteps of SS Rajamouli’s RRR and Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra. Director Om Raut, who directed Adipurush has called it a ‘passion project’ for the entire crew, according to a report by Indian Express.

Raut had earlier directed , according to director Om Raut, who previously directed Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, starring Ajay Devgn. “Adipurush is not just a film, it’s a symbol of devotion. Adipurush is a mission, a passion for all of us,” he said. The grand launch event took place at Ram ki Paidi in Ayodhya, on the banks of the Sarayu River, and featured the unveiling of a 50-foot poster of the film that emerged from water. Sunny Singh, who plays Lakshman in Adipurush, and Saif Ali Khan were both absent from the premiere.

Bollywood has been seeing an uptick in films based on Hindu mythology, which have received mixed reviews and reception. The recently-released Brahmastra, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Mouny Roy, was superhero drama about a simpleton who has a special relationship with fire. The films takes inspiration from Hindu mythology, with the plot following Brahmstra, a supernatural weapon said to be capable of destroying the universe.

Other upcoming films on Hindu themes include Akshay Kumar’s ‘Ram Setu’. Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Sita’ is also set to present a portrayal of the centric female character of Lord Ram’s wife Goddess Sita from Ramayana. However, with recent ‘anti-Bollywood’ sentiments expressed on social media sites, the films’ reception has been ‘mixed’.

What Criticism Has Adipurush Received?

The film has received criticism from right-wing and Hindu leaders, online and otherwise.

In his criticism of the film, Ajay Sharma, Prachar Pramukh of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Sambhal unit, told reporters that the way in which Lord Ram, Ravana and Lakshman had been portrayed in ‘Adipurush’ was a mockery of Hinduism.

“The values of Hindu society have been ridiculed. Hindu society will not tolerate this,” he said.

Criticism Over Portrayal of Raavan, Hanuman

Sharma said the way Ravana had been depicted was not in line with the Ramayana and related religious scriptures.

The multilingual period saga sees Saif Ali Khan play the role of a 10-headed demon king called Lankesh. With a beard, fierce eyes and a buzz cut, this Lankesh seems barbarism personified and many called out the filmmakers for the apparent Islamisation of Ravana. The portrayal of Hanuman, with a beard, without a moustache and dressed in leather, also attracted criticism.

Politicians Join Slam

The film was also criticised by political leaders. Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak said the film attacked the sentiments of Hindus, while Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra warned that legal action would be taken if scenes showing Hindu religious figures in the “wrong” way were not removed.

BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh has said it appears that such controversies are being created deliberately. “Making a film is not a crime. They should be made but creating deliberate controversies to hog limelight is inappropriate,” he said.

UP Deputy CM KP Maurya, said he had not personally seen the movie but asked why ‘such things were done which hurt anyone’s sentiments’. “If feelings have been hurt, then it should be investigated and corrected,” he said.

The reactions over the film and others with similar themes have initiated debates on ‘cancel culture’, as well. Film Critic, Joginder Tuteja recently told CNN-News18 that a “filmmaker has a right to go ahead and put it across in a way as long as it is sensible, it is not offensive.”

Ramayana’s Earlier Depictions

While the epic has inspired many movies, shows, two that saw love from the audiences was the 1987 TV series Ramayana and the 1993 ‘anime’ film on the Hindu epic. The serial’s remarkable success lends clue to why the Ramayana theme is popular among filmmakers.

The show first aired on DD National between 1987 and 1988, and was narrated by Ashok Kumar and directed by Ramanand Sagar.

The portrayals were loved by the Indian audiences (Credit: Ramanand Sagar Productions)

The show became the most watched television series in the world, with an 82 percent viewership. The repeat telecast aired at various times on 20 different channels in 17 countries across all five continents. The series’ success was well documented by the media. According to the BBC, over 650 million people watched the serial.

When the series aired every Sunday morning, “streets would be deserted, shops would be closed, and people would bathe and garland their TV sets before the serial began,” according to the BBC. As Arvind Rajagopal, professor of media studies at NYU and author of the book Politics After Television told the publication that public life came to a halt in cities across northern India. “Trains would stop at stations, buses would stop, and passengers would disembark to find a roadside spot with a TV – the crowds were so dense that people couldn’t see or hear the TV, but the point was to be present, to be there.”

Streets would be deserted when the show aired (Credit: Ramanand Sagar Productions)

There is a marked difference in the portrayals of characters in this Ramayana and Adipurush – the series stuck to a conventional image of the characters, including portraying Raavana, the Bollywood film’s characterization is being compared to the Marvel universe and other Hollywood ‘superhero films’.

While the portrayals of Raavana and Hanuman in Adipurush are being criticised, Ramayana’s (1987) portrayals were appreciated by public. (Credit: Ramanand Sagar Productions)

Another based on the loved epic was the 1993 anime film ‘Ramayana The Legend of Prince Ram’ which found a mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio programme ‘Mann ki Baat’.

A still from the 1993 film, depicting Lord Ram and Sita’s marriage procession. (Image: https://ramayana-anime.net/)

Yugo Sako produced and directed the 1993 anime film based on the Hindu epic Ramayana, which was co-produced by Japan and India. It captivated audiences with its faithful adaptation and svelte, godly depictions of Hindu deities.

Japanese producer and director Yugo Sako had detailed his immense preparation before making the Ramayana, “Sako spent months researching the narrative and checking out clothes and architectural aspects, meeting with academics, archaeologists, and historians. He wanted to be extra careful as a foreigner to keep loyal to the epic,” reports said.

Ravana depicted in the film. (Image: https://ramayana-anime.net/)

Modi recently announced that the film is now being re-mastered in 4k resolution after 30 years. “This project is likely to be completed soon,” Modi had said.

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