Ra.One, Raavan, Adipurush: Why Raavan and Dushereha continue to be a preferred trope in Bollywood

Mythology has always found resonance in Bollywood films — be it in the form of retelling or modern-day interpretations. Dussehra, which is celebrated with towering effigies of Raavan, symbolising evil, being burnt with fireworks, marking evil’s destruction and the story of Ram and Raavan have also been recycled many a time in films as the grandiose of such stories constantly perpetuating in cinema.

The recent example being the poster of Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari featuring Manoj Bajpayee don a Raavan-esque avatar with ten heads depicting different aspect of his character in his film.

Abhishek Bachchan in a still from Raavan (2010)

“The concept of villains in films have always stemmed from Raavan. You take some of the greatest villains and you will see glimpses of that. In recent years, filmmakers have moved beyond the villains side and also started looking at the humane side of Raavan too as well as the intelligent side,” says trade analyst Joginder Tuteja.

Mani Ratnam explored a whole new dimension in his film Raavan (2010) starring Abhishek Bachchan playing bandit leader Beera Mudra. The film was a modern tale of Ramayan from Raavan’s perspective. Anubhav Sinha took the sci-fi route to establish his antagonist Ra.One, also the name of the film, which saw Arjun Rampal play the role of an evil video game character who comes to life.

Even filmmaker Om Raut’s next, Adipurush, is a retelling of Ramayana, which will see Saif Ali would Khan play the character of Ravan while Prabhas would step in as Lord Ram.

“I’ve had this story with me since my college days and I decided to revisit it recently,” shares the Tanhaji: The Unsung Hero filmmaker, adding, “I don’t find it daunting at all. I love history and mythology. I feel whatever I read and I understand, I translate that into cinema and it gives me a great chance as a filmmaker to recreate the era and nuances from the past onscreen. I get to revisit and through me, so does the audience.”

Not just literal recreations, but Raavan and bits and pieces from Ramayan, have also often been used indirectly, in dialogues, in visuals or backdrop or metaphors in several films.

A still from Ra.One (2011) in which Arjun Rampal played the antagonist.

A still from Ra.One (2011) in which Arjun Rampal played the antagonist.

In Rudrakash (2004), filmmaker Mani Shankar depicted how a devotee of Raavan (played by Suniel Shetty) was in the search for the Rudraksha, which was the same that Raavan left behind after his death. In Kalank (2019) as well there was a reference from the Ramayan when a towering Raavan effigy burns at the back, as Alia Bhatt’s character Roop and Varun Dhawan’s Zafar’s meet for the first time.

Even films such as Akshay Kumar-starrer Rowdy Rathore (2012) and Aamir Khan’s Thugs of Hindostan (2018) have references of Ram and Raavan.

“The concept of good triumphing over evil can never go wrong and I think in our movies also you see the same ideas being flashed in various story formats. It’s also important for generations to know about the mythology. These are timeless stories and even recently when Ramayan was telecasted again, it got so much viewership. People love it so why not,” says trade expert Taran Adarsh.

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