Adipurush is grounded before take-off and rightly so

Director Om Raut’s trailer Adipurush was released in time for Dussehra 2022 with the announcement of its first screening in January 2023.

But soon after its release, it was called out for its shoddy graphics and mindless distortions of the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana.

The film dares to flesh out the main characters of the Hindu epic in a way unlike any previous audiovisual depiction.

The director opted to make the film with CGI, VFX effects that would have brought out a less Indian and more Western portrayal of The Ramayan’s main characters, events, and landscapes.

Any subject matter, religious or spiritual in nature, is predictably judged for historical wrongs and wrongs, character portrayals, and any revision of an already widely accepted plot.

Artistic freedom and freedom of expression notwithstanding, the Adipurush trailer helps us take a step back, reflect on the art of blending creativity and artistic sensibilities with historical particulars and long-standing perceptions of representations of characters and events (especially religious). In other words, a creative re-look in cinematic form of an important spiritual text like The Ramayan can be considered as long as its essence and spiritual meaning is not altered.

The crux of the review revolves around Hindu feelings with the portrayals of the main characters, especially that of Ravana and Hanuman with a lower percentage, focusing on the depiction of Sita Devi, the wife of King Rama, the protagonist of the epic. It is important to note that the review did not focus on the subject of the film; the harsh commentary centers on a pirouette, a play, the traditional portrayal of the epic’s key characters, and the essence of the story which has a deeper spiritual meaning for the people of India.

Those who complained about the effects of CGI (computer-generated imagery) or VFX (visual effects) did not complain about the use of this technology; perhaps their disappointment lay in the unintended or unexpected effects of such technology, resulting in an eerie and alien portrayal of the characters, events, landscapes and settings of the beloved Ramayan story.

In the recently released teaser, Ravana and Hanuman (Hindus and ardent devotees of Shiva and Rama respectively) look more Muslim than Hindu, a notable misstep!

The facial appearance/makeup, for Ravana and Hanuman characters, seems to misrepresent the people they were and the times they lived in – Ravana character sports eyes with blue and black kajal, short hair and spiky and long Islamic-looking beard, uncannily reminiscent of India’s destructive Islamic invaders, such as Alauddin Khilji; Hamuman sports a beard without a mustache and is dressed in leather, again more of an Islamic representation than a Hindu one. In the short teaser clip, the landscape of a certain event as well as Ravana’s transport looks like a vampire.

The CGI/VFX used for the scene resulted in something that looked like Planet of the Apes and King Kong. It lacked an Indian authenticity, faithful to the culture of the people and the era of the epic.

The Ramayana is one of the most popular epics in the world, having spread from India to many other countries in South and Southeast Asia, with each nation choosing to customize their version of the timeless story. , based on its culture and celebrating it in its unique style.

The Japanese anime version does a good job of staying true to both the story and the character portrayals. The extensive traditions of Ramayana oral storytelling and/or elaborate dance and theater performances as well as puppet shows held in honor of the Ramayana, in Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos , Burma, Malaysia and the Philippines are lovely. , memorable presentations that stay true to the characters, events, and theme of the epic.

Indian audiences are not mistaken in expecting a cinematic portrayal of the popular Indian epic to remain true to its original Indian version, Indian characters, Indian customs, events and scenery, within the context of the time in which it took place.

Let’s be clear, the use of technology in itself is not a problem. Case in point: audiences were thrilled with the CGI and VFX effects achieved in Bahubali and RRR. The Adipurush trailer is a wake-up call for the film’s creators. It tested the waters of acceptance among a modern Indian audience with a respect for their core traditions. Here’s hoping the director and his technical advisors manage to portray the characters well through their continued use of CGI, VFX technology, using such effects to put a modern spin on an ancient story, without taking away its essence, its simplistic appeal to the Indian. masses and his spiritual message.

Will the creators of “Adipurush” use some of the nasty comments to correct the course of the direction? Only time will tell.

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Joan D. Boling