Strictly for kids
Director: Chetan Mehta
Knowing what his mother had been through, Ram tells Sita, he understands the feminine pain of competing with a husband’s several wives. He promises to stay monogamous for her. She’d be his only wife. This must’ve been a radical thing to commit to in the times of Ramayan.
Yet, this Hindu god will remain forever a controversial figure among feminists for how he treats Sita later. He banishes her to live alone. Because some people in his kingdom couldn’t take well the fact that she had lived for long, in captivity, in the house of another man, being Ravan. Ram trusted her still. But asked her to leave. It’s a mystery.
These are the kind of rudimentary debates or perspectives you seek in an ancient epic being retold now. Perhaps looking at Ramayan through Ram’s stepmother Kaikeyi’s eyes, since she’s the sole trigger for the entire story -- largely based on the hero Ram’s 14-year exile from Ayodhya.
There are no such interpretations here. This picture, like comfort food, is comfort film. You’re watching it because you know what to expect, and it soothes your senses still. The story reveals itself in its repetition alone. That’s what we term the oral tradition. Practically everything you watch on screen is by now a popular metaphor or cliche: whether the Lakshman Rekha, where Sita crossed a line and got abducted by Ravan, or the slashing of Ravan’s sister Shrupanakha’s nose (where hell hath no fury like a woman scorned).
It’s an expansive story. Something that took Ramanand Sagar, god only knows how many episodes, to wrap up on television. Each Sunday afternoon dedicated to golden arrows kissing another at the centre of your TV screen.
The filmmakers here manage to tightly abridge the epic in 100 minutes flat: right from the hero’s exile; tracing his journey from Panchvati to Lanka on the present geographical map of India; to the sensational battle between Ram who’s ‘ajay’ (undefeatable) and Ravan who’s ‘amar’ (immortal).
Dharma (righteousness) alone separates the two armies' might, though demons on huge elephants and horses should clearly outweigh monkeys for Ram’s soldiers.
Ravan, the ‘rakshas raaj’ (king of demons) wears gold and a violet cape, has horns on his crown and shoulders. He has a square face; long, sharp nose; beard, greying from below the chin. Devil's in the detail.
Ravan clones himself with each destruction, alluding to the villain’s ten heads. Soundtrack is in parts progressive rock. This is pure Play Station! There is enough in the story itself to fit into fine science fiction­ (‘pushpak viman’, ‘aerial sword fights’, telescopic lens that project on to screens….)
Gaming is for sure the future (if not the present) of animation films. With fine technology at their command, that's what the filmmakers should eventually aim at. For now, kids can relearn a fascinating story.