Recently, the Discovery Plus platform aired a series on Ramayana presented by author Amish. The series takes the viewers through the landscape of Ramayana through geology, deep history, ancient history, culture and spirituality. Maintaining a balance between all these disciplines in the context of an ancient epic, that is also a living, vibrant cultural-spiritual tradition is not a joke.
By Aravindan Neelakandan
At the same time, there was definitely space for improvement and personally, I felt that the ‘Ancient Alien’-like touch in the last episode could have been avoided. But, that is personal taste.
Some of the geological explanations given in the series are breathtaking. The way Shri Rama lives in our culture and hearts has been brought out well. One should congratulate Amish and the team for the series.
The airing of this series is also an indicator of a new path being opened in Indian entertainment industry, particularly in the dominant visual media.
The initial tremors that set this change also started interestingly with Amish Tripathi. With his trilogy, a new generation of English-speaking youths—feeling alienated thanks to the post-independent yet colonial-Marxist Hindu-hating cultural milieu—sought a narrative that presented a glorious future which was in synch with what their traditions hinted at. Amish provided that alternative story of the past.
The novels were fantasy-filled, and yet set in past-tradition, with a touch of realism. They set a trend.
But even this success ran the risk of being a mere oasis in the Left-dominated cultural desert of India.
And then came 2014.
Today, we see a revival in movies.
Kashmir Files is definitely a great achievement in narrating the traumatic episode in the history of Hindus. So is Vivek Agnihotri’s The Tashkent Files (2019) which talks about the forgotten mystery behind the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri.
Srijit Mukherji’s 2019 movie Gumnaami is actually an Indian milestone with respect to movies on near-contemporary political mysteries. The movie brings out a lot of questions in a sensible manner. It can be considered as a cost-effective Indian counterpart of JFK. In other words, finally we have movies that attempt to ask the unasked questions.
We also now have movies that want to become commercial hits using the zeitgeist, which is not a bad thing. That is how ecosystems evolve. But the entrenched establishment empire is also striking back. There have been movies in dozens for every one movie in the alternative narrative direction.
In all these, the crucial question one has to ask is this: how did the Hindu side of the civilisational story, that has been marginalised so far, started getting retold in the mainstream?
Now what is true for the movies is also true for the media. In the mainstream media, slowly but steadily, Hindu civilizational voices are increasing.
Then there are think-tanks and literary festivals. This was the domain of the leftists all these years. They built an eco-system and promoted each other. Today, in that area also, the Hindu civilisational forces are challenging them. It is a long way to go. But in a sustained way, they are growing in strength.
In all these, let us not forget the role of the 2014 and 2019. All these are possible because there is a strong BJP government in the centre.
And the BJP’s rule in the centre is because of the countless sacrifices done by committed cadre of the Parivar organisations. Today, when we have literary festivals, Dharmic think-tanks, writers on Dharma and writers on history, let us not forget those cold nights where in railway platforms Deendayals and Dattopant Thengadis slept and toiled to create the organisational infrastructure which made 2014 and 2019 possible.
The intellectual discourse is the glittering superstructure over the hard-work and sacrifices of generations of Swayamsevaks and their leaders. The superstructure is definitely needed. But its shimmer should not rob our vision of the work the humble and much maligned Swayamsevak has and has been doing on the ground.
The time of the Hindutva intellectuals has arrived because of the toil of the Swayamsevaks in the shakhas. That is why, when one sees a movie by Vivek Agnihotri or reads a book by Ratan Sharda or Sai Deepak Iyer etc. or watches a positive documentary on Hindu Dharma in a mainstream channel, one should thank the nameless Swayamsevak and not look at him with notion of superiority.
Today, we have the Discovery channel airing a series on Ramayana, a series that analyses the characters and events critically, rationally as also emotionally and with cultural empathy. Had it been a few years back, one would have had a Wendy or one of her memetic children giving us Freudian wisdom or a colonial-racist myth of reading the ‘Aryan-Dravidian divide’ into the Ramayana. Even as we congratulates Amish and the team behind the series, we need more and more of this kind.
This is just the beginning of the change in the discourse. Provided Hindus maintain their ability to win electoral battles and not suffer another ‘Panipat’.
This article first appeared in www.swarajyamag.com and it belongs to them.