Legends of the Ramayana with Amish is stylized blend of fact and mythology

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Discovery Plus presents Legends of the Ramayan with Amish, a fascinating 3-part series. Photo: publicity material provided

These three-part series is a gripping (I watched it in English, but there is a Hindi version too) look at, analysis of, and evaluation of one of the greatest and most popular stories known not just in India but globally—Ramayan. Which Indian is not familiar with this epic, originally written by sage Valmiki, and known to have had dozens (and that’s a very conservative estimate!) of versions, across multiple languages, again, the world over?

Countless plays and movies, even a corny web series released earlier this year, books and comics replay all aspects of the saga, which no one can pinpoint as fiction, fact or dramatized fiction! And this is what, if anything, author and this series’ narrator Amish Tripathi proves in this meticulously researched saga that also unravels the unceasing, centuries-old faith in the story of good versus evil, duty, valor and virtue.

Amish is said to have traveled 5000 kilometers to unravel the legends with his team.  He has unearthed fascinating facts galore that seemingly correlate many of the ‘fantasy’ elements of the epic, like the plane in which Ravan took Sita to Lanka when he abducted her, the Ram Setu built by Ram’s army to cross from India to Sri Lanka and the long journey on foot from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh to the Southernmost tip of India.

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Some of the aspects are evaluated clinically, like with evidences of ancient etchings on stone, while a bevy of ‘authorities’ from both India and Sri Lanka on various subjects attempt to throw light on other theories that seem to be remarkably plausible. Kavita Kane, Yatindra Mishra, Krishnadevaraya, Shashi Dhanatunge, T.G. Mahesh Priyadarshana, K. Surekha, Arjun Bhat, Sunila Jayawardene and Dr. Ram Autar are among those I listed while watching this series with a difference.

From a temple trustee to an aviation expert and a cave exploration specialist to a paleo-seismologist (one who studies old earthquakes and the changes in rocks because of them!), we thus get diverse opinions and views on what actually might have happened during the long vanwaas (exile) of Sita and Ram with Lakshman. There was, for example, the fascinating surmise on where the famous Ram Setu must have been built, on which a forthcoming film with Akshay Kumar is also being made!

What I particularly liked was that there was no intention to debunk the loved characters in the story or the accepted events that unfolded, but at the same time, we got a different view on many aspects, like who Shabri actually was and what was the relation between Ram and Hanuman, his staunch ally. We find Raavan declared as no less than a hero who was also a very gifted musician and scholar. Surpanakha, his sister, is said to be misunderstood too as a mere evil woman, while we have Raavan’s noble brother Vibhishan being called a traitor who destroyed his family. Many of the living people interviewed by Amish firmly believe in all these aspects, based for them on certain evidence.

The story of the cave with natural water where Ram, Sita and Lakshman spent the bulk of their exile was another truly fascinating exercise. We are also told delightful nuggets, like why Panchavati became known as Nashik, and more tidbits best heard and watched on the show.

Amish Tripathi makes for a placidly competent host of this compelling saga with great photography (Nitin Kumar, Ravi and Prakash Simwal) and we can sense his enthusiasm as he discovers fascinating facts and opinions to share with us.  The convent school graduate has always had a special fascination for Indian culture and mythology and his books (Shiva Trilogy and more) demonstrate that. But perhaps, this is his most riveting narrative to date, though he is not the author but the host here—and very probably the ideator.

Rating: ****

Discovery+ presents The Legends of the Ramayana with Amish  Directed by: Sujata Kulshreshtha & Abhimanyu Tewari  Written by: Sujata Kulshrestha and Sibtain Shahidi Research by: Amrita Singh, Sania Syed & Saumya Bhatt  Narrated by: Amish Tripathi

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