India, are you ready for this Mahabharata?

The Mahabharata: Is rest of India willing to see a mythological epic, which is so entrenched in our culture, through a very different prism?

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi | Updated: April 25, 2017 2:02 pm
Baahubali actor Prabhas is ready to share screen space with Mohanlal in The Mahabharata.

India’s biggest movie production ever, The Mahabharata, has just been announced with a budget of over Rs 1,000 crore. Yes, it will be a spectacle of the kind Indian moviegoers have not been exposed to very often. But there is one question we must ponder on before this movie hits the screens: Is India ready for The Mahabharata, this Mahabharata?

Why this question, you might ask. Well, to start with, this version of Mahabharata is sure to be different from what most of India is used to. The movie is based on M T Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham, a retelling of the Mahabharata from the perspective of Bheema.

How will that be so different from B R Chopra’s version? To answer that question, you must know a bit more about MT, as Vasudevan Nair is popularly known in Kerala.

In Kerala folklore, Chandu was ‘Chathiyan (cheater) Chandu’, having literally backstabbed his cousin Aromal. But that was before 1989. That was before Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha. MT rewrote how Kerala saw this character with his script based on what was till then a largely oral legend.

MT had done the same five years before with at least the millions of Malayalees who read Randamoozham, widely believed to be his masterpiece. Randamoozham, or second turn, looks at the epic through the eyes of Bheema, who always had to wait behind his elder brother Yudhishtir for his turn. Not a good feeling when you might actually be the more deserving of the two, the more accomplished, the more worthy. The mighty Bheem might not have always been a happy, contented Bheem.

This is why the first name in the cast is that of Mohanlal who will play the mace-wielding mythological character. No, the hero here is not Arjuna or Krishna, the more glamorous, the more conventional choices.

It’s been over three decades since Randamoozham was written and Malayalees have accepted this alternative version of the epic. But is the rest of India willing to see a mythological epic, which is so entrenched in our culture, through a very different prism? This is a question that we need to seriously ponder over, especially in the times that we are in.

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          1. N
            N ATARAJA Nv
            Apr 26, 2017 at 10:45 pm
            If Vasudevan Nair's Mahabharatha is different from Veda Vyasa's in the way of story telling, it is better for the producer Mr.Shetty to give a very big thought before investing Rs1000 crores for the movie.Because if the the main characters like Bheema think from a different perspective or if the basic thinking is going to be different from what is accepted over thousands of years, it may not be liked or accepted; again it is better to have hitherto unknown actors in the main role .
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            1. M
              Murali Nair
              Apr 26, 2017 at 2:49 pm
              Two factors cast doubt over the proposed mega movie project: 1. In Indian Film industry, typically the producers get about 45 of the revenue generated from the movie, rest going to Exhibitors, Crew, Cast, Taxes etc. Thus, to recover investment of Rs 1000 crores the movie will have to do business of Rs 2300 crores, which is unlikely. 2. The author, in the novel, depicts Pandavas, Krishna and all others as well-accomplished but human characters devoid of any divinity. They are shown consuming alcohol and meat. As part of the rationalizing, author brushes aside the notion that pandavas were fathered by different gods and suggests, instead, they were born out of princess i's liaison with different living persons sanctioned by her family. I doubt if such depictions would be allowed in current India!
              Reply
              1. K
                krishna
                Apr 26, 2017 at 6:10 am
                Isn't it great... The comments posted here tell that one section of India sees the Mahabharat as one kind of interpretation and another one sees as another interpretation and if one makes it we can color it RSS version, another one makes it is SSR version (whatever it is) and so on... We have reached a place where if you accidentally says hey ram, somebody paint you as a supporter of some RSS...
                Reply
                1. K
                  kunjan
                  Apr 25, 2017 at 4:06 pm
                  amoozham should have been filmed in a simple narration with the characters in a humanly form without the paraphernalia of historical or epical characters as done by Mr G Aravindan, the renowned film director in Kanchana Seetha. Here Raman, Sita and all other characters of Ramayana were real human beings. Still the film won critical acclaims. Here also, this method shoudl have followed rather than spending enormous wealth of such a magnitude. A man of MT's stature would not have agreed for this project designed by a super star and a group who do not know the real value of money as well as the scenario prevailing in this country. He has surrendered to the trap of corporate moguls. More over, it is not Mahabharatha. The name of the film should be amoozham and not Mahabharatha one of the Epics and the corner stone of Indian Culture that spread across the world. Still remember the glorious period when the Great Mahabharath, serial was aired in Doordarshan.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    suresh raghavan
                    Apr 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm
                    Yeah, you are rightly said the name of the film should not be Mahabharat. Even if there is a name change, the censor board will not be able certify it for its contradictory content. There might be widespread objection from the Hindutva groups. Such a masterpiece influencing the root cause of Hindutva should not be subjected to such a critical experiment because of its national appeal. It is not an unknown fact that many countries follow the Mahabharata culture in different ways. Yet the makers are not oblivious of these facts as they are ociated with movie business for decades. Let us pray for the materialization of the project without any serious obstacle and hit the screen worldwide. It would be a cl ic worthy of watching, especially since the talents ociated with it.
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