Why the Ramayana and the Mahabharata still inspire filmmakers | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Why the Ramayana and the Mahabharata still inspire filmmakers

Mar 09, 2024 12:07 PM IST

Nitesh Tiwari is reportedly making a three-part film series on Ramayana. We explore what really makes mythology such a treasure trove of film scripts.

One of the most talked about films in the last few months is director Nitesh Tiwari’s Ramayana which will be released in three parts. Touted to be a magnum opus starring Ranbir Kapoor as Lord Ram, Sai Pallavi as Sita, Yash as Ravan, Sunny Deol as Hanuman, Vijay Sethupathi as Vibhishan and Naveen Polishetty as Laxman, the movie sees a combination of stars from across Indian film industries. While there has been no official confirmation on any of this, director Nitesh Tiwari has been extremely confident about this project since Adipurush failed at the box office. And now that the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya also has been consecrated and opened, the momentum and focus on Lord Ram and the Ramayana has grown multi-fold.

Adipurush, based on Ramayana, was released last year,
Adipurush, based on Ramayana, was released last year,

How the epics inspire

The Ramayana and Mahabharata are two renowned epics in India that have inspired filmmakers for decades. While Nitesh Tiwari may be the latest filmmaker to make a film on the Ramayana, the first film on Lord Ram was Lanka Dahan written and directed by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1917. But it was the 78-episode Ramayan by Ramanand Sagar that captivated the Indian audience when it aired on Doordarshan in 1987. It became a phenomenon that showcased Indian culture and history and by popular demand today, the TV series is set to make a comeback on Doordarshan National soon. The unimaginable success of Ramayan on DD led to the creation of the 94-episode Mahabharat serial by BR Chopra, which aired from 1988.

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So why do these epics capture the audience's attention and love unlike others? Film journalist Bharath Kumar states, “What is deep-rooted in our culture is timeless and most people in India have grown up hearing stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. These epics are mythological and the key figures from them are our gods like Lord Ram, Lord Krishna and Hanuman. They have taught us many life lessons and the teachings from them are highly revered. The nostalgia and values these epics evoke are eternal. Even a child can connect to them.”

Emotions and new angles

But at the root of it all is the big emotional connect the Indian audience feels with the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Going back a few years, the rebroadcast of Ramayan on Doordarshan on April 16, 2020, saw a record 7.7 crore people across the globe watch the show. Cut to 2024, the Ram Mandir was inaugurated on February 4 and in just 12 days more than 24 lakh people visited the temple in Ayodhya. Nostalgia and faith are two powerful emotional tools that capture mass sentiment. However, what makes a series of a film based on mythology a blockbuster is what new angle is brought in to give an exciting twist to a well-known story.

The recent Telugu blockbuster Hanu Man by director Prashanth Varma showed us how blending an epic with the contemporary superhero genre can connect with the audience. The director told the media that he wanted to draw from Indian culture. “We wanted to make a superhero film that was rooted in Indian culture and mythology. We were inspired by Hanuman ji, who is a symbol of strength, courage, and devotion. Moreover, we wanted to make a film that’ll appeal to all ages and showcase the power of Indian mythology,” said Varma.

Also read: HanuMan is culturally rooted, not religious: Director Prasanth Varma

Coming back to Nitesh Tiwari’s Ramayan, the last time a series was made on this epic it narrated the story from Sita’s angle. This time round, Tiwari has reportedly divided the film into three parts – the first part would talk about Lord Ram, his family, marriage, kidnapping of Sita and the 14-year vanavas; the second part would show the journey of Lord Ram, Lakshman, Hanuman, Vaanar Sena and the building of Ram Setu; and the third part would focus on the war between the Vaanar Sena and Ravana’s army, Ravana’s defeat, and Lord Ram and Sita’s return to Ayodhya. It will be paramount that Nitesh Tiwari’s story gives the audience something new as well while retelling this epic since it is these unexpected twists that will keep the audience invested.

The Ramayana and Mahabharata will continue to inspire filmmakers as there is plenty of heroism, drama, action, sentiment, love, betrayal, anger and much more in them to create a highly visual and engaging spectacle. And the Indian audience just can’t seem to get enough of them.

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