What is the story about?
In this fictional retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana, Ramyug tells the story of Ram's journey through his fourteen years in exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. The series takes from five of the Kandas or parts of Ramayana and focuses on that narrative. Out of the seven, the series tells the story of Ayodhya Kandam, Aranya Kandam, Kishkindha Kandam, Sundara Kandam and Yudha Kandam.
The narrative begins with the abduction of Sita (Aishwarya Ojha) by Ravana (Kabir Duhan Singh) and Ram (Diganth Manchale) and Lakshman's (Akshay Dogra) endless journey to bring her back from the demon king of Lanka. It then weaves around the story of the Ramayana, narrating the situation which leads to Sita's kidnapping, Ram's exile, Ram and Lakshman being educated under the tutelage of Rishi Vishvamitra (Dalip Tahil), Ram and Sita's wedding, meeting Sugreev (Amit Madan Gaur) and Hanuman (Vivaan Bhatena) and of course the journey to Lanka and the final battle between the army of Ravana and Ram with Ram killing Ravana and returning to Ayodhya with Sita. The series is narrated by Vishwamitra, who like a seer tells the viewers about the important aspects of the story, kind of filling in the gaps.
How do you analyse a show which has so little to offer that you would rather not waste time watching it? Well, here it is anyway.
The fact of the matter is that Ramayan has been made and then re-made and then re-made some more for the Indian audience over and over again. Since the first Ramayan, that is Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan aired on Doordarshan in 1987, the fictional retelling of the mythology has become an investment because fans will watch a show which highlights their gods and goddesses and of course parents and grandparents watch it for the morality that tags along with the narrative. I'll be found guilty as well because in my childhood Ramayana, and Mahabharata was my superhero stories, way before I found my fanaticism again in Marvel and DC. Thus, Ramayan has been offered to Indian audiences through the visual medium a lot and also in a lot of ways.
Then how is this version different. It is not. Well.... okay it is a little different. When it comes to Ramyug the first thing is that they have told the story in a different way and as the title suggests, the series focuses on Ram and everyone is just a catalyst to his journey. Second, the series delves into the philosophical learnings and tries to connect with the present with subjects like feminism and women empowerment added into the narrative forcefully as if they are trying to hide the fact that Ramayana was (is) a patriarchal text. By the end of the series, you really sit and wonder why you sat through eight episodes of a show that has nothing new to offer and is just someone's ambitious project which does not add to any cinematic achievement of even satisfaction.
Also, if you tell me that the VFX is better, please, no.
Performances of all actors were sub-par and there was nothing very exciting about the performances. Vivaan Bhatena as Hanuman did stand out amidst the crowd for I could actually visualise Hanuman through his acting. In this series, I learnt that voice acting is very important and should not be overlooked, whether it be live voice acting or dubbing your performance later. Sita is one of the most iconic characters, her voice was not amplified and she felt small and insignificant which should not have been the case as she is a very important part of the series. Ram was almost expressionless (picture Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in Twilight) and it was very boring to kind of watch him say dialogues with a bland look on his face, although I think he was just trying to be "god-like". For the most part, I really don't know what Akshay Dogra was doing because any dialogue he said was mostly with a frown. I hated the way they downplayed Ravana. The demon king of Lanka was not only a shrewd and cruel king but he was intelligent as mythology says and the series just showed him as a villain, something to be destroyed by the end and unfortunately Kabir Duhan Singh was perfect because he played Ravana like a villain and not the grey character that he is shown in the old texts.
Otherwise, veteran actors like Tisca Chopra who plays Queen Kaikeyi, Shishir Mohan Sharma as King Dashrath, Suparna Marwah as Kaushalya, Mamta Verma as Mandodari and Dalip Tahil as Vishwamitra were spontaneous and effortless and their experience showed in their performances and whenever they were onscreen I didn't frown if that tells you anything.
Music & Other Departments
The series really put their money on the music department of the film. Bringing in musical stalwarts like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Ustad Rashid Khan and Sonu Nigam was a brilliant idea because the music was really the highlight of the series. I don't know why they called upon Amitabh Bachchan for a rendition of the Hanuman Chalisa because they could've easily found "singers" who would've probably done a much better job.
The most irritating part of the series was the glamourization of the actors which really downgraded the show. Everyone apart from Vibhishan was like a character in the Ramayan version of Magic Mike. Not only that, there wasn't a hair follicle on their "chiselled", "perfect" bodies. And the hilarious aspect was when Ram and Lakshman would suddenly become clean-shaven like an incomplete Gillette advertisement. I can go on and on about the They were the eroticized hypersexual heterosexual men who could be lusted after under the female gaze but were out of reach because they were mythological gods. The most shocking part was the make over of Manthara who was known to be old and a hunchback. She was made out to be Komolika of Ramyug. Yeah, Kunal Kohli did really make his own Karan Johar version of Ramayan.
The only good thing about the series was that they really tried to make it a little different from its predecessors. The way the show weaved the narrative was refreshing because it did not cater to the singular straight forward narrating style of Ramyan from exile to homecoming but actually weaved the story around to create a fabric of narratives that highlighted the story they were trying to tell.
If this whole review is not highlighting the drawbacks, here is more. A lot of the important aspects that make up Ramayan were sacrificed to highlight Ram and his singular story. It was a one-man show throughout which would probably not sit right with some of the audience. Also if it wasn't really evident from the teaser of Ramyug itself, the series really puts itself into the category of propaganda because you have to think, why are they releasing a show that finished filming in 2019 now when the political and social climate is not in favour of the party in governance? Especially if the protagonist of the series is the torchbearer of the political party in question? And on a free platform that too? I am not accusing, I am merely questioning.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
Skip it, Shelve it, Forget it exists.