3 min read.Updated: 13 Jan 2021, 03:45 PM ISTLata Jha
Bollywood’s intent to tap the wider cultural, nationalist sentiment brewing in India has been evident for a while now. Former censor board chief Nihalani had announced his film a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Ayodhya last August to lay the foundation stone of the Ram temple
NEW DELHI: In a year that will see the beginning of the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, a clutch of mythological films is on the cards.
Around Diwali, A-lister Akshay Kumar had unveiled his plan to work in a movie called Ram Setu that he said would be an attempt to ‘keep alive the ideals of Ram in the consciousness of all Bharatiyas by building a bridge (setu) that will connect generations to come.’ Filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani also has a film coming up titled Ayodhya Ki Katha based on Lord Ram. Baahubali actor Prabhas will be seen in a film called Adipurush, reportedly based on the Ramayana that will see him play the protagonist with Saif Ali Khan as the antagonist. These mythological tales have transcended generations in their appeal, said filmmakers.
“This kind of Indian storytelling that blends mythology with history is what generations have grown up on across classes and it plays a very important role in our lives. It is a genre that only grows stronger with time," said Vikram Malhotra, chief executive officer, Abundantia Entertainment that is co-producing Ram Setu. That storytelling element is the building block of lives in India, a country whose culture is extremely rich with documented mythology, Malhotra added.
To be sure, Bollywood’s intent to tap into the wider cultural, nationalist sentiment brewing in India has been evident for a while now. Former censor board chief Nihalani had announced his film a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Ayodhya last August to lay the foundation stone of the Ram temple.
The construction of the temple, set to begin this month, has been handed over to Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and will be completed in three to three-and-a-half years. The cost of the main temple within the boundary is estimated at ₹300-400 crore.
Earlier this week, filmmaker Aditya Dhar, who had helmed war drama Uri -- The Surgical Strike, announced a film with Vicky Kaushal on Mahabharat warrior Ashwatthama. Clearly, filmmakers are sharp enough to tap into the country’s mood when they make films. The Ram temple was big on the agenda for the government in power and it is now on its way to being built.
"The Modi government has used the emotive sensibility of cinema to reach out to the masses. It has realised that films have an impact and are a mass genre of entertainment," political analyst Manisha Priyam had said in an earlier interview to Mint.
In fact, Hindi cinema has also more than embraced the surge in nationalism with films like Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (Rs.269 crore), Uri: The Surgical Strike (Rs. 244 crore), and a host of political biopics in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
A Bollywood writer having worked on a couple of such films, said on condition of anonymity, that filmmakers are smart businessmen, they know what is likely to work with audiences, many of whom do not shy away from chest-thumping themselves. In that sense, films have always been a reflection of society.
However, film critic CS Venkiteshwaran pointed out that recent web offerings, so far working without censorship or control, have managed to portray harsh truths of violence, caste and disparity across the country, in stark contrast to jingoistic narratives. It remains to be seen whether such films find much appeal after many audiences have tasted blood.
Yet others see potential in the new films. The advantage of mythologicals is their grand appeal, possibly enhanced with visual effects and technology, a kind of storytelling technique that has come to the fore since the success of the Baahubali franchise, itself a re-telling of the Mahabharat and is a huge driver in bringing people to theatres and necessitating big-screen experiences.
“The scale and vision of such content is always larger-than-life and it is imperative to tell these stories in that manner. Any story well told in the form of a spectacle will cut across the length and breadth of the country and be a big boost to bringing people back to theatres," Malhotra said.