Adipurush:  An intellectual short circuit

Professor M.C.Behera

Jharkhand Dekho desk:Doctors differ. It is an adage that points to diversity of opinions of large number of people in the same group.     A contemporary interpretation may be made in a lighter vein to understand current situation in our country. Perhaps the adage was constructed when doctors were undifferentiated, meaning there were no specialisation and sub-specialisation categories. Nevertheless, they had different opinions on a disease for which this adage might have taken birth to be applied to situation of diverse opinions on an issue by different people dealing with it. In our contemporary time, doctors are not only many in numbers, but they   belong to an equal numbers of specialisation and sub-specialisation categories. It is a known fact that doctors of the same specialisation may not have same opinion about a disease. At the same time, doctors may have influence of their hidden interest in forming an opinion. The result is a situation of utter confusion. No doubt, a doctor or a group of doctors pick of the chosen thread for their purpose. But the confusion has the potency of group conflict or in-fighting which often happens without reaching at genuine conclusion in a normal course. The adage can be restructured as doctors differ, confuse and set stage for in-fighting at the loss of the patient.
The above remark can be useful to understand the critical situation of every front our country passes through. Gone are the days when one idea had a counter idea. Now every idea has several cognate ideas, and at least equal number of counter ideas. Confusion, conflict, protest, violence, etc. characterise our national obsession in these days. Ideas come from any source.  However, films, advertisements, etc. are popular and dominant sources. Words carrying ideas and originated from such sources are put into mouth and mind   which invariably incite actions, reactions and counter actions.
As we know, two minds rarely agree upon an issue.  What will be the state of consensus when minds are more than crores? Yes, it is about India with cultural, intellectual and ideological diversities. Even in a cultural or intellectual sphere people show different capabilities and levels of understanding.  Further, age groups also have such differences.  India, therefore, has emerged as a country of diverse opinions. Democracy celebrates differences, but has not been effectively successful to prevent emerging difference in persons (conflict) due to difference in opinions.  Nobody bothers desirability of an opinion, but everybody gives opinion and tries to prove that the stand is right.  The result is confusion and conflict.
Evolution of intellectuality has been a source of diverse opinions. Intellectuality feeds cinema and advertisement and in turn feeds on them. Intellectual circuit often causes short circuit and damage its own path.  Intellectuality, difference, confusion and conflict   unfortunately keep the nation engaged over its goals of social harmony, cooperation, eradication of poverty and social evils. Even issue of national sovereignty or interest takes a back seat when intellectual and ideological confrontations ensue.
Intellectuality is a sign of progress, because behind every material success there is a mind. Problem arises when intellectuality does not know its limit, desirability, and acceptability, ethical bound and impact on society. Cinema with its intellectual input impacts mind to an extent of addicting it. A few examples can be useful here.  Mother goddess Santoshi Maa did not have any place in Hindu pantheon before 1950s. Even authoritative Hindu scriptures do not make mention of it. Though it is a matter of investigation how it was introduced, it is undeniably a fact that the worship tradition and her connection with Lord Ganesh’s parentage became popular through     Jai Santoshi Maa film in 1975. It is the cinema or serials that has been upgrading the status of Siridi Sai to godhood in a progressive manner. In 1960s dialogues like Allah Malik and rarely Dattatreya Malik was popular, which became Sabka Malik Ek Hai in 1972 and after 2000   Om Sai Ram has become the mantra and Ramji Bhala Kare and Allah Malik are other  mind capturing and perception building words. In serials he is shown as revealing to devotees as Rama, Krishna, Dattatreya, etc. In other words, he is projected as the Supreme Brahma. A large number of devotees have taken him so in these years. Unfortunately, he could not show this divinity to Kulakarni, the Zamindar to bring him to right path!
Visual presentation builds up an image in mind and develops perception and personality. Young minds and common masses do not know the essence of religion and traditional values. They build up a perception at the periphery either from the community or from elementary books. They are easy target of imbibing a false notion by misrepresentation; it is easy to capture common and young peoples’ mind who do not engage themselves intellectually like the way colonial administration capture the mind of colonised.  When own tradition, belief and life-ways are projected in a wrong way,   alien ideology and life-ways become attractive. This strategy is at the core of shifting people to alien ideology.
The audience, who watched Adipurush, did not show negative reaction as the characters of Ramayan and plot remained the same. They were not aware of the subtlety of intellectual deviations. But those who understood it objected to the dialogue, costumes, and the way characters were presented. The message of misrepresentation and deviation from the core was well received by the people who value the Ramayana and the characters in it as a part of their belief system. This resulted in subsequent drop of visit to theatres. Intellectuality with a commercial motive,   ideological distortion, political intention and fundamentalist outlook misdirects believers’ perception, and thus strikes at the very foundation of a society. It is fundamentalist tendency that invariably tries to prove other ideologies wrong.
Intellectual engagement by itself propels evolution of human cognition.  It is necessary and essential for human progress mentally and materially as behind every matter there is mental.  It is not that Adipurush is the only one intellectual presentation of the Ramayana. There are several serials and films such as Ramayana, Ramleela, Siya Ke Ram, Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush, Jai Hanuman, Sankat Mochan Mahavali Hanuman and many others. But these did not noticeably deviate from what is in people’s perception. Intellectuality that conforms to people’s perception is not rejected or protested.  Even the one that advocates difference but does not hurt the core values and project something in abstract are accepted as sign of progress at least by majority. Even when people also do not understand    intellectual abstractions still then they do not negatively react and protest if it does not hurt their feelings and beliefs. An incomprehensible gap and injury of feelings make an intellectual engagement poisonous for the mass. It questions   democratic values of such engagement as sentiment of the mass is not respected. It challenges everything that people hold dear to themselves.
People do not see Maa Kali smoking cigarette and holding the Pride flag as was presented by Manimekalai a few years ago. Her intellectuality constructs the theme of    celebrating life and embracing love by portraying the ‘goddess of free spirit’.  Do people see her in that way? Why to impose an individual idea on the mass that hurts their feelings? Inanity of intellectuality is an alarming evident when Manoj Muntashir justifies presentation of Hanuman in Adipurush as he thought to be right. He claims Hanuman as a devotee, not as god, for the latter’s conversion does carry philosophical expression like that of Sri Rama. What a logic? We know from scriptures that Lord Shiva is a devotee of Sri Ram and vice versa. Are not they gods?    Does it further mean that philosophers’ are gods? By this logic philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Bertrand Russell, François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Aristotle,   and several others are gods! But people do not see the things in that way.  Hanuman has an individual status, a   proprietor of desirable qualities of supreme consciousness and representation of the idea of devotional service in the Ramayana. When the Ramayana presents Rama as god, it has given a spiritual identity to Hanuman. It is sheer madness to judge his spirituality by applying temporal wisdom.
In spiritual world, there are different devotional ways to reach the Supreme Being. Das bhav (devotion like a servant) is one way which is epitomised by Hanuman. If ‘das’ of the spiritual world is understood   in terms of temporal wisdom, then short circuit intellectuality of film world, no wonder,  may dare one day  to present Hanuman as slave!
Iniquitous intellectuality has no trough; it can slide into any abysmal depth.   This reflects in Adipurush. In Hindu tradition Lord Shiva is Adipurush. Sometimes Lord Brahma being the first creator of the Supreme Being is known as Adipurush, i.e. the first or original man.  Projecting Sri Ram as Adipurush, the film denounces the scriptural wisdom of Hindu tradition. Adi is a homonym, meaning original and superior;   any meaning of a homonym may not be a proper presentation of an idea, person or phenomenon. An original person may not be superior or best. There are several societies in which the first human being is presented as a trickster; he does not conform to the idea of ‘virtues’ held by the society. In Hindu tradition the idea of ‘original’ is clearly established. By creating an alternative to ‘original’  using one of the meanings of a homonym, one simply denounces the traditional wisdom in the belief system of the mass.  A homonym has a symbolic significance in a particular meaning; but for this particular meaning other meanings of it may not be perfect substitutes. Bark used in the context of   a tree and for the sound of a dog do not convey same meaning.
Intellectual representation or retelling does not invite repercussion as long as originality is not distorted. In creation myth of Abrahamic religions like Christianity, Adam and Eve are first human beings. There are intellectual discourses on the myth, like a feminist perspective, without distorting its originality.  Yukteswar Giri, the teacher of Swami Yogananada, interprets the phenomenon in terms of Kundalini power.  Manimekalai did not re-interpret Kali as it is, but distorted the image to suit her contemplated individual interpretation. This is what has happened in case of Adipurush and the reason of inviting protests. Other films on the theme of the Ramayana, as has been mentioned earlier, did not invite protests because they did not transgress the boundary.
Interpretation and re-interpretation within the realm to which a phenomenon belongs is not new. Intellectual presentation of the Ramayana is evident in Tulsidas’s   Ramacharitmanas and Sikh people’s Guru Granth Sahib.  In Guru Granth Sahib, the episode is cited as an embodied intellectuality for spiritual realisation. Rama, Sita, Laksman, Lanka and Ravan are representations of soul, intellect, mind, body and ego respectively. Tulsidas following Saguna School of thought retold the Valmik Ramayana giving a devotional fervour.  Spirituality is represented in socio-cultural context of the time without distorting originality of the text. Native Ramayanas all over the country are retellings of the original text to suit to the context. No doubt, we have Ramayanas of Bhils, Wayanad tribes, Karbis and other communities, and there are also regional Ramayanas without drawing any bickering from the believers of  the Valmiki Ramayana.  The versions are adoptions to local contexts without any intentional distortions, for they do not contradict people’s cultural worldview.
India is a vast country and naturally opinions would vary vastly at intellectual level.  As long as intellectuality accords more or less to existing belief system, it does not create bickering. Intellectuality in other fields does not bother common people. That is what we see from Western tradition. Western intellectuals do not denounce, but critique, the belief system or a phenomenon within the limit of rationality. That is why we do not have sacrilegious intellectuality in Christianity and Islam as we have in Hinduism. This is so because in India individual contemplation of conformity, non-conformity or a short circuit is given an intellectual tag. Any tag has a support base because of vastness of the country’s diversity.  There arises confusion and confrontation. Adipurush is an example.

.(Rajiv Gandhi University, Rono Hills, Doimukh, Itanagar ,Papum Pare District, Arunachal Pradesh-791112, Email:;Th views expressed by the author are his own and in no way the Editor be held responsible for the them—Editor.)

Post Author: Sikander Kumar

Sikander is a journalist, hails from Dumka. He holds a P.HD in Journalism & Mass Communication, with 15 years of experience in this field. mob no -9955599136

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