Details Once long ago, in ancient India, an epic war was fought between dharma and adharma. It shook an empire stretching across three worlds, ended a centuries-old reign, and marked the beginning of a new age. The victors are worshipped as gods to this day and stories of their greatness are part of everyday conversation. This is the story of the one who lost. Creators Vijayendra Mohanty and Vivek Goel explore the values inherent in the Ramayana and retell the immortal story as something more than a simple tale of good triumphing over evil.
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Print In a realm where creators are constantly waging a war to produce works that lingers in the mind of readers, turning to mythology for inspiration is not uncommon.
Not only do the creators have impressive worlds to borrow from, they also have familiar characters to play around with, tapping into nostalgia that rise from tales we heard in our childhood. In the realm of Indian comics and graphic novels, the Ramayana is a favourite when it comes to adaptations. The fallen hero Written by Vijayendra Mohanty and illustrated by Vivek Goel, Ravanayan introduces us to a young man who is nothing like the ten-headed terrifying demon myths. Good looking, clean-shaven with glorious locks of white hair — truly a man of noble descent.
Easily one of the best graphic series inspired by Indian mythology, Ravanayan portrays Ravana as an intelligent, aware man. He is knowledgeable and a fearless leader. But he has flaws too. Arrogant and insolent, he is a typical fallen hero who manages to pique both adulation as well as a profound sense of tragedy. Surprising the reader brought up on the conventional Ramayana, Ravana grows to be a man who is a hero more than the villain he is considered to be.
A result of excellent research, this adaptation involved the task of depicting a quintessential antagonist as a protagonist — which was quite a challenge in itself.
But good adaptations are no easy task. Science fiction does it by questioning our ideas of physical reality and our ideas about the future. With Ravanayan, we questioned not the reality of the events of the Ramayana, but the reality of the Ramayana as a story — how it exists in our minds and what it stands for.
That sort of a mental exercise is always something one can use. Very few instances of Indian graphic novels have successfully been able to capture violence of such proportions in its true glory. With grotesque monsters, divine weapons and superpowers that can put any mainstream superhero to shame, Ravanayan is indeed an adaptation that has been crafted to win hearts.
Retold by the devoted Hanuman, the story begins to unfold when Bhima chances upon an ailing monkey blocking his path in the forest. Realising that the simian is none other than his brother Hanuman, the two spend the night exchanging stories and notes of their adventures. But with so many retellings of the Ramayana already available, what was it that inspired Balagopal to create this graphic novel? Indeed, there are many things that startle the reader.
In this adaptation Hanuman is a baboon, and the bright, shining star that changed his face, a moon! But in a bit of a let-down, much of the book is just another retelling of the epic.
I think visually, so it was not a great leap from filmmaking in terms of storytelling. And the story you are telling is always the most important, be it an adaptation or an original story.
So they all have the same aim, and their own challenges. After a very impressive introduction to the traditional tale at the very beginning of the book, we the readers are let into an unfamiliar world. One that is deeply personal. It makes us ask about the fate of female survivors — whose honour has been at stake — and their burden in knowing that male aggression has stemmed from this.
This book refuses to put Sita on the pedestal that empowers her with unreal heroism. Instead, it places her in a patriarchal world which feels uncomfortably realistic at times. We welcome your comments at letters scroll.
What would the Ramayana have been like if told by Ravana, Hanuman or Sita?