‘Hanuman vs Mahiravana’ Review: A reaffirmation of Dadasaheb Phalke’s belief in the timeless nature of Hindu mythological tales

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Hanuman vs Mahiravana, Rama and Lakshmana on Hanuman's shoulders

If one looked at the origins of Indian cinema then one would be surprised to learn about the extent of mythological influence. Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, saw great potential in the retelling of tales from the Hindu mythology. The germ of the idea was born when he watched a silent film called The Life of Christ in a tent theatre. Having seen the evocative images of Jesus Christ in the film he envisioned a similar depiction of the Hindu gods and goddesses in Indian films, and the rest is history. About three decades after Phalke made India’s first film Raja Harishchandra, Ghantasala Balaramaiah made a Telugu film titled Mahiravana in the year 1940. The film was a huge success thanks to the lavish sets designed by TVS Sharma and Govind Rao Bhadsavle’s brilliantly imaginative cinematography.

And, almost eight decades after Mahiravana, Rajiv Chilaka-helmed Green Gold Animation brings to theatres the 3D animation film Hanuman vs Mahiravana, directed by Dr. Ezhil Vendan, which retells the story of the epic battle between Lord Hanumana and the demon king Ravana’s treacherous brother Mahiravana. An evil sorcerer and the king of the underworld, Mahiravana kidnaps Lord Rama and Lord Lakshmana at the behest of his brother. Mahiravana wants to sacrifice both the princes to further strengthen his great mystical powers. A film like Hanuman vs Maharavana is a reminder of the timeless nature of these mythological tales. For, in the right hands, they can be made as relevant today as they were in the times of Phalke. Probably, the only difference would lie in their treatment and packaging.

In the recent years, animation has become the primary choice for mythological storytellers in India. The trend of course started with the ‘Chhota Bheem’ franchise, also helmed by Chilaka, which paved the way for animation-based mythological films in India. Now, let’s take the case of Chilaka’s latest offering, Hanuman vs Mahiravana. For Hanumana, rescuing Rama and Lakshmana is a race against time and so naturally it demands a thriller approach and that’s precisely what the story adopts. Now, Chilaka and team could have easily chosen the epic approach as well but probably it wouldn’t have suited the story. For, in a short run time of 90 odd minutes it is difficult to do justice to the demands of epic storytelling. The most striking thing about the film is its focus on its villain. It doesn’t treat Mahiravana as a cardboard character. On the contrary, the character is carefully written and designed. Perhaps, it has to do with the influence of the Avengers: Infinity War. There is something about powerful villains that seems to attract the young minds and the animation filmmakers in India have clearly taken a note of it.

Hanuman and Mahiravana

Distributed in India by Yashraj Films, Hanuman vs Mahiravana has been released in over 350 theatres across India in Hindi as well as Tamil. The association between Green Gold Animation and Yashraj Films can actually go a long way in creating a new niche for animation films in India. Hanuman vs Mahiravana employs cutting edge CGI and VFX to create an immersive experience. The film’s soundscape is just as powerful as its visuals. The rivalry between Hanumana and Mahiravana is presented really well. If anything, the opening and the closing sequences with the kids and the archaeologist could have been done better. There is a stark difference in the animation quality of these sequences and the rest of the film.  But it is only a minor slipup. While watching Hanuman vs Mahiravana one realizes the progress that animation films are making in India. While there is still a long way to go before we can match the visual mastery of Hollywood there is no denying that the future of animation in India is in safe hands. But what’s even more satisfying is that today we can wield the power of animation to retell the same mythological stories that Dadasaheb Phalke helped revive a century back—a reaffirmation of Phalke’s belief in the timeless nature of Hindu mythological tales.

Rating: 7/10

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

Hanuman vs Mahiravana - Official Trailer (YouTube)

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