Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
We were arguing over lunch last week in our office about cinema directors twisting facts in tamil movies. My colleague mentioned that AL Vijay and Vikram had given an interview as though they had dreamed up the subject of Deivathirumagal which is actually a remake of the Hollywood movie “I am Sam”. He also mentioned the same thing about A R Murugadoss, who said that his team had done extensive research on Bodhidharma before making 7aum arivu. My colleague claimed that Murugadoss had twisted history and made Bodhidharma look superior than he actually was!
While I can accept his argument for Deivathirumagal, I can’t accept the same for 7 aum arivu. Note to all: I am not a Surya fan.
The Ramayana is a classic tale – one of the world’s oldest epics, if not THE oldest. Valmiki wrote it originally. Kamban rewrote it centuries later. Kamban’s Ramayana is a divine work, akin to Valmiki’s. However, he differs from Valmiki in a few places. The reasons for this are many; the primary one being that Kamban did not think certain portions would suit the Tamil audience. Thulasidas, who wrote the Ramayana a few centuries after Kamban made further changes to suit the time period that he lived in.
Let us take one example from The Ramayana – Sita’s abduction by Ravana. Valmiki says that Ravana dragged Sita by her tresses, lifted her by touching her and put her in the Pushpaka Vimana. Kamban who lived in an era and society when chastity was considered all for women couldn’t obviously write this about Sita. Kamban says that Ravana lifted the earth on which Sita stood and put her in the Pushpaka Vimana. Kamban changed the story because he simply couldn’t bear the thought of someone touching and lifting Sita. Thulasidas lived during the Bhakthi age in India. He went to the extent of saying that the Sita who Ravana kidnapped wasn’t Sita at all but was just an image of the original Sita. The Sita who was in Asoka Vana was only Maya Sita. The simple reason that Thulasidas changed the whole story was because he could never answer an audience who would question him as to where the powers of Sita went when someone was trying to abduct her. Shouldn’t she be able to hold him at least until Rama comes back?
The point that Ravana abducted Sita and that it was a sinful and wicked act has been conveyed in different ways such that it makes people sit up and take notice.
Likewise, the Ramayana has obtained a regional flavor in various parts of India and abroad. Many additional stories have been included to The Ramayana as side stories, extensions or as prequels. This isn’t wrong. This has helped retain the goodness of the story and preserved the morals that have been handed down from generation to generation. What if there is a twist in the tale in order to get the story to reach the people and propagate values? I can’t see any fault there.
According to ancient grammar, poets and writers are given the freedom to make some changes to a story in order to convey a good theme to a new group of people. In fact they are even allowed to go beyond grammar aka write wrongly for that sake. Cinema makers can take this freedom too (to be used in good sense).
A British scientist once said, “History is a bundle of lies”. We have no way of tracing what happened in the past, including the recent past. The history that we have in books today is an attempt to reconstruct events using evidences that have been consolidated over many years.
In the attempt to recreate Bodhidharma, it is simply impossible to find out whether he went alone or as a group. No one can tell us what he did in China. The Chinese themselves have plenty of folklore about Damo which drastically differ from one another. What is important is to tell people that such a person who was from our own heartland lived and to establish the connect that the ancient Tamils had with Zen Buddhism, the Shaolin and the Chinese in general.
In the case of 7 aum arivu, it brought to light the character called Bodhidharma. None of us were aware of Bodhidharma before the movie came. Now, the awareness has been created. This in itself is a success. Further, 7 aum arivu was not a biopic on the life of Damo. It was BASED ON the powers of Damo, who is a real historical character. That Murugadoss might have twisted some facts to establish Damo in the minds of Tamils is immaterial.
PS: Deiva thirumagal (a fictitious movie) too coneveyed a great theme. However, it was a scene by scene copy of “I am Sam”. That should have been acknowledged in the film’s credits.