The Ramayan: how it should be shown in art, Leelas, cinema/ TV

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Adipurush (2023), a mega-budget Indian feature film, was the first motion picture based on The Ramayan in history to fail at the box office.

This page is about how The Ramayan has traditionally been shown in paintings, Ram Leelas and cinema/ TV, and where Adipurush went wrong.


Adipurush was supposed to be released in IMAX 3D
Itwas a box office disaster not only because of its lack of reverence but also because its vfx came in for severe criticism


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Contents

Where the film went wrong

A: The biggest mistakes

The Sanjivani herb

There are several mistakes in this series of scenes

Confusing the Shakti weapon with the Nag paash; Sushen with Vibhishan’s wife

Firstly, suddenly a lady—apparently, Vibhishan’s wife—appears in the all– male battle camp of Sri Ram. She tells everyone about this medicinal herb and how to find it.

This writer first saw the film in Telugu with English subtitles. To crosscheck, I saw this particular scene again in Hindi where this lady says that the only cure for Nag paash is the Sanjeevani. Clearly she is mixing up two different events. (Nag paash Is either a cobra coiled like a noose or a noose that behaves like a cobra. In the Ramayan it seems to be the former.)

When Meghnaad, the Rakshas, trapped Sri Ram- Sri Lakshman within a Nag paash, Lord Garud, the divine eagle, himself came down and freed the Raghavs. There was no need for medicine. The wise Devarishi Naarad was the one who suggested this action to Garud, who is the steed of Lord Vishnu, who, in turn, is Sri Ram.

When Sri Lakshman was trapped in a Nag paash by Sampaati, he was freed by Jatayu, a vanar.

In the standard versions of Valmiki and Tulsi it was the venerable doctor Sushen who suggested the Sanjeevani, a revered legendary herb, when Sri Lakshman was hit by the Shakti weapon.

Is there a version or rescension in which a lady does so?

@histarmy9123 has posted a video in which there is a demand for a ban on the film because of this dual blunder.

Day for night

Adipurush uses a by now stale technique through which it seems that almost the entire action of the film took place at night or very early in the morning or very late in the evening. This style was popularised in the 1990s by directors like Theo Angelopoulos and copied in India in films like ‘Padmaavat’ and ‘Adam Joan.’ In the case of Adipurush it is positively irritating to find the battles taking place in the dark, which is against the Indian custom. In fact, the Ramayana explicitly states that battles were only fought during the day.

Hanuman ji flew to the Himalayas to fetch the Sanjeevani herb and it was night by the time he reached. This is made clear in the two following ways. The famous herb glowed at night. Obviously, its glow could only be seen at night and not in daylight. Secondly, we know that Hanumanji had to return to Lakshman before dawn, otherwise, it would be too late.

So on the one hand battles that took place during the day are shown as taking place at night. On the other, the mountain top that was prised loose at night is shown as being trampled upon in daylight. It was exactly the other way around in both cases

The mountaintop was pried apart with hands, not feet

Then, the Ramayan clearly mentions that Hanumanji grasped the mountaintop between his hands and pried it apart from the rest of the mountain by twisting it around three times. In the film, Hanumanji beats the mountain top with his feet to pry it loose.

B

'Not researched, not reverent': A student of The Ramayan examines

This section is under construction


Parvez Dewan is the author of The Hanumân Châlîsâ of Goswami Tulasi Das (2001, Viking- Penguin); The Book of Hanumân (2004, Viking-Penguin); and Hanuman ji, His Vanars and His Lanka (Shubhi Publications, 2010)

He has written the libretti (lyrics) of reverent rock operas on religion: The Râmâyan (English1989), music by John Robertson (ex- of The Rubettes, a once famous British Top Ten act), Performed in Pimlico and on Channel 4, UK; The Râmâyan (Hindi-Urdu, 1989); The Mahâbhârat (English 1987) music by John Robertson, a British Sri Krishn-bhakt; The Mahâbhârat (Hindi-Urdu 1987); and Narasimh[a] (English only 1987) music by John Robertson a British Vaishnavite.

The basic rules

Every thirteen-year-old in Basohli (Jammu), which has had a famous Ram Leela since at least the 1800s, knows the rules. During the final rehearsals of the annual Ram Leela and till after Dussehra the entire cast and crew abstain from meat, eggs, liquor, sex, tobacco, anger, abuse and several other things proscribed for the devout. Typically, they sleep on the floor during this period.

At the other end of the country, those wishing to go to Sabarimalai have to follow the same rules and also not shave during the days preceding the pilgrimage.

In some parts of India, Ram Leela actors would traditionally move out of their own homes and live in a Ram Leela camp when the rehearsals began. Examples: Almora, Uttarakhand; Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh; Madhubani, Bihar; Satna, Madhya Pradesh; and Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh.

In some villages and towns, they still do.

These are rules known to everyone—including local Muslims—in every small town and village of India and Indonesia. These rules do not require research.

These rules of abstinence are maintained even in Indonesia where shadow puppet theatre shows based on the Ramayan hold the same place as the annual Ram Leela does in India.

In Februray 1998, President Haji Muhammad Suharto decided to stage a spectacular shadow puppet- theatre [wayang] show of Rama Tambak [‘Ram Setu’ or ‘Ram’s Causeway’].

Ki Manteb Sudharsono, the leading dalang [dalang ustads are puppeteers-cum-Islamic teachers] of Surakarta, was commissioned to stage this mega-budget show. Manteb fasted for two days and two nights before the show to purify himself

Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan serial was tacky even by the standards of that era, but its piety was evident.

However, director Om Raut and writer Manoj Muntashir Shukla of Adipurush seem to have grown up outside India and do not know these rules, especially as the Tirupati incident mentioned in this article indicates.

Nor did they bother to research.

Music director Naushad Ali, who composed five songs rooted in Hinduism for the film Baiju Bawra (1952). would ensure that his musicians, many of them Muslim, were ‘pure and clean’ (paak-saaf) when they came to record the songs.

Mercifully Muntashir, too, took off his shoes while writing the dialogues of the film.

In almost all of India all cast and crew take off their shoes while rehearsing or enacting a Ram Leela.

In this section, we will attempt to show how people depicting the story of Sri Ram, from Muslim artists in the Mughal era to the Telugu greats, have observed the rules, which Raut and Muntashir did not.

Sita ji's clothes

Maharaja Gulab Singh (1792-1857) of Jammu and Kashmir worshipping Sri Ram and Sri Sita, and also Sri Lakshman, Sri Bharat, Sri Shatrughn and Hanuman ji. Jambavan is present.
A Miniature painting probably from Guler and dated to around A.D.1850.
Mother Sita’s upper garment is full sleeved.


  • Ramanand Sagar …did extensive research for authenticity for the clothing and jewellery, consulting … Sanskrit scholar HD Sankalia, whose standards for genuineness were a bit too revolutionary for him. “The professor told me that women of those times from Kaushalya to Sita had to be topless. But I decided that I could not do this in India. I consulted other Vedic scholars who told me that even if this were the case, it was against the common man’s concept of Sita,” he said.--- (From Kaveree Bamzai/ Is Adipurush really insulting the Ramayana?/ India Times- The Times of India/ Jun 21, 2023)

The learned professor should have stuck to his knowledge of the language.

It is true that tailoring did not exist during the time of Sri Ram. However, that did not mean that the women went about topless, certainly not royalty. Even in the 1970s and 1980s women in several rural areas of India and Bangladesh did not wear blouses. In the suburbs of a city as old and big as Allahabad—in the Manauri area, for instance--farmer women did not wear blouses even in the 1970s.

However, that did not mean that they were topless.

They would neatly wrap the upper part of their Saris above the waist, exposing only a bit of their right shoulder.


Prabhas (Raghav) and Kriti Sanon (Janaki) in Adipurush
Neither in Mughal or Rajput paintings nor in any screen adaptation of the epic has Seeta Ji ever worn such off-shoulder clothes. See the illustrations on this page.


When S Kanjilal staged Operama around 1983, most of his teenaged actresses exposed a shoulder or two and showed some skin. But even he ensured that the Seeta character had the upper part of the saree draped around both shoulders.

Kriti Sanon (Janaki) and Prabhas (Raghav) in Adipurush
Neither in Mughal or Rajput paintings nor in any screen adaptation of the epic has Seeta Ji ever worn such off-shoulder clothes. See the illustrations on this page.

Here the Vedic scholars that Ramanand Sagar consulted were closer to the tradition in the arts. The important thing was to convey not the lack of tailoring in the Ramayan- era but the chastity and modesty of Goddess Seeta even if that meant giving her blouses that did not exist in her own time.

This is how the oldest extant Mughal and Rajput miniatures have always depicted the goddess.

And that is how Mr. Raut should have acted.

Moustaches, beards, bodily hair and Hindu avatars

Sri Ram and Lakshman challenge the demons Mareech and Subahu
This Mughal miniature from the Freer Sackler collection is one of the oldest extant paintings of Sri Ram. It is either a copy of an A.D. 1589 painting or the original itself.
There is not a hint of a moustache

Compare the above painting with this still from Adipurush

In Adipurush, Hanumanji Sri Ram and Sri Lakshman are shown with moustaches and facial hair
The diagonal strap across Hanuman ji's chest as well as the horizontal strap around his waist both seem to be made of leather.
The youthful Hanuman Ji is always shown without a beard though in some icons he has a beard in his old age.

According to several Scriptures, I would say there is a near unanimity on it, Hindu deities do not have body hair. Which is why Shriram and shree Laxman never have moustaches. Leave alone beards. Obviously Mr Rout has not done basic research.

Lord Shiv used to have a beard in Bengal in the very early 1900s. Even they fell in with the all India tradition by the 1920s or so. Only Lord Brahma has a beard and not the avatar.s

Bhavbhuti’s Uttar Ram Charit Was staged in Delhi in 1974- 75. The role of Lakshman was played by a Muslim actor which was appreciated at the time because people thought differently in old India. However they were polite murmurs that the actor should have shaved off his beard atleast during the duration of the play staging of the play.



Mahipal and Anita Guha as Sri Ram and Sri Seeta in Sampoorna Ramayana (Hindi/ 1961).
Producer : Homi Wadia, Director : Babubhai Mistry
Please note ‘Sri Ram’s’ top knot and ‘Sri Seeta’s’ clothes
In original Gevacolour

Raghavendra Tippur believes that Hindu deities don’t have facial hair because ‘They are ever energetic and never grow old.’

Rami Sivan, a priest and Vedantist adds, ‘Having moustache is the characteristic of the Asuras and Rakshasas. Having beards is the characteristic of the forest hermits.’

Kiran Jajula points out that ‘Facial hair especially beard depicts One’s age, Gods are Immortal and they never age./ In main Gods only lord Bramha is depicted with a white beard because he has total age of 100 (Brahma Years) which is equal to 313,528,320,000,000 Human years, after which he dies and a new bramha is born. Lord Shiva is sometimes depicted with beard as a symbol of his Yogic essence, (so do sages) most of the time he is neat with no facial hair.’

Hanuman ji, too, has sometimes been an exception. In around five per cent of the paintings and statues depicting his old age, he has a beard. Many scholars disagree with this because he is ageless, timeless, forever young.

Adipurush made the mistake of giving him a beard even in his youth.

Top knots

Ancient Hindus and Buddhists, Japanese Buddhist till the 1800s and many ancient Jains wore top knots. All saabit soorat Sikhs still do, to this day. Please see the picture from Sampoorna Ramayana above.

But the actors of Adipurush were allowed to let their hair down.


Sri Ram’s height, and Hanuman ji’s

Sampoorna Ramayana made the mistake of showing Hanuman Ji as taller than Sri Ram.
This photograph, too, depicts the Vanars as homo erectus like, Hanuman ji and Sugriv, and not as monkeys.

Sampoorna Ramayana made the mistake of showing Hanuman Ji as taller than Sri Ram.

One of the few things Adipurush got right, even if inadvertently, was that Raghav ram was shown taller than Bajrang, which incidentally is what the scriptures say.

Depending on how you define a cubit Sri Ram was around 6'7" (6 foot 7 inches) tall and Hanuman ji a few inches shorter when he was in his normal height.

Offensive dialogues

Dewan adds: Small-town Ram Leelas used to revel in cheesy, cringeworthy dialogues. Humour has always been a part of the Hindu and Christian traditions. The Muslims got rid of it 60 or 70 or 80 years ago and became a humourless religion. We are heading towards the same humourless version of religion, which is not good for the spread of Hinduism, which has to be gentle, self critical . and tolerant.

The downmarket dialogues of Adipurush have no place in cinema becausei t caters to mass, family audiences, as opposed to village audiences.



Niharika Lal/ ADIPURUSH TO CHANGE CONTROVERSIAL DIALOGUES/ The Times of India/ 20 June 2023 writes:


[T]the dialogues of Adipurush have sparked caustic reactions from audiences, politicians and film critics alike ever since its release last weekend.

The film has been widely panned for showing divine characters – especially Hanuman – speak lines that the film’s makers call colloquial, but many filmwatchers have found to be crass.

ADIPURUSH DIALOGUES THAT HAVE DRAWN FLAK

“Jo hamari beheno ko haath lagayenge unki lanka laga denge”

“Teri bua ka bageecha hai kya jo hawa khane chala aaya?”

“Kapda tere baap ka, tel tere baap ka,aag bhi tere baap ki toh jalegi bhi tere baap ki”

“Aap apne kaal ke liye kaaleen bichha rahe hain”

“Mere ek sapole ne tumhare sheshnaag ko lamba kar diya, abhi toh pura pitara bhara para hai”


Telugu cinema's tradition of blue-skinned deities

Shyam varn


Lava Kusa (Telugu/ 1963) was the first of the full-length Colour films in Telugu
N. T. Rama Rao (Sri Rama, centre) and Kaikala Satyanarayana (Sri Bharata, extreme right) are blue-skinned. (Between them is Anjali Devi [Sri Seetha], in a proper blouse.)
Sando Krishna (Anjaneya), in the foreground, bottom, third from left, for some reason, is green-skinned, though Hindi-speaking audiences visualise him as golden-skinned (kanchan baran)

Telugu audiences expect to see Sri Vishnu, Sri Shiva, Sri Rama and Sri Krishna In blue skins on cinema and television. The film Adipurush hails partly from Telugu cinema. Around ₹100 crore or almost 40% of its revenues were earned by its Telugu version. Therefore, though not essential, it was in the interest of director Om Raut to paint Sri Rama and Sri Bharata blue. (South Indian spellings.)

Lava Kusa (Telugu/ 1963), which was the first of the full-length Colour films in Telugu , set the tone (literally) for the colour of the skin of actors playing blue-skinned Hindu deities.

Hindi cinema did not paint actors playing these deities blue.

Sampoorna Ramayana (Hindi1961), the first Hindi mythological in colour, took this decision, as we can see on this page, which was followed by successive film-makers.

When Mayabazar (1957/ Telugu) was colourised in 2007, the Telugu convention was retained. See Box office records of Telugu films

Nandamuri Balakrishna and Nayanthara in Sri Rama Rajyam (Telugu/ 2011) as Sri Rama and Seetha Devi
Directed by Bapu. Produced by Yalamanchali Sai Babu
Please note ‘Seetha Devi’s’ clothes and the colour of ‘Sri Rama’s’ skin.
(South Indian spellings used)

Sri Rama Rajyam (Telugu/ 2011)

This is what Nandamuri Balakrishna looked like in 2011, without divinity-style make-up.

What did Nandamuri Balakrishna look like in 2011? The accompanying archival photograph (right) was released by a site called Tollywood Andhra, on Balakrishna’s birthday in 2011. Balakrishna’s Wikipedia profile photograph was also taken in 2011. In it, too, he looks like this and not like the blue-skinned deity that he plays above.

No wonder Bapu is considered a legend. All credit for transforming Nandamuri Balakrishna goes to him and his make-up department.

An aggressive Sri Ram

Portrayal of Hanumanji

Hanuman ji's golden complexion

Kanchan baran, biraj subesa:

कंचन बरन बिराज सुबेसा,

कानन कुण्डल कुंचित केसा

  • (In verses 4 and 5) We are not only informed that Srî Hanumân jî’s skin is golden, we are also told about His matted hair, His mace, His earrings, His flag and His sacred thread.
  • From: Dewan, Parvez, The Hanumân Châlîsâ of Goswâmî Tulasi Dâs jî , Viking Penguin, 2001.
Kanchan baran, biraj subesa: Hanuman ji’s golden complexion
From Hanuman chalisa.amitabh Bachchan Jay shree Ram Mayank Singh

Kanchan baran, biraj subesa: Hanuman ji’s golden complexion

The Vanars

Apparently the VFX Company that Adipurush hired had leftover software from their previous Return of the Apes/ King Kong series.

Were the Vamars apes and gorillas?

Apparently the VFX Company that Adipurush hired had leftover software of their previous King Kong or Return of the Apes series.

On the contrary, Valmiki ji tells us that the Vanar kingdom had street lighting, town planning, lavish and huge palaces, advanced doctors and Sanskrit scholars

None of the Vanar women had a tail.

Vanars walked erect, and not on all fours. They intermarried with Rakshases as well as with neighbouring non-Vanars.

ALL Vanars were up-devatas *semi-deities) and Hanuman Ji infinitely higher still.

However, Adipurush has shown them as apes
In Sampoorna Ramayana, as in most other versions in cinema and on television, the Vanars were homo erectus. They walked upright, as did the bhalluks and the other soldiers who identified with one animal or another. Each Vanar had a metal club. They were not monkeys.

In Sampoorna Ramayana, as in most other versions in cinema and on television, the Vanars were homo erectus. They walked upright, as did the bhalluks and the other soldiers who identified with one animal or another. Each Vanar had a metal club. They were not monkeys.

A political film

"गाड़ दो अहंकार की छाती में विजय का भगवा ध्वज ".

"गाड़ दो अहंकार की छाती में विजय का भगवा ध्वज "
Prabhas (Raghav) in Adipurush

See also' Political clout' below


Dewan writes: I have read four recensions of the Valmiki Ramayana and two of the Tulsi Ram Charit Manas.

In none of them does Sri Ram or any other character say:

“Plant the Saffron flag of victory on the arrogant one's chest”

It was never Sri Ram’s intention to plant his flag on Lanka and annex it. His aim was to rid the world of the tyrannical Ravan and ensure a change of regime from Ravan to Vibhishan. .

Above all, the colour of the Lord's flag was crimson, not saffron

Then, what did the sacred flag look like?

Sri Ram's flag: arukku (crimson) or saffron?

The flag of the Raghuvansh Dynasty of Ayodhya, as broadly described in the Valmiki Ramayan
This flag has got its colour--crimson-- right.
The Ramayan mentions only the tree, which both this flag and the one below have got right. Both flags have rightly assumed that there would be a symbol of the sun, because the Lord’s dynasty was Surya Vanshi (a solar dynasty).
This flag has placed the tree next ro the sun, while the flag below has put it within the sun, which looks better.
From Shimla Suresh , Glorious India--Past & Present/ Art, Literature, History and Astro-sciences/June 9, 2018
The flag of the Raghuvansh Dynasty of Ayodhya, as imagined by film director Bapu, on the basis of its description in the Valmiki Ramayan
Telugu scriptures specify that the colour of the flag was arukku, the Telugu- Kannada word for crimson.

The flag of Ayodhya is described in the Valmiki Ramayan: It specifically mentions that the flag had a symbol of the Kovidar Tree on it. The 21st-century artist who recreated this holy flag put the Sun symbol of the Raghuvansh Dynasty next to the tree. (Above)

Legendary filmmaker Bapu also got the flag recreated but he put the Kovidar Tree within the sun symbol. That, too, is aesthetically very satisfying. (Right)

Valmiki Ji mentions that Sri Bharat flew this flag when he came to meet his elder brother to persuade him to return to Ayodhya

Did Adipurush insult the Ramayan?

Kaveree Bamzai/ Is Adipurush really insulting the Ramayana?/ India Times- The Times of India/ Jun 21, 2023


The film directed by Om Raut has found few takers. Instead of making one of India’s greatest epics more relatable to the youth, the movie has ended up offending one too many

“Aisa roop, aisa tej [what a face, what radiance],” murmurs Surpanakha, almost smacking her lips, when she first sees Lord Ram. The man in question lowers his eyes and folds his hands, saying he is already married. Ravan picks up giant pieces of mutton to feed the Pushpaka Vimana, reimagined as a dragon.

His son lights up Hanuman’s tail: “Jali na, jiski jalti hai”, to which Bajrang replies, “Kapda tere baap ka. Tel tere baap ka. Aag bhi tere baap ki. Toh jalegi bhi tere baap ki [The clothes belong to your father, the oil belongs to him, as does the fire, so it will be he who will burn].” Manoj Muntashir Shukla, the writer of Adipurush , and Om Raut, its director, wanted to make a Ramayana that youngsters could relate to. Instead they have ended up offending many, including those who could be considered the film’s target audience.

Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sangharsh has complained that the film offends Hindu sentiments. The All India Cine Workers Association has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to “stop screening the movie”, while members of a few Hindu organisations created a ruckus at a multiplex in Nalasopara, Palghar, while Adipurush was being screened.

Even Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur has said that “nobody has the right to hurt the sentiments of people”, and added the film’s writer and director have agreed to make some changes after an uproar.

There have been a few supporters of the film from the right-wing establishment, most prominently Sanjeev Sanyal, author and member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, who tweeted that Adipurush was done “respectfully” and was “very watchable”. But by and large, it has been eviscerated by movie critics and by members of the establishment — two sets of people who do not usually agree with each other.

A hail of criticism

The film, which is said to have cost ₹600 crore, has earned ₹326.55 crore, according to the trade, and ₹375 crore, according to the producers, in its first four days. But its critics are multiplying.

Arun Govil, who played Lord Ram in the 1987 Doordarshan version of Ramayana , has said the filmmakers’ creative liberty has not appealed to the people, while Prem Sagar, the son of Ramanand Sagar, who wrote Ramayana , has called it a “misjudgement hoping that the younger generation would like it”.

Even Kathmandu mayor Balen Shah has a problem with the film, specifically the way in which Janaki (Sita) is projected as the daughter of India, and not Nepal.

Adipurush seems to have offended many people for many reasons. P Dewan, who has translated the Hanuman Chalisa and many other writings into English, says there is a huge irony in the film’s producers trying to cynically cash in on Hindu themes, but instead of pleasing the audience, they have been receiving death threats. Adipurush is not a reverential take on Ramayana but a cynical take in order to make money, he says.

He has a list of complaints against Adipurush , beginning with its cheesy, cringeworthy dialogues, including Lord Ram being shown with a moustache, and going on to him being shown as aggressive. “I have read four ascensions of Valmiki Ramayana and two of Tulsi Ramayana and in none of them does Lord Ram or anyone else say they will “Plant the Saffron flag on the arrogant one's chest”,” he says.

Gigantic mishmash

Om Raut’s Adipurush takes the audience on the journey of Ram becoming Lord Ram, from “manav” to “bhagwan”. Whatever his intention, his execution is a gigantic mishmash, making Lord Ram a Marvel hero with cut-rate computer-generated imagery (CGI) and Ravan a clone of Alauddin Khilji on loan from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat (2018).

So, Lord Ram (played by Prabhas) has a crossbow, which would look good on Hawkeye, and Ravan (played with relish by Saif Ali Khan) rides a Pushpaka Vimana, which eats meat and brays like one of the dragons from Game of Thrones . But while both men may wear armour, Ravan more than Lord Ram, their hearts are still vulnerable.

Ram, the prince of Ayodhya, falls to his knees, his eyes full of tears when Sita (called Janaki here and played by Kriti Sanon) is taken from him, while Ravana complains of a pain in his hridaya (heart) when Sita rejects him. “Maine socha main kasht se mukt aur peeda se pare hoon [I thought I was free of suffering and pain],” says Ravan, surprised at his own mortality.

Media scholars are quite foxed by the criticism against Adipurush . Delhi University professor Apoorvanand has said the coarse language used by Hanuman mirrors the language of Hindutva proponents. New York University professor Arvind Rajagopal says what surprises him, in the vociferous responses to Adipurush , is the apparent omission of reasons for the film’s popularity.

“The criticisms themselves suggest an answer — the ‘sadak chaap’ Raghav [Lord Ram] contrived by the film may be a way to bring the classic of Valmiki and Tulsidas closer to ordinary people, using an idiom intelligible to its least educated classes,” he says. “That Hanuman is renamed Bajrang in this film makes me wonder whether this is a recruitment tool for organisations like the Bajrang Dal.”

Plenty of questions

But, he adds, the debates on the film that he has seen skirt around this issue: Why has a mega-budget film, displaying all the signs of Hindutva’s usual bad aesthetics, not gained its usual loud defenders, and why are critics not being chargesheeted with accusations of anti-nationalism? Instead of languishing in jail, they are being allowed to flood the airwaves, it seems.

What is going on?

His answer: “Perhaps what is going on here is another standard tactic of Hindutva, saying different things to different audiences. Upper-class BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] supporters have roundly denounced the film for its vulgar language, and film critics have ridiculed it for its bad technique, but the poor might be hearing a different lesson — that the gods themselves speak the same street dialect, and overlook the caste and class barriers that keep the poor at a distance even in temples.

The battle for authenticity is not new. In an India Today interview from 1986, while he was making Ramayana , Ramanand Sagar is quoted as saying he did extensive research for authenticity for the clothing and jewellery, consulting the then Andhra Pradesh chief minister, NT Rama Rao, who often played gods, and Sanskrit scholar HD Sankalia, whose standards for genuineness were a bit too revolutionary for him. “The professor told me that women of those times from Kaushalya to Sita had to be topless. But I decided that I could not do this in India. I consulted other Vedic scholars who told me that even if this were the case, it was against the common man’s concept of Sita,” he said.

In 2011, when the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad objected to AK Ramanujan’s essay “Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five Examples and Three Thoughts on Translations”, the Delhi University removed it from the syllabus, even though the multiplicity of versions of the epic is not contested. When it comes to matters of faith, even facts pale in comparison

VFX

Ravan’s Ten heads
As far back as in 1961, Sampoorna Ramayana had achieved special effects of this quality. This is how the average Hindu believes the ten heads of Ravan ought to be arranged.
In this sequence, Ravan starts off with one head, and one by one the other nine slide into view. Each head moves independently or in unison, when required.
The 8th head, the one on the extreme right, is still in the process of sliding into view, and is not yet there completely. Two more heads are yet to appear.
Adipurush had one of the biggest budgets in the history of Indian cinema but this is what it was able to achieve even in 2023. Critics sarcastically dubbed this arrangement as “Ravan’s double-decker heads.”
After showing this awkward organisation of heads a couple of times, the film does make amends much later and arranges the ten heads in the traditional manner.

The expression VFX did not exist in 1961. And yet Sampoorna Ramayana achieved special effects of the quality shown. That is how the average Hindu believes the ten heads of Ravan ought to be arranged.

In this sequence, Ravan started off with one head and one by one the other nine slid into view.. Each head moved independently or in unison, as required.

Even more interestingly, each head got to speak a few words while suspended in the air to the left and right of Ravam's main head.

Adipurush had one of the biggest budgets in the history of Indian cinema but this (right) is what it was able to achieve even in 2023. Critics sarcastically dubbed this arrangement as “Ravan’s double-decker heads.”

Each head floats in the air independent of the other nine and they are not attached to each other perhaps because the VFX unit did not know how to do so.

After showing this awkward organisation of heads a couple of times, the film did make amends much later and arranged the ten heads in the traditional manner.

Political clout

Six Chief Ministers, a Deputy CM and a state minister

Lokesh@lokeshbag67 commented on Twitter: ‘Oh, how fortunate we are to have a single "Honourable Deputy Chief Minister" in the list who took the time out of his busy schedule to lend his unwavering support to the groundbreaking #Adipurush .’


India Today commented <<PR agencies in Bollywood thus are routinely sharing photographs of directors, producers and actors with sundry chief ministers, especially of BJP – ruled states. The makers of Adipurush went one step ahead: among the first slides to roll on the screen was one expressing gratitude to 6 CMs—UP’s Yogi Adityanath, MP’s Shivraj Chouhan, Maharashtra’s Eknath Shinde, Haryana’s Manohar Lal, Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma, Uttarakhand’s Pushkar Singh Dhami – Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and MP Minister Narottam Mishra. Proof enough for Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel on why BJP was silent on the film which drew fire for its offensive dialogue.>>

--India Today , Upfront, July 10, 2023

Maharashtra's Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis’ good wishes

Maharashtra's Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis watches the trailer of Adipurush

On June 14, 2023, two days before the film’s offcial release, Maharashtra's Deputy CM Mr Devendra Fadnavis posted this message on his Instagram account, with the photo shown above:


🏹May the #ADIPURUSH Prabhu Shri Ram bless the much awaited film ‘Adipurush’ based on MaryadaPurshottam Prabhu Shri Ram’s life. Wishing the directors, producers and team #Adipurush a chartbuster success ! @manojmuntashir


The message is preceded by the bow and arrow symbol of Lord Sri Ram.

Controversies

Before the film’s relese

Sita's attire, Raavana's beard, film maker pecking Kriti Sanon: How Adipurush landed in a row/ India Today News Desk/ Jun 8, 2023


Om Raut directorial 'Adipurush' has seen several controversies since the past year, yet, is one of the most awaited films of the year. The film will see Kriti Sanon as Sita along with Prabhas as Ram. Saif Ali Khan plays Raavan in the film.


The movie landed itself in fresh controversy when, on June 7 [2023], filmmaker Om Raut was spotted kissing actress Kriti Sanon at Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupati.

ROW OVER SAIF ALI KHAN'S COMMENT

Two years ago, Saif Ali Khan landed in a soup when he said that 'Adipurush' would showcase the humane side of Ravan.

His comments caused a huge uproar, to the extent that he had to apologise.

ADIPURUSH POSTER COPIED?

A poster featuring Prabhas as Lord Ram invited a lot of trouble for the makers as they were accused of plagiarism. An Animation studio named Vaanar Sena Studios, took to social media to accuse the Adipurush team of copying their work.

POOR VISUAL EFFECTS

Back in 2022, director Om Raut launched the teaser of Adipurush and the film was brutally trolled for poor animation and VFX.

It became a fodder for memes and also pushed a VFX company, VFXwala, to issue a statement saying that they are not involved in the project.

ADIPURUSH'S FIRST POSTER RELEASE

Last year, a complaint was filed in Jaunpur court against five people, including the producer of the film, Om Raut and actors, Prabhas and Saif Ali Khan.

The complainant, advocate Himanshu Srivastava, alleged 'indecent depiction of Lord Ram, Sita, Hanuman, Ravana in the film's teaser, which was unveiled on October 2.

ANOTHER POSTER, ANOTHER CONTROVERSY

Following the initial complaint, fans expected that the new poster and teaser would rectify the mistakes.

However, a fresh complaint was filed against Om Raut, Prabhas, Kriti Sanon, Saif Ali Khan and the makers of the film for inaccurately portraying characters of Hindu mythology.

The new poster of the film also showed inaccurate facts, the complainant alleged.

The complainant, Sanjay Dinanath Tiwari, described himself as a preacher of Sanatan Dharma and claimed Adipurush filmmaker hurt religious sentiments through the new movie poster.

The complaint was filed by Mumbai High Court advocates - Ashish Rai and Pankaj Mishra.

As per an official statement, the complainant claimed the religious sentiments of the Hindu religion were hurt.

He said filmmaker Om Raut had inappropriately displayed the character of the Hindi religious text Ramcharitmanas in the new poster of the film.

The complainant said the poster showed Maryadapurushottam Lord Shri Ram in a costume contrary to the natural spirit and nature of Ramcharitmanas mentioned in Hindu scripture.

ALSO READ Prabhas' fans ask him about his marriage at event. Adipurush star has a hilarious reaction He further claimed that in the film, all the characters of Ramayana were displayed without wearing Janeu.

The complainant said the movie was made on the biography of Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram from the Hindu religion holy book Ramcharitmanas.

Image shows the new poster of the film 'Adipurush' Image shows a poster of the film 'Adipurush'

WHEN A CONCEPT ARTIST ACCUSED THE TEAM OF PLAGIARISM

Barely a week after the poster controversy, a concept artist, Pratik Sanghar, took to Facebook and accused the Adipurush team of copying his designs.


OM RAUT KISSES KRITI SANON AT TIRUPATI TEMPLE, SPARKS ROW

In the latest, Raut, along with Kriti, visited Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupati on June 7.

However, controversy erupted after the filmmaker was seen kissing Kriti goodbye outside the temple premises.

The act also led to a social media uproar with BJP State Secretary Ramesh Naidu commenting against it and later deleting his tweet.

The head priest at Telangana's Chilkur Balaji Temple described as 'condemnable' and said, "Even a husband and wife do not go there (temple) together. You can go to a hotel room and do it. Your behaviour is like insulting Ramayan and Goddess Sita."

After the film’s release

BBC/ Adipurush: Why audiences turned against this Bollywood epic/ 24 June 2023


Upon release, the film received near-unanimous negative reviews. Opposition leaders criticised the film while two cities in neighbouring Nepal banned all Bollywood films till an "objectionable" line was deleted from it.

India film dialogue sparks Bollywood ban in Nepal

The final punch came in the form of a backlash from audiences that took even the makers aback. Protests were held in different parts of India while some Hindu groups demanded a ban on the film. Adipurush's director Om Raut and writer Manoj Muntashir received death threats and now have police protection.

Critics say Adipurush is among a string of recent films that aim at appealing to Hindu viewers. Some of them have also been accused of fuelling religious polarisation. Films like The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story - both of which were criticised by many for distorting facts and Islamophobia - were big hits at the box office.

Some have also objected to how Ravana - a devotee of the Hindu god Shiva, a talented musician and a powerful king - has been depicted in the film.

With kohl-rimmed eyes and in dark attire, "Ravana [in Adipurush] is modelled on Bollywood's now popular image of the Mughal villain", says writer and critic Sowmya Rajendran.

critics say Adipurush seems like a school play with amateur acting and meme-friendly CGI.

They have lampooned its "video game" feel, "clunky graphics", lack of imagination, references to Western fantasies like the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, and two-dimensional storytelling.

The film's box office collapsed after its opening weekend, taking even trade analysts by surprise.

Made on a budget of approximately 5bn rupees ($61m, £47.8m), the film's Hindi version alone was estimated to make at least 2bn rupees in the first week of its release. This will now end at roughly 1.3bn rupees, analyst Komal Nahta says.

"Since Monday, the film has seen a 75-80% dip in collections for its Hindi version alone," Mr Nahta told the BBC. "And it continues to fall fast with every passing day." A similar dip was also reported in earnings for its Telugu version.

In Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of Ram, the chief priest of the Ram temple said the dialogues made his "blood boil". The Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing group, filed a police complaint over the film's "wrong" costumes, illustrations and choice of words. The All Indian Cine Workers Association said the film hurt the sentiments of Hindus.


Adipurush's downfall is not in its failure to align with popular notions of the epic, Ms Rajendran says.

But film critic Rahul Desai finds the reasons for the film's rejection as worrying and problematic as the film itself.

"There is no defending the movie, which looks to scale up the aggressive language of modern Hindu nationalism," he told the BBC. "But the fact is that most people here are getting offended because they can't handle the tampering of tradition."

"We've reached a stage where Hindu mythology (like Ramayana and Mahabharata) cannot be touched," he says. "People look at it as an attack on their truth, unlike historicals, where facts are regularly altered to suit hate-spreading political narratives."

In Nepal, too

Devesh Kumar/ Kathmandu bans all Indian films amid Adipurush dialogue controversy/ 18 Jun 2023


Kathmandu Mayor Balen Shah announced the ban of all Indian films in the Kathmandu Metropolitan area and he has reportedly also deployed police to ensure no Indian films are screened in the theatres

Balen Shah has previously raised questions on the depiction of Sita in the Adipurush

The all-out ban of Indian films by Kathmandu came as the Mayor of the capital city raised questions over the depiction of Sita in the film Adipurush.

Balen Shah has previously raised questions on the depiction of Sita in the Adipurush. Balen Shah objected to the fact that Sita was referred to as the “daughter of India" while in reality, she was the “daughter of Nepal." The makers of Adipurush also reportedly made changes in the film to solve the grievances of Nepal politicians.

Budget estimates

Umesh Punwani/ Adipurush OTT Exclusive: The ‘250 Crore’ Dream Figure Is Getting Messy & Might Add To The Already Predicted 200 Crore+ Loss For The Filmmakers Of This Prabhas Starrer!/ Seems like Prabhas' Adipurush is doomed on OTT as well!/ koimoi.com/ July 3, 2023


There have been multiple figures reported regarding its budget ranging from ₹400-800 crore. But the ground reality is that the budget is somewhere around ₹550-600 crore. So, let’s take the lowest-assumed value i.e. ₹550 crore to understand the mess around the remaining math. [bbc.com has accepted a figure of Rs500 crore. See above]

Box office

Towards the end of its theatrical run

Shalmesh More/ Adipurush Box Office (Worldwide): Prabhas Led Magnum Opus Is Less Than 8 Crores Away From 400 Crores, But Will The Milestone Be Reached?/ koimoi.com/ -July 3, 2023


Adipurush.. has turned out to be a massive loss affair for the makers and is one of the biggest box office disasters in Indian cinema. The budget is so huge that the collection of over 350 crores looks ‘unsatisfactory’.

Now, as per the latest update, Adipurush has amassed

₹286 crores nett by now at the Indian box office.

Gross: ₹ 337.48 crores.

In overseas, the film has almost ended its theatrical run, and just 55 crores gross have been accumulated so far.

Worldwide box office total, the biggie stands at ₹ 392.48 crores gross.

Calls for a ban/ censorship

Shalmesh More/ Adipurush Box Office (Worldwide): Prabhas Led Magnum Opus Is Less Than 8 Crores Away From 400 Crores, But Will The Milestone Be Reached?/ koimoi.com/ -July 3, 2023


The Allahabad High Court recently urged filmmakers to stay away from religious texts and not make movies about them. It told filmmakers to make a documentary on Quran and see the consequences as it heard petitions seeking a ban on Prabhas starrer.

The court also directed the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to submit personal affidavits in response to pleas seeking the ban.


The Cast of Adipurush

Kriti Sanon as Janaki

Saif Ali Khan as Lankesh

Prabhas as Raghav

Devdutta Nage as Bajrang

Vatsal Sheth as Indrajeet

Sunny Singh as Shesh

Tejaswini Pandit as Shurpanakha

Siddhant Karnick as Vibhishana

Sonal Chauhan as Mandodari

Krishna Kotian as Dasharath

Sonali Khare as Kaikaee

Lavi Pajni as Kumbhakaran

Asha Sharma as Shabari

The Crew of Adipurush

Director

Om Raut

Producers

In Nov 2022 it was announced that Adipurush would be released in IMAX 3D
See IMAX in India for details

Bhushan Kumar

Krishan Kumar

Rajesh Nair

Om Raut

V. Vamsi Krishna Reddy

Prasad Sutar

Pramod Uppalapati

Music

Ankit Balhara

Sanchit Balhara

Ajay Gogavale

Atul Gogavale

Writers

Manoj Muntashir ... (dialogues)

Om Raut ... (story, screenplay)

Cinematography

Karthik Palani ...

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