Focus on India’s soft power: A Ramayana film to connect with SE Asian nations

The official said the legend of Rama as an individual who established human values in society can be seen and heard across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Published: October 5, 2015 3:55 am
Temples like Angkor Wat in Cambodia have murals depicting Ramayana scenes Temples like Angkor Wat in Cambodia have murals depicting Ramayana scenes

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is looking for filmmakers who can make a documentary on Ramayana’s connect with South-East Asian countries.

South block officials said the film, based on the theme “The Ramayana — a shared culture in India and South East Asia” would be “primarily meant for foreign audience, but will also be shown in India”. “It has to be made in English… other languages, if any, used in the film will require English subtitles. The duration of the documentary should be about 26 minutes,” a South Block official told The Indian Express.

Speaking of the idea behind the project, the official said the legend of Rama as an individual who established human values in society can be seen and heard across Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

“The language and names of characters may be different, but the core of the Rama legend remains constant…the variations, deviations, changes, additions, and omissions in the story in each country depend on the cultural values of the people,” the official said.

He added that it was possible that tales of the Ramayana reached these countries through oral transmission. The official further said that since Ramayana has a “connect” with many of these south-east Asian countries, the documentary would be screened by the Indian embassies in these countries. “In many of these South-east Asian countries, annual performances of the Ramayana variations are often connected with the agricultural cycle and are staged to seek blessings for the farmers’ work and harvest. This documentary, if made well, can be showcased in these countries. This will be part of India’s soft power,” an official said.

Officials said that the Ministry is planning to rope in filmmakers on the basis of a few criteria. Firstly, they should have earlier made a documentary on this particular theme. Secondly, they should have won a National Film award and thirdly, they should have earlier made a film for the MEA.

Officials said the filmmakers will have to make a bullet point presentation about what their project is trying to achieve, who are its target audience and how the film’s message is expected to reach the audience.

The project description has to detail the storyline and explain the characters. It should also focus on the questions and topics the film will explore and the manner in which it will do so, said the official.

He added that the filmmakers need to describe their vision and creative approach for the film. “A flow chart would be appreciated. Description should include the detailed visual treatment; for example, the list of locations or the people who will be interviewed for the film,” he said. According to the official, the filmmakers would also need to specify what portion of the film would be based on archival footage and what part would be shot afresh.

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