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Shri Ram & Bollywood

The great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata have inspired several Hindi movies, regional movies, TV serials and even Hollywood movies (Think Matrix).

As we gear up for one of the most important events of the great Indian nation, let us recap how Ramayana has influenced our screens.

Quick points:

1. As noted in my PhD thesis, ‘Ram Leela’ plays have been an integral part of our entertainment history. The early films were dominated by religious and mythological stories, littered with special effects and relating tales based on the great Hindu epics, ‘The Mahabharata’ and ‘The Ramayan’.

2. Lanka Dahan – One of India’s first superhits: The 1917 movie on Ramayan by Father Of Indian Cinema, Shri Dadasaheb Phalke, was a cult hit. The shows ran every hour from 7 am to midnight making it one of the most watched movies of the early Indian Cinema. Shri Phalke was inspired to make the movie after watching ‘The Life Of Christ’ and felt a strong urge to tell the Indian mythological gem.

3. Seeta: The first significant talkie was Debaki Bose’s Seeta where Prithviraj Kapoor played Ram and Durga Khote was Seeta. Another movie of same time was Ram Janma.

4. Ram Rajya: Vikram Bhatt’s grandfather Vijay Bhatt made couple of movies on Ramayana – Bharat Milap and Ram Rajya. Both were super hits.

5. Ram Rajya was one of the only two-three movies that Mahatma Gandhi watched in his lifetime. Gandhi started using the word Ram Rajya as a welfare benign state.

6. Sampoorna Ramayana: The classic of the 60s is still one of the popular movies for legendary epic.

7. Bajrangbali: Lord’s biggest bhakt Shri Hanuman takes centre stage in the movie. Dara Singh is Hanuman in this epic. Mahabali Hanuman, Hanuman Paatal Vijay & Shri Ram Bhakta Hanuman are other representations of Shri Hanuman.

8. Luv Kush: Jeetendra & Jaya Prada starrer focusses on the Lord Ram’s two sons after the Lord sends Sitaji to exile

9. Ramayana – The Legend Of Prince Rama: The India-Japanese anime movie has been a favourite with the 90s kids.

10. AdiPurush: One of the most disastrous movies of recent times which was criticised across the board for damaging our holy imagery of Ramayana and the crass treatment.

Similarly, several regional movies are inspired by Ramayana and the legendary NTR’s work is very prominent.

The epic Ramayana has influenced the Indian cinema in other indirect representations:

1. Hum Saath Saath Hain: Trust Rajshri to give us a perfect family values packed entertainment. This is the most popular replication of Ramayana in a modern context. Shobhana Samarth’s grandson Mohnish is the Ram like figure in the movie. Incidentally, Shobhana Samarth was Sita in Bharat Milap (She is Nutan’s mother and Kajol’s grandmother).

2. Raavan: Maestro Mani Ratnam gives the perspective of Raavan in Abhishek – Aishwarya movie starrer.

3. Baahubali & RRR have episodic influence of Ramayana. Even Ram Teri Ganga Maili as well!

4. Ram Setu, Rudraksha are other movies linked to Ramayana.

5. Hey Ram is not about Ram, it’s about Gandhi.

6. The message of ‘Victory of Good Over Evil’ has been central to the innumerable movies.

Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana remains the most popular and Ramayana – a cult whose telecast timing stopped the nation. Its repeat telecast broke records in Covid times.

Shri Rama has remained in Indian consciousness since ancient times and Indian Cinema has continued to revisit Shri Ramayana and bring it in the main discourse in multiple ways. The trend will continue…