Review of Ramayan 3392 AD, Virgin Comics
Ramayana 3392 AD was promised by writer Shamik Dasgupta to be:
Sadhu is good, but just wait and watch for Ramayan Reborn (Now Ramayan 3392 AD). It will simply blow the minds off, India has never seen Ramayan like this I can assure that much…since I am the writer.[:)] you wanted a retelling of the Amar Chitra Katha…now read the retelling of the oldest and greatest epic in the world. Jai Shree Rama.
In a lot of ways it does not fulfil the promise. The story has been retold with a fairly futuristic approach and yet a lot of old elements have been retained.
The future in the story is not a very optimistic future. There has been an apocalyptic war and the ecology was destroyed. Earth is surrounded by a radioactive haze and humans only live at Armagarh in the Aryavarta continent where they have managed to penetrate the haze and get some sunlight. In the other parts of Aryavarta live ‘anthropomorphic’ beings like Vanaras, Garudas and others.
To the south lies the continent of Nark, hellish in all senses as the name implies. Ruled by Ravana who is a creature spawned by the apocalypse and who seeks to establish his rule over the Aryavarta kingdom too.
The kingdom of Armagarh (not Ayodhya) which is ruled by Chief Councilor Dasarath who has four sons – Rama and Lakshmana from the deceased queen Kaushalya and Bharat and Shatrughan by Kaikeyi – the story tries to give a reason for Lakshman’s bonding with his blue-skinned elder brother, the reason being tied to blood relations. He is more hot-headed, outspoken and resentful of his step-mother and for his father’s lack of time.
Kaikeyi unlike the Kaikeyi of the traditional epic is no sullen queen in the kop-bhavan sulking. She is empowered as she is a councilor in the kingdom’s governing council. She is also quite a racist, believing the humans should not join forces with other beings.
It would be interesting to explore racism in the Ramayan 3392 AD setting. Would some parallels be drawn to today’s stratified society. That would actually be hopeful to expect from the comics. On the other hand the use of the word
Kshatriyas for warriors and use of Aryavarta for the ‘civilized’ continent might actually reinforce caste and cultural stereotypes.
The story opens with the Armagarh council debating how to combat Ravan’s Asura army and it is decided to send the four sons to the outposts of the kingdom. Rama and Lakshman get posted to the comparatively ‘safe’ place of
Janasthan which is underdeveloped. A reader might draw parallels with present day Bihar (as Lakshman says “Why don’t they understand, lack of necessity does not mean lack of initiative for progress?”), and since the rustics there insist on calling him Lachchman 🙂
No sooner have they reached that they realise that the outpost is under attack by an army of Asuras led by Ravan himself.
The graphics are a quite disappointing. For whatever reasons, close-ups of the protagonists do not convey the intensity of the story as much as the graphics of the landscapes do. With the exception of Lakshman, whose distinctive red markings on the face help in conveying his anger with his parents much more eloquently than his expressions.
The final full page graphic shows Ravan who looks more like a beast than his traditional ten-headed humanoid form.
The question that it leaves one with is – would Ravan be shown as unidimensionally as the artwork suggests – in future issues? One hopes not. Ravan’s character is the epic is wonderfully diverse and rich. Ramayan 3392 AD’s success would lie in making both Rama’s and Ravan’s character multidimensional and not caricatures like Ramanand Sagar’s teleserial.
Curiosity makes one looks forward to the rest of the story. Where would Sita come in? And everybody’s favorite monkey god, Hanuman? Does this Rama have divine nature and will it be revealed? And how will the stories be radically different from Ashok Banker’s series of Ramayana?