Why Mani Ratnam's Raavan faced protests in Sri Lanka. On Throwback Thursday

In 2010, director Mani Ratnam released Raavan (Ravanan in Tamil) which features an ensemble cast including Chiyaan Vikram, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The Tamil version, however, saw Vikram and Prithviraj Sukumaran in lead roles. The film turns 11 tomorrow, June 18.

On this week's Throwback Thursday, let us take a look at Raavan, which had a unique take on the epic Ramayana and also addressed Stockholm syndrome in the second half. Ironically, Raavan faced protests in Sri Lanka, the land of Ravan.


Director Mani Ratnam always expressed his affinity towards epics. While Thalapathi turned out to be an adaptation of Mahabharata, Raavan's story is based on Valmiki's Ramayana. In several interviews, the National Award-winning director had expressed his desire to adapt Ponniyin Selvan (written by Kalki Krishnamoorthy) into a film. His dream is getting fulfilled as he completed two long schedules of Ponniyin Selvan.

Coming back to Raavan, the story is quite straightforward to those who are familiar with Ramayana. What caught everyone's attention was how Mani Ratnam tried to retell Ramayana from Ravan's perspective.

Veeraiya (Vikram in Tamil, Abhishek Bachchan in Hindi) runs a parallel government in rural areas near Tirunelveli. He is considered as the messiah of the masses, while the local police brand him as a Naxalite. Dev (Prithviraj in Tamil, Vikram in Hindi) is a ruthless police officer who is on the lookout for Veeraiya, a lawbreaker. While on the lookout, Veeraiya's sister is tortured, sexually abused and killed.

To avenge the death of his sister, Veeraiya kidnaps Raagini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Tamil and Hindi), wife of Dev. While searching for his wife, Dev plots the murder of Veeraiya's brothers, which angers him more. The story takes a turn when Raagini's perspective towards Veeraiya changes after listening to his story.

Raavan is a visual spectacle as cinematographers Santosh Sivan and V Manikandan captured the beauty in every single frame. However, the film received mixed reviews. With a wafer-thin storyline in the first half, Raavan tests everyone's patience till intermission. It is only in the second half that the story engulfs us.

Since Raavan was marketed as an adaptation of Ramayana, the audience was able to connect a lot with the characters without any obvious references. Raavan was sent to a lot of international film festivals as well.


Ravan is the demon king of Sri Lanka. Even though he is viewed as an antagonist, he also had many qualities that made people look up to him. He is considered to be a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and a learned scholar. In the past, there were several films that adapted Ramayana into celluloid.

Considering that Raavan is a retelling of Ramayana from the demon god's perspective, it should have gotten a rousing welcome in Sri Lanka. Ironically, the film faced protests in the country. But, for a different reason.

Back in 2010, the IIFA Awards were held in Sri Lank. However, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Mani Ratnam did not attend the ceremony due to reasons best known to them. Many Tamil actors including Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan gave the event a miss. Their decision to boycott IIFA Awards in Sri Lanka backfired. And that led to protests across the country.

There was even an arson attack on a particular theatre in Colombo. Many theatre owners, however, asked for police protection and continued screening the film in Sri Lanka.

Despite mixed reviews, Raavan was deemed a hit at the box office. Not just the Hindi and Tamil version, the film had a decent theatrical run in other languages as well.