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