Free Press Journal

Mahayoddha Rama: Mythic but largely uninspiring


Cast (voices): Kunal Kapoor, Jimmy Shergill, Gulshan Grover, Mouni Roy, Mukesh Rishi, Lilette Dubey, Suchitra Pillai

Director: Rohit Vaid

The Hindu epic Ramayana finds a new medium for expression in this 3D animated avatar that looks on that mythic tale with a point-of-view that’s different from what has come before. Raavan (Gulshan Grover), the demon who tricked the Gods into gifting him their powers  feels slighted when King Dashrath’s beatific eldest son Rama (Kunal Kapoor) breaks the bow that cements his betrothal to the lovely dutiful Sita(Mouni Roy) at her swayamvar.

So he dons the avatar of a pesky flying insect in order to poison Queen Kaikeyee’s mind against Rama. Deed done, Rama is banished into exile and his wife and younger brothers Lakshman (Jimmy Shergill), Nakul and Sahdev join him in the forest.

But Kaikeyee’s scheming doesn’t quite get her all she hankers after. Her son, second born, Bharat, agrees to stay back to guard the kingdom but refuses to ascend the throne in Rama’s absence. Raavan further attempts to cause ill will between the couple- by sending his sister. Surpanakha (Suchitra Pillai) to seduce Rama, fails but her loss of face (nose to be precise) leads him to devise yet another plan. This time to abduct Sita and confine her in Lanka. But that act leads to a reprisal that ends in his eventual destruction.

The story is familiar of course but the telling of it is largely from the point of view of Raavan. His emotions and reasoning are the pillars on which this narrative is constructed and the narrative swathes a wide ranging eventful path towards his self-destruction.

The plotting which highlights Raavan’s trickery and assumption of Godly powers, while delineating his 10 heads with wide-ranging personas also includes Rama’s youthful exploits and the lead-up to his final act of heroism.

The colour palette, character definitions, voicing and graphical nature of the rendering is pretty much befitting. But the animation technique in use here is very much substandard and old fashioned.

The character movements are stymied and their exploits appear to be governed by a stiff, unbending form that does not necessarily resonate as rectitude. The dialogues are the most interesting aspect of this animated experience.

They are both subversive and reverential and lean towards a new age mindset in their enunciations. The pop-culture referencing is also one of the highlights of this experience along with the vitriol displayed by some of Raavan’s ego states (read Talking Heads).

The late Aadesh Shrivastava’s musical score that sets tune to Javed Akhtar’s lyrics lends piety and reverence to the experience but it’s just not enough to keep you involved. Ultimately it’s the belittling, below par, animation technique in use here that mars the telling of this wonderful, mythic and timeless story highlighting the righteous triumph of Good over evil.