‘Ramayana’ trilogy for a global audience but rooted in India, says producer Madhu Mantena

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‘Ramayana’ trilogy for a global audience but rooted in India, says producer Madhu Mantena

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Producer Madhu Mantena is working on an ambitious, three-part retelling of “Ramayana” from Valmiki’s standpoint and he is confident that the story will have a global appeal with its never-before-seen visuals. The live-action trilingual film series in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, will be directed by “Dangal” fame Nitesh Tiwari and “Mom” director Ravi Udyavar. The screenplay is written by Sridhar Raghavan. Mantena, who backed films such as “Ghajini”, “Lootera”, “Queen” and “Udta Punjab” in the past, has joined hands with producers Allu Aravind and Namit Malhotra to bring the adaptation to the big screen.

“We are trying to tell ‘Ramayana’ for posterity. It is fortunate that all of us have the opportunity to tell Ramayana in its glory in today’s time. This is an appropriate time to tell this story.

“I keep citing the example of Mangalyaan and how India built a world-class satellite at a fraction of cost. This is our Mangalyaan, we are making this for the world, (but) it is from India,” Mantena told PTI in a zoom interview.

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“Ramayana” has already seen an adaptation in 1987 by Ramanand Sagar, which is considered a cult classic in television today. Arun Govil and Deepika Chikhalia played the roles of Ram and Sita in the story. Another TV adaptation in 2008, starring real-life couple Gurmeet Choudhary and Debina Bonnerjee, was also a hit.

 

Mantena, 46, said his team is narrating the epic from Valmiki’s standpoint and it will be a never-before-seen world that they are creating. “We are telling Valmiki’s Ramyana and sub stories that are there. It is a straight telling of a straight story that all of us know.

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“The interpretation visually of the epic, I don’t think has been fully exploited. I don’t think we have seen it in all its glory. Through the imagination of Nitesh and Ravi, we intend to show a world that has never been seen before,” he said.

The producer hopes that the trilogy will, hopefully, reach the young audiences who will finally get to know “what great stories we have had but never had the opportunity to explore them in all their glory.”

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Asked about how cautious the producers are given that films that have anything to do with religion land in trouble, Mantena said they are not trying to reinterpret the epic.

“Nitesh’s family would narrate Ramayana for generations. This is not a team that is trying to reinterpret anything. We are telling a traditional ‘Ramayana’ (story). So the point of being careful comes when you want to question…”
 

Mantena, who began working on the project four years ago, said he is aware of the monumental task of bringing the story on celluloid. It is a linear story and it has more magic than most of our stories like it has demons, Rakshasas, Asuras, Garuda, etc. This is such an intense and beautiful world that it needs a lot of work. It is not something that you can do overnight.

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“It is a huge responsibility. You need to do a lot of research both in content and visuals,” he said, adding that more than 200 artists have been working around the clock for almost two years.

“We are creating digital assets. It is painstaking and you need to have a lot of patience. I am fortunate Nitesh and Ravi have taken on this purpose and are giving time that a retelling of this magnitude and size needs to be given. The beauty is in the detail.”

The film is touted to be made at a budget of Rs 600 crore, which Mantena said, two years ago, seemed ok but today feels insufficient. The film is in the advanced pre-production stage and the makers are scouting for actors across India.

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Speculation is rife about Mahesh Babu, Hrithik Roshan being approached for the film, along with Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Mantena did not reveal details about who all have been approached but said since it is a pan-India film, the makers will reach out to whoever suits the role better.

“We are in conversation with actors and we are hoping we will get all the actors we want. It is still a long process. We will announce the casting around the end of the year,” he added. 

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