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Exclusive! Ramanand Sagar’s son Prem says that he would feel belittled even to comment upon Om Raut, Manoj Muntashir’s Adipurush – Beyond Bollywood

The Sagar Arts head honcho feels that his father’s adaptation of Ramayan (1987 TV series), cannot be made again for 50 years.

Prem Sagar

By Mayur Lookhar

The film’s makers have claimed that their first-day global box office collection is Rs140 crore, but that has done little to pacify aggrieved cinephiles, angry citizens who are shell shocked by the bizarre adaptation of Ramayan. Director Om Raut’s Adipurush [2023] is being slammed for insulting the ancient Indian epic, disrespecting Hindu gods, reducing Hanuman, even the the demon king Ravan to a joke. Adipurush has Prabhas, Kriti Sanon, Saif Ali Khan, Devdatta G Nage in leading roles.

For over three decades, Ramayan has become synonymous with the late Ramanand Sagar’s much loved TV series of the same name. We reached out to his son Prem, who just didn’t produce, but was also actively involved in various aspects of the epic series.

Prem Sagar hasn’t seen Adipurush, but he’s privy to the nation-wide, even global backlash that the T-Series produced film has received since it hit theatres on 16 June.

“I have seen some clips of the film. These kinds of subjects have been around for ages. Such subjects are about faith. You can’t make these subjects purely from a commercial point of view. You want commerce, then make Marvel-like superheroes,” said Sagar.

The seasoned producer assisted his father in various capacities at the time of filming Ramayan.  He clearly seems to have observed his late great father keenly at the time of production.

File: Prem Sagar (c) with his late father Ramanand Sagar (R) during Ramayan [1987] shoot.

“Ramayan is part of our culture from centuries. You have to be touchy and careful.  You have creative freedom. Even my later father [Ramanand Sagar] took creative freedom. For example, in no Ramayan will you find that Rama, a Vishnu avatar, is taught by a Guru. He is supreme but my father took the liberty of having a Gurukul sequence, where Ram got his education. Similarly, he took the liberty of Bharat’s coronation,” revealed Sagar.

The Sagar Arts head honcho didn’t mince words in saying, “Creative freedom is fine. You need humour but epics like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Ved Purans, they can’t be jugglery only for commerce. (Then) don’t call it Ramayan.”

Growing up, Lord Ram, Hanuman, Sita were always treated as Gods. Maybe, this term superhero has been super-imposed onto our deities too in this era of Marvel Cinematic Universe. Is that what also lulls writers like Manoj Muntashir, director Om Raut into turning our Gods into mere super-heroes?  Should we stop calling our Gods as super-heroes?

“New age or old age, ethics don’t change. The definition of dharam may change according to the situation, but one has to understand this epic in its depth. You should not make with your mind, knowledge, it has to be made with all heart and soul,’ remarked Sagar.

The seasoned producer recalled how he also worked on the special effects of the TV series. Technology was non-existent then.

Says Prem, “We created visual effects out of nothing – glass painted clouds. But it was the content, the purity of the content that stuck a chord,” he continues, “With these subjects, you can’t go by your whims and fancies, or techniques. You have to submit yourself to Ram. Only a Ram bhakth like papaji [father] can make Ramayan. What father did, cannot be made again for 50 years,” affirmed Sagar.

He backed this tall statement with good reasons.

“There is no replacement for an Arun Govil. This is a classic. A classic can’t be repeated by the same man. My father’s name was Ram-anand Sagar,” added Sagar.

We’ve often wondered whether over 600 years of invasion, then followed by some 60 years of secular rule, has new India come too far down the road to reconnect with its ancient Vedic roots? Valmiki wrote Ramayan in Sanskrit.  Naturally, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan wasn’t written in Sanskrit, but it shone for its Sanskritised Hindi tone. Compare that with Adipurush, where Om Raut, Manoj Muntashir have reduced Hanuman to a Mumbai ruffian.  Their Ram, Sita, Ravan is lousy, and speak in a more contemporary tone.  Is it almost nigh impossible to expect modern day actors to get a grip on Sanskritised Hindi?

“Today, you have to write dialogues for actors in Roman Hindi,” Sagar said in a resigned tone.

He adds, “Expression of thought is converted into language. My father researched about 14 versions of Ramayan – Kamban, Krittivasi, Radheshyam etc. He spent about two-three years into Ramayan research. For a little Gurukul sequence, he consulted a giant like Dharamvir Bharti.  In his conversation, he asked him [Bharti] how would a guru teach Ram? Lord Ram never called himself God.”

Asked to comment on the shocking portrayal of Hanuman in Adipurush, Sagar replies, “I’m a huge Hanuman devout. I feel belittled with such kind of portrayals. How can one do this?”

In his parting words, Prem Sagar reminded how epics like Ramayan are about awakening mankind, uniting people and spreading positivity,

“Nature brings such kind of things [epic stories] to bring about an awakening, spread positivity. Those visuals were there in papaji’s Ramayan,” concluded Sagar.

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