New Ramayana Video
Review by Urmila devi dasi
Posted December 9, 2002

You may have seen advertisements for a new video of the Ramayana, listing professional actors and promising a great film.

When a friend asked us to purchase the film, we did so and I previewed it with some of my family and gurukula students.

Surely the many devotees who contributed to this film did so in good faith, but the overall result is an embarassment for those who wish to see the Lord glorified in the modern media.

The costumes are quite good, except for what Sita wears in the forest, which looks like underwear. The make-up is excellent, though Hanuman and Sugriva look more ape-like than is usually portrayed. The settings, props, etc. are also quite good. The special effect for Ravana getting ten heads is also good.

The script isn't true to the story, however, making the plot difficult to follow for those who don't know the pastimes, and dissapointing for those who do. How sad to see Hanuman bring a plant to Laksman instead of a mountain! And how bizarre to see monkeys cross the ocean to Lanka in spaceships, and then also battle the demons in them! And how "interesting" to see Agasta Muni save Rama's life when Rama goes to capture the golden deer!

It is also strange that the story is periodically (and inexplicably) interrupted with scenes of spaceships flying over South Indian style temples.

Parts of the plot that are not wholly inaccurate are often disappointing, as when Rama kills Ravana without a fight. Ravana simply stands there and manifests ten heads. Rama then shoots him and there's an explosion. And that's it. The general battle is unclear, one doesn't know who any of the characters are, and not much happens of interest.

Most of the actors are not professional, nor do they have much acting experience. To be fair, the script put them all at a disadvantage, as there is no opportunity for any character development. One is left not caring at all about any of the personalities (what to speak of developing bhakti for them). In fact, one hardly gets to know any of the characters. And some of them are grossly misrepresented, such as Mandodari, who is portrayed as a most low-class "prostitute type." Kaikeyi sounds like a very nasty American lady who's been cheated at the supermarket. It is also interesting, and quite a disadvantage, that the actors are from many countries, with various accents. Shurpanika, for example, is from eastern Europe and has difficulty with the English script. It is disconcerting to have members of the same family have strong British, American, and Indian accents. Those characters who are played by professional actors, such as Rama, don't know how to pronounce the Sanskrit names of the other characters.

The only really good part of watching this video was our greatly increased appreciation for the Indian multi-episode version of the Ramayana. When we watched an episode a few days after viewing this new video, we didn't even mind the poor Indian "special effects" as the whole mood was such a relief by comparion. Suddenly we noticed as great opulences the excellent acting and attempt to be loyal to the pastimes.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

CHAKRA 19-May-2000