In the ongoing debates about the movie Adipurush, its screen writer Manoj Muntashir and other supporters have offered some justifications and the explanations defending the movie which are completely untenable and unreasonable.
They are also Adharmic in a sense.
1. "Adipurush is just heavily inspired by (प्रेरित) Ramayana and an adaption of only a small portion, Yuddhakanda. We have not made another Ramayana".
This is deception, taking the viewers to be very ignorant. The descriptions "inspired by" and "adaptation" mean different things in cinema.
For example, Japanese film Ron (1985) and Hindi film Omkara (2006) were inspired by Shakespearean dramas King Lear and Othello.
Only the rough outline of the story was taken, and it was transported to a totally different cultural setting and time period, with different character names.
Hollywood film Troy (2004) and Indian film Ponniyin Selvan 1 and 2 (2022-23) are adaptations of Greek epic Iliad and the Tamil novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy.
Here the entire story along with the cultural setting and the character names was fully retained, with some imaginative changes and additions in the narration and visual presentation.
In good adaptations, filmmakers take extreme care to ensure that the aesthetics (rasa) and the emotional content (bhava) of their original source are not violated.
Adipurush does not fit in either of these descriptions properly. The movie is a half-baked attempt at retelling a part of the Ramayana story with not-so-professional VFX gimmicks and deliberately inserted distortions, lacking good imagination or aesthetic sensibility.
2. "There are thousands of ways to tell Rama-Katha, as Tulsidas himself says नाना भान्ति राम अवतारा, रामायण शतकोटि अपारा. So, this is our version of Ramayana… and what we are doing is in line with the Hindu Dharma tradition".
A dangerous and ill-intentioned argument. The saying simply implies that Ramayana is not confined in time and space, but it is infinite and timeless, because it teaches eternal Dharmic values through the story of the descent (avatara) of the supreme divinities as humans.
This does not give licence for anyone to put his own perversions and fancy imaginations into the story and claim it as another “valid" version of Rama-katha.
It is true that there have been changes made into the Rama-katha narratives to suit the times and temperaments of the people over the centuries and across the regions.
But then these Rama-katha writers were not ordinary men. They were all divinely inspired poets like Kalidasa, Kamban, Madhava Kandali, Krittibas, Tulsidas and Eknath.
The changes made were not for entertainment or commercial purposes, but were born out of the deep contemplations of these sage-poets on Ramayana.
This is at a literary level.
In the mass level, every time a discourse is given or a Ram-lila is acted out, the kathavachak or the artist internalises the story, and then expresses it with devotion and affection, with his or her own creative abilities and improvisations.
This is the transmission process by which Rama-katha has been kept alive over a long period.
It is a natural expectation that the retelling in the cinema also adheres to this process. Adipurush is a clear violation.
3. "We are bringing our great epics to Gen Z through this film, even though there may be some violations here and there. We are doing great service, so don't oppose us".
A bogus and invalid argument that can easily mislead the vulnerable minds. What Adipurush has done is the opposite of this claim, which is mindlessly putting Gen Z fads into Rama-katha.
Not just the Marvel superhero movie type visuals and mannerisms, but also the conceptualisations.
It is noticed that some cringe worthy imaginations also sneak in under the guise of "bringing our epics to Gen Z".
For sure, no youngster is coming to the real Ramayana through the route of consuming such entertainment in the form of movies or fiction.
On the contrary, after watching Adipurush, they will argue with sincere scholars and devotees who have immersed themselves in the original texts, saying why the scholar’s understanding is “wrong” and needs to be revised.
The education system and the general social environment in India is becoming non-conducive for Dharmic upbringing day by day. How many youngsters have read at least some portions of the Rama-katha kavya of their own languages like Hindi, Tamil or Telugu?
They are growing up with utter cultural ignorance, largely watching third rate films and toxically degenerated OTT shows. Given this, the claim of "bringing epics to Gen Z" is to further feed on this bad trend and not to reverse or dissuade from it.
There is still hope. In reality, many youngsters are more intelligent and open-minded than these filmmakers assume them to be.
Being a Ramayana scholar, I have personally found quite a few youngsters getting deeply interested and engaged, even when the original text is presented in the right manner without any gimmicks of any sort. That is the way to go.
I have a simple alternative suggestion for those planning to watch Adipurush, for whatever it is worth. Instead of wasting your time and money on the movie, buy the wonderful six-volume Valmiki Ramayana set from Amar Chitra Katha comics that can be read and reread by people of all ages at your home.
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