On Dusshera, here are the many faces of Ravana in films and comic books
The word 'Dussehra' is derived from Sanskrit; Dasa-hara is a form of Dasanan ravan ('Ravana's defeat'). Every year, millions over the world celebrate Dussehra by burning efigies of Ravaan to signify the victory of Ram (and good) over Ravana (and evil).
While mainstream versions of the Ramayana do portray Ravana as the villain, there are still temples in Tamil Nadu that worship Ravana.
Good or evil, ten heads or one, Ravana has fascinated artists, writers and filmmakers alike.
While the portrayals of Ravana in serials like Siya Ke Ram do not detract from the original story-line, here are a few unsual depictions of Ravana in different versions of Ramayanas across the written and visual medium:
Mani Ratnam's Raavan (2010)
Acclaimed filmmaker Mani Ratnam brings his unique take to the epic of Ramayana. There are two versions of the film — one in Tamil and one in Hindi, made with a shared cast. Raavan is a take on the abduction of Sita from Ravana's point of view, who is portrayed as a gangster with a heart of gold.
While Sita is depicted to be the victim, the blame of the whole incident shifts from Ravana to Ram in the film; who is a bad cop who wants revenge against Ravana at any cost.
Sita Sings the Blues (2008)
What do you get when you mix 1930s jazz singer Annette Hanshaw's tracks with the story-line from Ramayana?
Welcome to artist Nina Paley's animated, modern take on the Ramayana called Sita Sings the Blues.
This is the Ramayana told from Sita's point of view with a contemporary parallel. While the film does revisit the same tale, it does make Ravana's character look less like a fiend and more like a accomplished king whose only mistake was kidnapping Sita. Other than that he is depicted to be a great king who loves his subjects.
Because of the modern interpretation of the Ramayana, as expected the film has been the butt of controversy in India and there have been many unofficial bans imposed on it.
Paley is combating these bans by putting up the whole animated film up on the internet for screening here.
Opera Jawa (2007)
This is a very contemporary, modern take on Ramayana. Garin Nugroho's musical is a local take on Ramayana. Opera Jawa traces Sita's (Siti here) abduction and subsequent trial by fire. Siti is seduced by the Ravana (Ludiro here).
While the character of Ludiro is not portrayed to be entirely blameless, this Shakespearean tragedy depicts him as an ordinary man who's only mistake was lusting after Siti.
Comic book series: Ravanayan
For all the millennials who are addicted to Marvel and DC comics, here's the comic book/anime version of the epic Indian battle; but with a twist. The story is told from the point of view of Ravana.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Vijayendra Mohanty and artist Vivek Goel said that they created the series because, "It fills in the gaps and shows how the same concepts of duty and responsibility, good and evil affect Ravana as well,” The self-published 10-issue series, which the duo says is in no way inspired by the recent films on the character like Mani Ratnam's Raavan and Ra.one starring Shah Rukh Khan.
Graphic novel: Simian
This graphic novel by Vikram Balagopal is the re-imagining of the Mahabharata and Ramayana through black and white illustrations.
Other than making Hanuman the hero of the story, Ravana is imagined to be a powerful Zeus-like figure with tremendous might and power; and only one head.