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Who's who in Mani Ratnam's Raavan

Last updated on: June 8, 2010 18:29 IST

Image: Abhishek Bachchan
Patcy N in Mumbai

By now everyone knows that Mani Ratnam's film Raavan is loosely based on Valmiki's epic Ramayana.

We all also know that Abhishek Bachchan's character is loosely based on Ravana, but what about the others?

Does the film script follow the original? Read on as this could also be a good chance for you to brush up your knowledge of the classic.

Abhishek Bachchan -- Ravana

Valmiki's version: In popular perception Ravana maybe the villain in the epic -- after all, he does kidnap Ram's wife, has an epic battle with him in which Ram kills him -- but Ravana was also a great king of Lanka, a famous Shiv bhakt, a veena virtuoso, and was famed for his physical prowess -- he once tried to lift Mount Kailash with Lord Shiv seated on it. Ravana's wife, the beautiful Mandodari, was one of the virtuous women of the time. Valmiki's epic shows that all virtue comes to naught when you let your senses run amok -- as Ravana did on seeing Sita.

Mani's version: Abhishek Bachchan plays Beera Munda, loosely based on Ravana. Beera is a tribal leader who cares for the villagers, is the voice of the underdog, snatches power from the rich and gives it to the poor. He rules a small village in Madhya Pradesh called Lal Maati where the police has no powers, only Beera does. So when his life is disrupted by a brave police officer, Beera carries off his wife Ragini into the jungle.

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Vikram Kenni - Rama

Image: Vikram Kenni and Aishwarya Rai in Raavan

Valmiki's version: Venerated as the maryada purshottam, Rama today is a pan-south east Asian phenomenon. In Valmiki's epic, Rama was the dutiful elder son of King Dashrath who sacrifices his crown to keep his father's promise to his stepmother. Embodiment of all virtues, Ram marries Sita but is forced to spend the next 14 years in the jungle -- from where Sita is abducted by Ravana, which sets off a tragic chain of events.

Mani's version: Vikram Kenni plays the character of Dev Pratap Sharma, loosely based on Rama. Dev, a police officer, falls in love with Ragini and marries her. Soon after Dev gets transferred to Lal Maati village which is under Beera's control. Beera and his accomplices face a few setbacks thanks to Dev, and Beera abducts Dev's wife to teach him lesson.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan - Sita

Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Valmiki's version: Rama's wife Sita is kidnapped by Ravana from the forest before being rescued by her husband Rama following a bloody battle. After rescuing Sita, Rama asks her to prove her chastity by doing the agni pariksha, from which she emerges unscathed, and Rama accepts her.

Mani's version: Aishwarya Rai's character is called Ragini in the film and she is a dance teacher. Ragini gets abducted as her police officer husband makes local don Beera Munda's life miserable. She is taken into a forest and kept in captivity. As Mani sees it, when Dev doubts his wife's character, Ragini will sympathise with the other man.

Govinda - Hanuman

Image: Govinda

Valmiki's version: For devotion there's none like Hanuman, wrote the poet, and till date the bachelor-god remains a huge favourite among followers. He was the one who flew to Lanka to spot Sita in captivity, he was the one who carried the entire mountain while looking for the miraculous Sanjeevani herb to revive Ram and Lakshman in battle.

Mani's version: Govinda is called Sanjeevani Kumar in the film and his character is based on Hanuman. Sanjeevani is a forest guard who knows the region very well. He is a drunkard and therefore gets suspended all the time. Sanjeevani has great admiration for Dev but he also understands Beera and respects him, even though he does not agree with his unlawful ways.

Nikhil Dwivedi - Lakshman

Image: Nikhil Dwivedi

Valmiki's version: The brothers were inseparable, and Lakshman accompanies Ram into the jungle. Hot-blooded, it is Lakshman who disfigures Ravana's sister Surpanakha when she takes a fancy to the handsome Rama, setting in motion Sita's abduction, the war, everything.

Mani's version: Nikhil Dwivedi's character is loosely based on Lakshmana. Younger brother to Dev Pratap, he too plays a cop, Laxmana Pratap.

Priyamani - Surpanakha

Image: Priyamani

Valmiki's version: Surpanakha was Ravana's sister who takes a fancy to Rama, whom she sights in the forest. She tries to entice him but Rama, celebrated for his commitment to Sita, rebuffs her. When she persists in her advances Lakshman steps in and chops off her nose, following which she goes crying to her brother Ravana.

Mani's version: Priyamani plays Beera Munda's sister Serena, a negative character in the film who is the cause of the entire drama.

Ajay Gehi - Vibhishana

Image: Ajay Gehi

Valmiki's version: Vibhishana is the younger brother of Ravana who, stricken by his conscience that his sibling has abducted a married woman, walks out just before war breaks out, when his calls for restoring Sita to her husband and avoid bloodshed are not heard. After the war Rama crowns Vibhishana as the king of Lanka.

Mani's version: Ajay Gehi plays Hari, Beera Munda's brother.

Ravi Kissen - Kumbhakaran

Image: Ravi Kissen

Valmiki's version: The mighty Kumbhakaran is the younger brother of Ravana who, even though he doesn't agree with his brother's action in kidnapping Sita, goes to war on his behalf. Before he is felled, Kumbhakaran decimates Rama's army.

Mani's version: Ravi Kissen's character is called Siddharth, and is a trusted aide to Beera Munda.