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‘Adipurush’ is a Reinterpretation of  Ramayana to Feed the Hate and Toxicity That has Polarized Indian Society

‘Adipurush’ is a Reinterpretation of  Ramayana to Feed the Hate and Toxicity That has Polarized Indian Society

  • While granting the liberties that a storyteller can take, one cannot deny that it is a dog whistle to you know who.

While Om Raut’s “Adipurush” is cringeworthy and unwatchable, I don’t think there is one right way of narrating the epics. Indeed, if at all I must comment on the entire spectacle of righteous indignation by critics and self-styled guardians of Indian culture, it would be that I stand with the filmmakers’ right to interpret the Ramayana in the way they wanted to.

As a rationalist who knows the Ramayana is simply a story, albeit beautifully narrated (with genius-level poetry and rhythm) and intricately woven, how can I take objection based on manufactured ‘facts’? I mean, what do people who claim that the filmmaker should not distort ‘facts’ (when discussing how Hanuman or Raghav or Ravan was supposed to speak or Sita was supposed to dress or whatever) even mean? I would say they keep using the word ‘fact’; I do not think it means what they think it means. There are no ‘facts’ at risk here. Indeed there are no ‘facts’ at all. 

This is a mythological tale of good and evil, which was both a mirror to the society as it existed at the various points at which it was created and propagated (over many generations) as also a moral tale about how society ought to be ideally (as per the storytellers at those various points in history). Just like any other fable. Except it was exceptionally beautifully told and exceptionally widely told (thereby standing the test of time, and thus the quality of storytelling). “Adipurush” is one more interpretation in a long line of interpretations and retellings of this story. Nothing more. Nothing less. And it ought to be treated as such.

Let me hasten to clarify that it does not mean it is great art or even good art. That does not even mean they made it as an artistic expression and a manifestation of their perspective. Because we all know why they made it — To profit off and, in turn, feed the hate and toxicity that this polarized society has become addicted to.

So, what is indeed wrong with the movie? It isn’t how they interpreted a story. It isn’t how they told this story. It isn’t how they saw the story. It is WHY they told the story the way they told the story.

My only point is that if we must criticize it, it should be for the right reasons.

It isn’t what Hanuman said or didn’t, or which words he used because he is an imaginary character in a mythological epic poem that was narrated and sung, changed and modified, and translated and interpreted by dozens of cultures in an equal number of geographies and civilizations over thousands of years before it was distilled into the versions we were raised on by our grandmothers and eventually, by a Bollywood producer and a state-run television channel. 

To go on about if he used Urdu or Sanskrit, Bambaiyya or Illahbadi, or any other language or slang is to miss the point. He is a character in a story. He may speak whatever, and however the storyteller wishes him to. The storyteller has the right to see his characters the way he wishes to and tell the story accordingly.

So, what is indeed wrong with the movie? It isn’t how they interpreted a story. It isn’t how they told this story. It isn’t how they saw the story. It is WHY they told the story the way they told the story. It is for the dog whistle they intended it to be. It is their intentions that we must question and expose. It is their نیت (if you are so fond of Urdu) or हेतु (if you prefer the Sanskritized Hindi) that is malafide.

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The entire exercise is, to use a pun, in bad faith.

It is, of course, a commercial venture at the end of the day (and just FYI, they have made their money even before the release), and the audience has the right to accept it or reject it. They vote with their wallets. And I have no objections to either result, whether it is a hit or a flop. That said, as my own last word, it is a piece of crap. And not just because it was made badly. Everything around it stinks to high hell. But the producers are well within their rights to back it, the actors to act in it, the writer to write the dialogue, and the director to make it. Who am I to dictate what they can or cannot make? And that’s my opinion. Fight me.

This is not to deny that there are millions, even hundreds of millions, who consider it to be about their faith and about their belief system. And while as a rationalist, I personally do not feel so, as a humanist and a democrat, I cannot deny others their freedom of belief, however asinine and irrational. If a large section of society feels offended by a work of art, it is their democratic right to protest it peacefully and go about trying to pull it down using protest, judicial processes, and public opinion. They have the right, and I will defend that right, even if I do not agree with how they choose to exercise it.

Kedar Anil Gadgil is a Principal Consultant at Druid Systems in Pune, India. In his words, he is politically promiscuous — who does not follow a specific political or social party or leader but, from instance to instance, chooses the argument that best suits his ideological stance of secular humanism. You can read more of his commentaries at

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  • Sorry to say this.. But as you say it isn’t a tale. It’s a real story which happens in the land of cultures ..India. And indeed it’s a fact that it’s not impressive to make the pious people use such words. It’s a beautiful life story of Lord Rama which should be treated good. And there is beautifully depicted Ramayanam by Vamliki. I think that it should be read by the director first.
    Sita is a great woman who is very pious and it is necessary to treat her good. Ravanasura.. knowing this didn’t take her as she was a dead body in real Ramayanam. He created a hole in the land to avoid touching her. And she was placed in a garden which is full of trees and birds. Not in a place where there is not even a single green leaf. And there is no such kind of scene where Sita maa is gonna be cut her neck by someone else.
    What is the use of portraying all the false information if not known properly? Lord Hanuman always chats “Kai Shri Ram” all the time. It’s no where heard in the movie.
    And Lakshamana is supposed to be called with his name. Not as “Seshu” it is the name of incarnation.. not the person name. And he obeys whatever Lord Ram tells him. He doesn’t oppose anytime.
    Ravana is only bad in taking Sita. He is a pure devotee of Lord Shiva. And he is indeed a human . Who lives like a human. Not as a demon. He have a palace which is full of trees. Not as it is shown in the movie.
    And Lord Rama should deserve more than this. He’s the role model of living good. Every decision he take… that’s always helpful for everyone more than him. And it’s aching Evey heart who know that he deserves more.
    No offense… All these are facts and there are many more.
    Jail Shree Ram

  • See, we know your type. Use jargons to sound intellectual, nevertheless you turned out to be narrow minded as those jargons. You can debate whether Hanuman was the reincarnation of Shiva, but have no rights to claim Ramayana is mythological. Ramayana is the history of India, so first read all the scriptures and books available (which you are definitely not capable) and then debate. Moreover, throwing off jargon is no longer cool in modern days 🙂 . Aadipurush came and gone, rejected by GenZ for which it was made. Ramayan looks simple story, but it has many instances of very complicated moral dilemmas – that’s the beauty to provide a template to train young mind to maneuver a similar dilemma in their life. Understanding Ramayan is not that easy though it looks like a simple story.

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