Dadasaheb Phalke’s debut film Raja Harishchandra set the trend for mythological films in Bollywood. It was in 1913. In circa 2006, mythological and theological characters, particularly Gods and deities, are back in vogue. The similarities: stories are from religious texts and folklore, the difference: the budget and, of course, star cast.
Back to forward: In 2007, Rajkumar Santoshi will begin work on his magnum opus — Ramayana. With a budget of Rs 100 crore, he has roped in one of Bollywood’s most popular couple, Ajay Devgan and Kajol to play the part of Lord Rama and Sita. To make the magic of mythology work, these films boast of a big star cast. If nothing else, at least the star power will bring in the crowd and the moolah at the box-office. Following in Santoshi’s footsteps is Mani Ratnam’s Mahabharata. To be produced by Bobby Bedi, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan will be seen together on screen for the first time as Arjun and Karan.
Rituparno Ghosh, who recently announced Draupadi with the sultry and sexy Bipasha in the lead, says his film will explore beyond the basic narrative of Mahabharata. And about her role, Bipasha says, “Draupadi is one of the most mysterious women in Indian mythology. It would certainly be a great learning experience to enact her onscreen.” Western influence? “If Hollywood can create a great cinematic adaptation of Bible, why can’t we have a grand cinematic version of Ramayana?” asks Santoshi.
But why mythology? Bedi says, “Mythology is a very dramatic genre and with the help of special effects and techniques of the present times, it can be translated into a great onscreen experience.” He adds, “An efficient performer can be an asset for the film, especially when it involves a big-budget and the best of filmmaking skills.” The question is: Will Rama, Sita and Draupadi, get the box-office excited? On a prayer, may be.