The Ramayana is not for entertainment and filmmakers should avoid coming up with new iterations every few years, says actor Dipika Chikhlia, who became famous for her role as Goddess Sita in Ramanand Sagar's 'Ramayan' 36 years ago.
Wading into the controversy over 'Adipurush', the film directed by Om Raut and fronted by Prabhas and Kriti Sanon, she said any kind of deviance from the Hindu epic will encounter criticism.
"Every time it is going to come back on screen, be it for TV or movie, it is going to have something which is going to hurt people because you are not going to make a replica of the Ramayana that we made," Chikhlia said.
'Adipurush', a lavish multilingual retelling of the Ramayana, has come under attack for its dialogue, colloquial language and representation of some characters from the much-loved mythological epic.
As attention again focused on various versions of the Ramayana - animated, small screen and big -- Chikhlia shared a video of hers dressed as Sita in a hark back to the role that made her a household name in India of the late 80s.
"This post is on public demand. I'm grateful for the love I have always received for the role I played... Me... As sitaji... Could not have asked for more," she captioned the clip on her official Instagram account.
According to her, every filmmaker has their perspective and they want to make something different.
"(But) what really pains me is why are we constantly trying to make Ramayana every year or two years. Ramayana is not (for) entertainment value; it is something that you learn from. It is a book which is being passed down to us by generations and this is what our 'sanskars' (values) are all about," she said.
Chikhlia, 58, hasn't watched "Adipurush" and, given the negative buzz, is unlikely to do so.
"Possibly that also clouded my judgment. I am shooting round-the-clock, so time is a big constraint for me. So, when I actually watch it, (then) I will possibly be in a better frame of mind to talk about 'Adipurush'," she said without divulging any details about her future projects.
"At this point, I have nothing to share. People are coming to me about it, the scenes and everything, and a lot of people from the press too, but I have no clue about it (the film)," Chikhlia, who joined politics after the success of the show and became BJP MP FROM Baroda in 1991, said. Recalling the 1987 Doordarshan serial, she said the aim was never to earn money.
"It was telecast on Doordarshan, and what kind of money does Doordarshan give you, even to actors and makers? So that 'Ramayan' was not made for money.
"That needs to be explained to people that Ramayana is something you worship, you worship Lord Ram and Hanuman. These are not your American superhero kind of a thing. These are people, who we look up to. They are part of our history, they are our ancestors and we have to learn from their life because there is a lot of 'seekh' in that," she added.
All the actors on "Ramayan" did a good job of portraying their characters with utmost honesty, which is one of the reasons why viewers adore the show even today," Chikhlia said.
The series featured Arun Govil as Lord Ram, Sunil Lahri as Lakshman with late actors Dara Singh and Arvind Trivedi essaying the roles of Hanuman and Ravana, respectively.
Chikhlia said it is not possible to recreate the magic of their show "as the days and the times were different".
"Whatever little body of work I have done, like 50 to 60 films Hindi and regional put together, people still love me as 'Sita', everything else has been washed off because I looked convincing as Sita to people," Chikhlia, who has featured in films such as "Bala" and "Natsamrat", said.