Validating Demons Recasting Rāvaṇa as a Leader of the Oppressed in Mani Ratnam’s Film Version of the Rāmāyaṇa

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Genoveva Castro


This article focuses on Mani Ratnam’s adaptation of the Rāmāyaṇa and analyzes the ways in which the film rewrites the epic. The movie criticizes the traditional notion of a sharp opposition between the hero and the villain: Rāma is questioned and Rāvaṇa validated. A contemporary setting is used to comment on ongoing conflicts between the police and oppressed communities. The struggle in remote and poor areas encourages the celebration of the outlaw in the form of a present-day Rāvaṇa. Gender and sexuality also play an important role in the transformation of the demonic “other” into a more sympathetic character. The vilification and resistance to the demonization of Rāvaṇa is part of a longer history in India’s literary culture which is explored and contrasted with the movie in this contribution.

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Author Biography

Genoveva Castro, SCSU

Genoveva Castro graduated with a PhD from the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on literary exchanges between Hindus and Muslims and adaptations in South Asian drama. She teaches at Southern Connecticut State University.