Regional Compositions of Sri Ramayana, Part Fourteen

BY: SUN STAFF

Sita Devi is Taken Into the Earth by Her Mother 
Painting by Raja Ravi Varma

The last in a serial presentation of the preeminent versions of Sri Ramayana.

 

CONTEMPORARY VERSIONS OF SRI RAMAYANA

We conclude our series on the many variations of Sri Ramayana with some of the contemporary and dramatic versions from stage and screen.

Among the contemporary prose versions of the epic is Sri Ramayana Darshanam by Dr. K. V. Puttappa in Kannada, and Ramayana Kalpavrikshamu by Viswanatha Satyanarayana in Telugu. Both of these have received the Jnanpith Award.

A prose version called Geet Ramayan in Marathi by G.D. Madgulkar was rendered in music by Sudhir Phadke, and is considered to be a masterpiece of Marathi literature. The popular Indian author R. K. Narayan wrote a shortened prose interpretation of the epic. In addition, Ramesh Menon wrote a single-volume edition of the Ramayana, which has received praise from scholars. A short version with a somewhat contemporary feel, influenced, according to the author, by contemporary representations of guerrilla warfare, appeared in Martin Buckley's Ramayana-based travelogue, An Indian Odyssey (Random House London, 2008). C. Rajgopalachari, India's only Indian Governor General, also wrote a single volume Ramayana, published by Bhavans in 1957.

Most recently, popular Indian author Ashok Banker authored an eight-volume imaginative retelling based on the Ramayana which found considerable success and was credited with ushering in a new wave of interest in the epic. Banker's version took considerable liberties with the original Sanskrit epic yet found critical acclaim. It is claimed to be the most popular retelling of the epic currently.

The latest in the retelling of the epic is from Ravi Venugopal, a U.S. based NRI narrating the story from the eyes of Rama. The first volume in the I, Rama trilogy is Age of Seers, and it talks about an age old Rama who introspects his life and the events happening with a pragmatic view. The book is the first of its kind and tries to give a scientific lift to the ancient epic.

On stage, the late Tamil actor, R. S. Manohar played Ravana as the antagonist in his magnum opus, Lankeswaran, in which he projects the heroic and better side of Ravana. The production has been staged more than 1,800 times.

On the screen, the Ramayana has been adapted most notably as the television series Ramayan by producer Ramanand Sagar. It is based primarily on Ramcharitmanas and Valmiki's Ramayana, and has been one of the most popular series in Indian television history.

In the late 1990's, Sanjay Khan made a series called Jai Hanuman, recounting tales from the life of Hanuman and related characters from the Ramayana.

A Japanese animated film called Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama was released in the early 1990's. US animation artist Nina Paley retold the Ramayana from Sita's point of view (with a secondary story about Paley's own marriage) in the animated musical, Sita Sings the Blues.

An Indian animated film called Ramayana: The Epic was released in October 2010. The Stories Without Borders Production Company produced a documentary in 2014-15 about different versions of the Ramayana and a second Indian epic, the Mahabharata, filming across South and Southeast Asia. In 2015, Star Plus hosted Siya ke Ram, another retelling of Ramayana from Sita's point of view.