When it rains, it pours! That’s what it seems like now. It has been quite a while since any of our great epics have been adapted on screen. And when they happen, they are releasing within a fortnight of each other. First, it was Raajneeti; an adaptation of the Mahabharata and on the 18th it will be Raavanan; adaptation of the Ramayana.
Now, how much of an adaptation are these films; i.e., are they 100% genuine adaptations of the epics, told in a modern setting or are they interpretations of the epics that take a few liberties? This is an attempt to analogize characters in these films with their counterparts in the epics. This is purely imaginative/analytical and is not authoritative information on the film or the epic.
The modern Mahabharata. In the film, as in the real epic, the issue is the power to rule. In the epic, the cousins fought over kingdoms while in the movie, the fight is over the authority in a political party.
The Kaurava group:
Unlike the epic, this group does not have 100 brothers. But, the mastermind and lead of them all is there, Duryodhana, which is the character of Virendra played by Manoj Bajpai. Strongly objecting when his father’s younger brother is given the reins of power; scheming the ouster of his cousin from the party and resorting to all kinds of unethical tactics to get the better of them in the elections.
The other main character on the Kaurava side that actually belonged to the Pandava clan by birth is portrayed by Ajay Devgn as Sooraj. Most of you might not have much difficulty in guessing the character from the epic which Sooraj represents; the highly respected Karna; the man who gave more importance to his friendship and loyalty rather than any blood relation. He who chose to stay alongside his ally and friend even at the cost of being killed by his younger brother. The man who always stood true to his word. And he who wears the ‘kundalas’ on his ears. Karna is perhaps the character that has been most earnestly adapted from the Mahabharata into Rajneethi.
The Pandava group:
Here too, unlike in the epic, there aren’t five brothers; only two. Which two brothers are being depicted here?
The elder brother, played by Arjun Rampal, can be considered as Yudhishthira by the virtue of being eldest. But, the characterization does not fully represent Yudhishthira in the way he has been shown in Mahabharata. Yudhishthira is known as the most righteous and just of all the Pandavas. He is also the only Pandava to survive the final trek through the Himalayas. These traits are not associated with the character in the film. Yet, as the eldest and the rightful heir to the throne of power, Arjun Rampal’s character will be that of Yudhishthira. The younger brother, played by Ranbir Kapoor, is no doubt Arjuna. With his razor sharp brain that devises tactics, his proximity to the character of Krishna who is always ready with his advice and his ultimate slaying of Duryodhana and Karna, the character of Arjuna has been faithfully adapted.
One of the most important characters in the Mahabharata; the God who gives moral strength and courage to the Pandavas; Lord Krishna, played by Nana Patekar as Brij Gopal. He constantly advices Arjun about political tactics and at the end tells him to cross the line of ethics when it comes to putting an end to one’s enemy.
Dritharashtra and Pandu:
The younger brother handed over the rein after the elder suffers the stroke is the father of the Pandava side and should thus be Pandu. The elder stroke ridden and paralyzed brother is the father of Virendra (Duryodhana) and should thus be Dritharashtra. Furthermore, he is a silent spectator to all the proceedings from his hospital bed; much like Dritharashtra who was blind and helpless. It also goes without saying that the mother of the Pandava side is Kunti, who is also shown in the film to have given birth to Karna and then set him afloat in the waters of Ganga for their family’s charioteer (car driver) to find him.
There are some characters from the Mahabharata who could not be detected in Raajneeti. Some of them are pivotal characters in the great epic; like the great Bhishmacharya, the wily Shakuni, Dronacharya etc.
Now to the other film and the other great epic; Raavanan and the Ramayana It would be unwise to guess the nature of the characters even before the film releases, especially knowing Mani Ratnam’s style of film making which leaves nothing predictable. But, if Raavanan is indeed an interpretation of the Ramayana, then there are certain things that should be the way we assume.
The title role of the film, being played by Vikram in Tamil and Abhishek Bachchan in Hindi. There is no doubt about the nature of this character. The extremely powerful, daring asura who kidnaps the wife of Rama. It is obvious that Prithviraj plays Rama in Tamil, while Vikram is Rama in the Hindi version. And, it goes without saying that Aishwarya Rai portrays Sita.
Now, these are the pretty obvious characters. What about the other important characters? Here is a guess.
The trailers have shown Prabhu as a part of the tribal clan, with quite fierce expressions. This leads to thinking that he should be a strong character on the Raavana side. So, we thought (no connection to his physique) that he could be playing the character of Kumbhakarna. While Munna who has also been shown as part of the tribal clan might be Vibhishana, who joins hands with Rama in the end. Priyamani too has been shown as part of the tribal clan and it is being speculated that she could represent Surpanaka. But, it is not clear whether she plays Raavana’s sister, which also leaves the possibility that she could be Mandodari.
Another key actor who has not yet featured in the trailers is Karthik. Going by reports, he plays the role of a forest officer. A wild guess from this small piece of information leads us to three possibilities. Karthik could be any one out of Hanuman, Sugriva or Jatayu.
Is our guess right? Let’s wait and watch.