Much hyped. Eagerly awaited. Mani Ratnam's magnum opus made in both in Hindi and Tamil hit the screens this last Friday. I watched it in Hindi.

Raavan is depicted by Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) an outlaw who kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), wife of the Superintendent of Police Dev Pratap Sharma (Chiyaan Vikram) for revenge. Supported by the locals, living in the dense jungles Beera and his crew of men carry out daring raids on the police.

Dev is obsessed with capturing Beera and rescuing his wife. Mani Ratnam brings a tale which has many similarities to the Ramayana, be it the changing moods of Beera depicting the 10 headed Raavana. This made me think whether the 10 heads of Raavana depicted in mythology were nothing but representations of his 10 different personalities ? In the movie though Beera comes across as a moody and crazy outlaw. The 10 moods or personalities do not come out strongly. Dev as Rama is shown not as a principled good man, although his wife claims him to be but a result oriented police officer.

While there are a lot of incidents and circumstances symbolically similar to the Ramayana, the essence of Good vs Evil is lost in the spectacular cinematography and the contrived acting of Abhishek Bachchan. Definitely not his best performance till date. Aishwarya looks good and tries to emote through her eyes as much as possible, fairly succeeding. Thanks to Mani Ratnam and Santosh Sivan (Cinematographer) she appears in much better light as an actress than I would imagine she really is. Vikram as Dev is perennially angry and I would guess he has done much better in the Tamil version of the movie where he plays the Beera character. He has great screen presence. The music of A R Rahman gains a lot more value once you have seen the movie. The songs Behne de.., Beeraaa.. and Ranjha Ranjha really stand out.

The representation of incidents from the Ramyana be it the tale of revenge, Raavana kidnapping Sita, Rama gathering an army to rescue Sita or Raavana's obsession with Sita etc may remind you of the Ramayana but the core essence goes missing and the enigmatic Raavana is reduced to a caricature of a man who makes strange faces and is grimacing for no reasons. There are various references to what one would perceive as the naxalite movement etc. I had a feeling this movie would be far better in its Tamil version.

Is it worth watching ? yes, for the in-film music, the cinematography.


Roshmi Sinha June 21, 2010 at 1:45 AM  

Well… Ramayana is certainly not fiction. There are innumerable evidences strewn all around…

But… several versions of the Ramayana exist. ‘Valmiki Ramayana’, ‘Krittibashi Ramayana’, Kalidas’ ‘Raghuvansham’ and so on and so forth. Now I hear one of the top politicians and so-called dalit leader Veerappa Moily is coming out with “his version”…

Plus… our understanding/interpretation of our epics… is not complete. And we try to make “modern versions” out of them!

What is described as “vannar” in the Ramayana is interpreted as “monkey”. This is incorrect. “Van” means “forest” and “nar” refers to “human”. Therefore… “vannar” is “forest dwelling human” or “human with ape nature”.

Similarly, “Jambaban/Jambuban” is depicted as a bear. This again is wrong. In ancient times… Bharatvarsha was referred to as “Jambu dweepa”… named after a type of fruit… found in abundance here. So, Jambaban was someone belonging to Jambudweepa… an ancient person perhaps.

Also… Sita is thought to be the daughter of Mandodari (Raavan’s main Queen) in a story reminiscent of Karna and Kunti. They are said to have looked so alike… that even Hanuman was confused!

So, we are yet to understand... the motive(s) behind Raavan's action... i.e., the kidnapping of Sita.

Also... Raavan did not have 10 heads per se. He is believed to have had 10 kingdoms... each of which was represented by a different crown. Therefore, his kingdom could not have been restricted to the area covering modern-day Sri Lanka alone.

Also he was a great scholar... and was well versed in all the 4 Vedas and the 6 Upanishads. Therefore, he was considered to be the equivalent of 10 scholars. Hence he was called "Dasananan"... meaning "one with 10 heads".

"Raavan" means "he of the terrifying roar".

Raavan’s character had a lot of depth. He was not one-dimensional. He is said to have had many shades – a master of the shastras, vedas and upanishads; a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva; a great chanter of the Sama Veda; an excellent musician who could also play the 'Veena' very well; a valiant conqueror who took Lanka from (his step-brother) Kubera; a demon who brought Lord Brahma to his knees; a beast who aggressively pursued many women from Vedavathi to Rambha... many forcefully.

Infact, Vedavathi is said to have been reborn as Sita... to take her revenge. While Rambha was betrothed to his step-brother Kubera's son. Yet this did not stop Raavan from taking her by force. Her pleadings that she was like a daughter to him... fell on deaf years.

Raavan was cursed and could not touch Sita. He was cursed by Kubera's son... to whom Rambha was betrothed...(after Raavan ravished her). Some suggest... Mandodari protected Sita.

Yet after Ram defeated and killed him... he did not show disdain or insult Raavan. He accepted him as a great King... one with several qualities. Raavan belonged to the Sun's lineage from his father's side. Even Lord Ram was a Suryavanshi Kshatriya. Sri Ram performed a penance/puja after defeating and killing Raavan.

Most of us have to depend on so-called ‘scholars’, ‘translators’ and ‘experts’ to understand our epics… since we are not familiar with the sanskrit language. There lies the crux.

Now… “Purush” refers to a “man”. But “Purush” actually meant the “Supreme Being” of which/whom our souls were/are a part of…

You can see how “changes” have happened…

Ved June 22, 2010 at 12:12 AM  

Wow roshmi ! awesome stuff

Roshmi Sinha September 3, 2010 at 3:16 AM  

Knock! Knock!

... Helloooooooooooo!!! Anybody there... ??!!!

.... E-C-H-O....

.... Someone seems to be hibernating ;)

Ved September 11, 2010 at 6:42 AM  

yes Roshmi. one of my personal failures- not being able to keep up the blogging. i have another blog too at www.mattersmind.com

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