Ashish Sharma as Lord Ram in Siye ke Ram

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Oflate the Hindu mythology is going for a makeover in the entertainment scene and it is a welcoming trend. I believe that this trend started with the Amish Tripathy's trilogy "Immortals of Meluha" which was an instant blockbuster in the Indian English Literature and eventually translated into various Indian languages including Tamil. The TV serials followed the trend started by "Mahabharath" that was telecast in Star TV in Hindi and later in all the regional channels. Even though we had other serials like "Devon ki Dev", Star TV's "Mahabharath" was significant in a way that it humanised the characters rather than painting them just Black and White.

This approach was slammed by the conventionalists and purists that they had distorted the epic and will have a negative influence on the upcoming generation. They all cited to take B.R Chopra's "Mahabharath" as reference. Even though I agree that B.R Chopra's serial was pretty much neutral and linear narrative in which everything was just black and white, which was even characterised by their costumes. All the Pandavas wore pure whites whereas Duryodhana wore all black while Karna's costume was made of Gold to portray his noble nature, while other Kauravas' dresses were of different grades of black. That made the viewers to get into the "character" mode. But the new versions have those characters flaunting their sculpted toned bodies and depend more on the body language rather than falling back on the "external costumes" to establish the characters. E.g the actor Arpit Ranka who played Duryodhan had that body language to exude the 'menace' without an 'all black costume'.

But when I saw the new "Mahabharat", I remember this Varanavrath episode where the mother-son bond between Kunthi and Arjun was beautifully explained. Till then all the Mahabharath's I had seen / read portrayed Kunthi as a Rajmatha and Pandavas following her without questioning. But that episode showed Arjun and Kunthi getting into an humane arguement and finally resolving to escape from there. Ofcourse this might have been a cinematic liberty taken because according to that Mahabharath, there was no secret tunnel dug to escape, instead the powerful Bheem pounces on the earth so that it "automatically" digs a "tunnel" through which they escape.

The other episode I feel that it deserves a mention is the birth of Draupathi. As per the mythology King Dhrupad carries out an Yagna to get a son for taking revenge of Dhronacharya. In that Yagna, he gets a son Dhrishtadhyumna and a daughter Draupathi, both of them are already an adult when they come out of the holy fire. In the B.R Chopra's Mahabharath, it was a few minute scene. But in the new Mahabharath, they humanised Draupathi by thinking how she might have behaved when coming to this earth for the first time, how she feels when she saw the palaces, cosmetics especially seeing herself in the mirror for the first time.. Even though it was a boring episode, the thought of treating her as a human being was refreshing.

The list can go on... I was inspired to write this blog when I saw the latest episode of "Seethaiyin Raman" which I used to download for Aadhi. Till now we had seen Rama as clean shaven, all prim and proper look even at the times of distress when he had lost Sita. But this is the first time ever I had seen Lord Rama in a moustache and beard, which is quiet normal that he was not interested in looking after himself because of the Sita's loss. Also the fight between Lord Rama and Ravana was also a revelation. Till now we had seen the "fights" being relegated to the "answering with arrows" where the actual enemies are standing miles apart and fighting / replying with arrows. If one sends Agni astra the other one will send Jal astra to nullify the fire effect. If one sends Naga astra, the other one sends Garuda astra to kill the snake.

But in "Seethaiyin Raman / Siya ke Ram", Rama and Ravana engage in hand-to-hand duel. Rama shoves Ravana's head into the soil and strangles him to death. Quite a different sight and thought on the lines of how humans fight rather than sticking to the age old template of God - Demons fight in the lines of divine armoury. I hadn't seen "Seedhaiyin Raman" except few glimpses then and there when Aadhi was watching that, so I couldn't write more about this serial. But based on whatever little I saw, the efforts to treat Sita as a normal human was palpable and appreciated.

These may be the just beginning of the humanisation of mythological characters but over the years we can see these characters portrayed realistically and dwelving more into their psychological space rather than just giving them a cardboard shape. We might not be surprised to see aesthetically shot versions of Kunthi having unprotected premarital sex to experiment with her sexuality resulting in an unwarranted pregnancy followed by abandoning the infant into the river and as an MILF having extra marital sex with 4 different persons to beget children (Pandavas) this time probably out of societal pressure because of her husband's impotence. If there is any bold filmmaker who dares to shoot the human version of Lord Ayyappa, there might be lesser shock / outcry when Lord Vishnu is shown as cross dresser and having a homosexual affair with Lord Shiva and both of them adopting Lord Aiyyappa as their offspring. Even the sex change of female Amba to male Shikandi might be humanised bringing the recongintion of transgenders in Hindu mythology can be discussed on the living rooms without much discomfort.

It is a welcoming trend and I hope that over the coming years, the fear / mystery of the mythologies are cleared to an extent by humanising them.

P.S: When I googled for "Lord Rama with moustache", I came across a link pointing to Allahabad Barbanki High court had decreed that Lord Rama had thick black moustche.

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