After the teaser of the Hindu mythological movie ‘Adipurush’, directed by Om Raut, was released on October 2, there has been a spate of questions, threats and insinuations over the portrayal of Lord Ram, Lakshman, demon Ravana and Lord Hanuman in the film. Netizens have been trolling the director and producers of the movie on social media.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra asked the director and producer to remove misapprehensions from the mind of people and make necessary changes, or otherwise be prepared to face action. He warned the producers of legal action if “the objectionable scenes, especially those showing Lord Hanuman in leather straps, were not removed”.
Maharashtra BJP leader Ram Kadam threatened that his supporters would not allow the movie to be shown in Mumbai theatres. A local Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader from Sambhal, Meerut warned that the movie would not be allowed to be screened in theatres as it has “ridiculed Hindu society”.
The funniest part of this controversy is that nobody has watched the movie in its entirety, nor its rushes. The teaser’s duration is less than 100 seconds, but more than 200 questions have already been raised. Some have questioned why Hanuman has been shown wearing a leather dress, some asked why Sita was shown wearing ornaments while in exile, some others have questioned why Ravana, who was a Brahmin and a scholar of Vedas, was shown like the mediaeval Muslim emperor Allaudin Khalji.
Some have also questioned why Hanuman was shown with beard minus the moustache. Some said, Ravana’s famous Lanka was made of gold, but in the movie it was shown as a haunted place. A few also asked why Lord Ram, who was always shown as calm, was portrayed as an angry hero in the movie. There were numerous other questions.
The brief movie teaser has already garned more than 8 crore views on YouTube, and it was trending as No. 1 for four days on that social media platform.
Since most of the questions were being raised on social media, I invited the movie director Om Raut and the dialogue writer Manoj Muntashir to India TV studio to reply to all these queries. One should keep the fact in mind that it is only a brief teaser and the movie is yet to be completed.
You will be surprised to know that more questions have been raised about the portrayal of demon king Ravana compared to questions raised about Lord Ram.
Questions were asked why Ravana was shown without his golden crown and ornaments. Actor Saif Ali Khan has done Ravan’s character, but most of the questions have been raised about the looks of the character. Some said, Saif’s look does not resemble Ravana’s even by an inch. Some others said, Saif’s dress and his hairstyle do not match Ravana’s from any angle. Rather he looks more like Alauddin Khalji, they said. People have also pointed out that Ravana used to travel in his Pushpak aircraft, but in the movie, he has been shown riding a horrible, giant bat-like flying creature.
Manoj Muntashir pointed out that most of the cine-goers are making the mistake of viewing a teaser as a full movie, and are also making the error of comparing a new-age movie with a story of a bygone age. “In the movie, we have tried to mould Ravana’s character to show how today’s Ravan should have looked”, he said.
Many cine-goers have pointed out that Ravana, though a demon, was a great scholar who studied the four Vedas and six Shastras, and he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Ravana was the creator of ‘Shiva tandava Stotram’. How can such a strong king and scholar of Vedas be portrayed like a normal villain, cine-goers have asked. Manoj Muntashir said, “There can be different opinions about the looks, but Ravana was a demon, no doubt. It will not be fair to say that Ravana was a good soul.”
Questions have been raised about Lord Ram’s looks. In the Ramayana, Lord Ram has been portrayed as calm and polite, but in the movie, Lord Ram appears to be angry and violent. Superstar Prabhash, of ‘Bahubali’ fame, is playing the role of Lord Ram.
Manoj Muntashir said, “it is true that Lord Ram’s persona in Ramayana was calm and controlled, but we should not forget that he was a great warrior, who slayed demons. Lord Ram too once got angry when despite several days of penance (tapasya), the sea god did not part to give way to his army to invade Lanka. Ram had then threatened to shoot the agni-vaan(flame of fire) to dry up the sea.”
On the question of portrayal of Lord Hanuman with beard, minus moustache (a normal look of Muslims) and wearing a leather jacket in place of ‘angavastram’, the movie director Om Raut replied that “it is not a leather dress. None of the characters in my movie has worn a leather dress. All the dresses are made of rexine.”
One more objection that has been raised about ‘Adipurush’ is that the storyline is from Ramayana, but the looks of characters appear as if they belong to a Hollywood movie, or from any web series like ‘Game of Thrones’.
Director Om Raut agreed that while making the movie he had Hollywood films in his mind. “In this new age, if we have to take Ramayana as a storyline, the movie’s language, visualization and presentation should be in such a manner, that it should be liked by today’s young generation. Today’s youths prefer Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings type movies, that is why special visual effects were given in Adipurush”, Raut said.
Already, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij has commented that “nobody can be allowed to portray Lord Ram as Harry Potter. Lord Ram is the venerable god for millions of Hindus”.
Dialogue writer Manoj Muntashir said, “I am myself a Sanatani, a Brahmin. Every person who worked in Adipurush worked with full devotion. Each one of us want that the fame of Lord Ram should spread worldwide. Nobody is greater than Lord Ram.”
Director Om Raut, too, said, “I can never think of tampering with Ramayana or with the portrayal of Lord Ram. I want today’s young generation to learn lessons from Ram’s life. In this movie, we have kept the choice of today’s generation in mind, but the ‘soul of Ramayana’ is present in the movie. Only some changes have been made in the body.”
But sadhus and Hindu religious leaders do not agree. Vishwa Hindu Parishad spokesperson Vinod Bansal said, “it’s the mistake of the film producer and director. People will naturally make their mind after seeing the teaser. Anybody watching the teaser will say Ravana has been portrayed not as a devotee of Shiva but as a Muslim ruler.”
Several other sadhus also said, “Ramayana TV serial was based on Valmiki Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas. The movie that is being made in the name of the new generation’s choice is unacceptable because coming generations will get confused about Lord Ram and Ravana, after watching this movie.”
After listening to arguments from both sides, I have only two questions: One, are the director and scriptwriter of this movie anti-Hindu? Two, do they belong to that group which wants to make fun of Hinduism? The answers to both these questions are ‘No’.
I checked the backgrounds of both Om Raut and Manoj Muntashir. Both are devotees of Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman. Their thoughts are closer to the ideology of RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The natural corollary arises: Was this a publicity stunt by creating controversy? The answer is again: No.
When I met both the director and producer of this movie, they looked hurt and worried. The question is, why so much opposition without watching the movie in full? The answer lies with social media. Any negative portrayal on social media soon becomes viral, and becomes the talk of the town. The more negative the issue is, the bigger the controversy.
My view is that since the movie is not complete, and since nobody has watched it, except the 95-second teaser, it would be unfair to make a decision about a two-and-a-half hour movie on the basis of a one-and-a-half minute teaser.
All of us should wait for the release of the full movie. After watching the film, if people feel that the director, or producer, or writer has portrayed the characters incorrectly, or has hurt the sentiments of devotees, questions must surely be raised. But a demanding ban on an unfinished movie based on a 95-second teaser is sheer injustice.
I have always been saying that people should make a considered opinion after watching the pros and cons of any issue and refrain from reacting. Do not hastily jump to conclusions on the basis of hearsay. Already, social media is rife with rumours and baseless insinuations. To react to all such insinuations can lead to grave consequences.
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