Entertainment industry extols Lord Ram, but no major film release before consecration ceremony

Lord Ram’s journey and the history of the temple movement being told through film, documentary, theatre, television and bhajans; no blockbuster as film industry remains wary of Adipurush’s fate

Updated - January 17, 2024 09:12 am IST

Published - January 16, 2024 11:43 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Sakshi Tanwar with Anup Jalota in Chaupai Ka Swar.

Sakshi Tanwar with Anup Jalota in Chaupai Ka Swar. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement 

As the countdown to the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya begins, there has been a spurt in activity in the infotainment space to bring the story of the Lord and his abode home.

Mega projects include Nitesh Tiwari’s Ramayana — reportedly starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sai Pallavi — which is expected to go on the floors soon, and Priyadarshan’s five-episode series on the Ram Temple which is being shot in Lucknow and Ayodhya under a blanket of secrecy, with those associated with the project refusing to divulge any information.

A film with a more modest budget that is ready for release is 695, whose title encapsulates the three important dates in the history of the Ram Temple movement. Directed by Yogesh Bhardwaj, the film’s cast is led by Arun Govil, who had earlier played Ram in Ramanand Sagar’s interpretation of the Ramayan.

Describing the film “as a celebration of our cultural heritage and triumph of faith”, Mr. Govil said that he was playing a priest who was keen on the peaceful resolution of the conflict. “We have tried to take everyone along and have created a balanced narrative of the 500-year long struggle for the temple without augmenting or reducing someone’s role,” Mr. Bhardwaj said.

There will not be any blockbuster film ready for release on the subject, however, in the run-up to the consecration. An industry expert, requesting anonymity, said that it would have required a big budget and timely approvals. “Unlike the consecration, an incomplete film can’t be released. In our industry, a lot depends on the commitment of a big star and a large chunk of the budget goes into his remuneration. The industry is also slightly wary of audience response after seeing the fate of Adipurush,” he said.

‘Unifying force of Lord Ram’

Best-selling author Amish has co-produced and anchored a documentary on the subject, now ready for release, which encapsulates the story of Lord Ram and the history of the Ram Janmabhoomi in 78 minutes. “Meant for those who want to understand the history and the crux of the conflict and resolution in a short time, it underlines the unifying force of Lord Ram and the diversity of his devotees,” Mr. Amish told The Hindu. He added that the documentary featured Manganiyar Muslims singing in praise of Lord Ram, as well as the Ram Rasiks who dress up as female devotees and consider themselves on Sita’s side.

The documentary features short interviews with former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, who led the Ram Temple movement in the 1990s; senior Archaeology Survey of India officials B.R. Mani and K.K. Muhammed; former Supreme Court judge Justice S.A. Bobde, who was part of the five-judge Bench that delivered the historic Ayodhya judgment; and Nripendra Mishra, chairman of the temple construction committee. “We have also interviewed senior journalist Madhu Trehan and representatives of the upcoming Ayodhya mosque to present a wholesome picture of the events,” said the author of the Ram Chandra series of books.

Tulsidas’ Ram in song

Doordarshan is gearing up for the big event with three series. Mandira Dwivedi’s Chaupai Ka Swar, Ram Ki Gatha covers the seven chapters of Ramcharitmanas in five episodes. Chandraprakash Dwivedi, who is the creative producer of the series, said that anchor Sakshi Tanwar would provide context to the verses sung by leading vocalists in classical and semi-classical music, including Anup Jalota, Shekhar Sen, Sanjeev Abhyankar, Mahalaxmi Iyer, and Priyanka Barve.

Dr. Dwivedi — who captured the history of the Ram temple movement and the SC verdict in an evocative 12-minute film, Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Vijay Gaatha — added that if Valmiki’s Ramayan was the first epic of India, then it was Tulsidas’ version which was the last. This version was an ideal guide to understanding human relationships and our bond with the natural environment, whose importance is being felt as much as when the saint brought Lord Ram back into the human consciousness in the 16th century, he said.

Remembering Mr. Sagar’s Ramayan which played on Doordarshan during the Congress era, Dr. Dwivedi said that the legendary director had once told him that it had not been easy to get clearance for the series from the government. “He told me that it was after a senior Minister showed a few episodes to his mother that it was greenlit. Made with great devotion, the series got very high TRPs when it was re-telecast during the pandemic,” he said.

Reaching the youth

Noted radio storyteller Nilesh Misra is also doing a two-episode series from Ayodhya for the public broadcaster that combines his skills with visual representations to tell the story of Lord Ram’s return to Ayodhya. “Ramayan continues to provide a tactile cultural experience. We have tried to put in context the universal emotions that the epic deals with to reach out to a young audience in a simple but impactful language,” he said.

On the stage, Felicity Theatre is premiering a “theatrical extravaganza” titled Humare Ram in Delhi, showcasing episodes from the epic, with actors Rahull R. Bhuchar and Ashutosh Rana in the lead and Kailash Kher, Sonu Nigam, and Shankar Mahadevan lending their voices to the songs.

Bhajans take over social media

The social media space is getting inundated with bhajans and songs in praise of Lord Ram. There is Jubin Nautiyal’s Mere Ghar Ram Aayen Hain and Hariharan’s Tumne Mujhe Pukara Ramji that have both been trending since they were posted from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s X handle.

Anu Malik has also chipped in with his perky tune in Jai Shree Ram and goes on to praise the contribution of the PM, and of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. It has even been posted by the BJP’s official handle. Mr. Malik, who describes himself as a follower of the Arya Samaj, said that he was so overwhelmed by the mood of the nation that he had composed the number in 12 hours flat. “As the tune was stuck in my head, I pushed journalist Vishnu Sharma to write the words. He was at a Metro Station but he delivered in 20 minutes,” he said.

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