Prasanth Varma’s ingeniousness lies in ensuring that the presence of Hanuman is felt throughout his film, even when the drama largely focuses on the trials and tribulations of humans.
IN Prasanth Varma’s record-breaking hit HanuMan, there’s a moment where the protagonist Hanumanthu (played by Teja Sajja) is conflicted about his newfound superpowers. Is he really capable of pulling off all those improbable feats? [Spoiler Alert] It’s here that a wandering mystic, who’s later revealed to be Vibhishana (played by Samuthirakani), tells Hanumanthu that he’s not alone in performing all those heroic deeds. He had Lord Hanuman aiding him at every stage because fate chose him to be the possessor of Rudramani, a mythical stone containing a drop of Lord Hanuman’s blood. The scene cuts to a series of montages where Hanumanthu and Lord Hanuman are shown in tandem, and culminates in Hanumanthu submitting himself completely to the divine presence of the supreme. It’s one of the many whistle-worthy moments in the superhero action film which has already become one of the most profitable films of all time in Telugu film industry. [Spoiler Ends]
HanuMan is a rarity among superhero films. It’s a film where an ordinary man becomes a superhero when he gets his hand on a mythical stone associated with Lord Hanuman. And both the God and the devotee team up to take on a super villain in order to rescue the world. Even though you don’t see Hanuman in a human avatar, that’s hardly a hindrance. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Prasanth Varma’s ingeniousness lies in ensuring that the presence of Hanuman is felt throughout the film, even when the drama largely focuses on the trials and tribulations of the villagers in Anjanadri.
The setting of the village itself, right in front of a colossal statue of Hanuman, ensures that the viewers are overwhelmed with the presence of the god. Right from the moment we are introduced to the world of Anjanadri to the scene where the protagonist’s life is at stake when he falls into the river, we see events unfold in front of this statue. It’s a dramatic setting which sets the stage for evoking divine intervention. It’s one of the many environments which were created for the film, and perhaps, the most effective of them all.
For a film which didn’t boast a huge budget, to a discerning eye it would seem like Prasanth Varma and his team won half the battle while making the film by choosing (to have) Hanuman’s statue overlooking the village. The scale of the statue is massive and it worked to the film’s advantage. Each time Prasanth Varma wants to raise the stakes in the story or show how remote the village is or how an ordinary man is taking on a supervillain, he frames the scene accordingly from a different angle with the colossal idol in the same frame. “We wanted to create a new world of Anjanadri. One of the things we intentionally did was place that statue of Hanuman right in front of the village. Otherwise, it would have seemed like any other village in coastal Andhra,” Varma said in an interview.
One of the best moments in the film has Hanumanthu, after he gets the superpower from Rudramani, bashing a bunch of wrestlers and flinging them high in the air. The immediate next shot is a closeup of Hanuman’s statue staring angrily at these wrestlers. When they all fall to earth, their bodies pile up in a heap. And Hanumanthu sits atop them. The visual imagery is striking and it reminds you of a similar feat in the Ramayana where Hanuman sits atop his own tail in front of Ravana in Lanka. By borrowing several such references from Ramayana, including Hanumanthu lifting a huge rock (similar to Hanuman lifting the Sanjeevani mountain), the film succeeds in blending divinity with superhero fiction.
In another scene, a barrage of bullets are deflecting onto a wall to form a shape reminiscent of Lord Rama, with the Hanuman statue in the background. And when the point of view turns towards the village completely, we are served with another fascinating idea — a series of wooden blocks erected on a platform show the image of Hanuman when viewed from a specific angle. There’s no denying that Prasanth Varma went the extra mile to drive home the point that Hanuman is behind every deed that Hanumanthu does in the story.
There are several such instances that appear throughout the film and to his credit, Varma has successfully circumvented a difficult task: what exactly should Lord Hanuman look like on screen? It’s been a hotly debated topic among the audience with some depictions, like that in Om Raut’s Adipurush, receiving a lot of flak. On top of that, there are several visual representations of Hanuman, each evoking a different feeling among the devotees.
In Telugu cinema, there’s been no dearth of portrayals of Hanuman in various adaptations of the Ramayana in both live action and animated avatars over the years. Actors like Dara Singh have gained immense popularity owing to their portrayal of the character. Of late, the animated avatars of Hanuman, especially those aimed at kids, have become immensely popular and have won universal acclaim. A case in point being VG Samant’s animated film, Hanuman (2005), which was later dubbed in Telugu with Megastar Chiranjeevi lending his voice to the film.
For a while, Varma too considered casting a leading actor in the role; however, he later heeded to the VFX team’s advice of going with a photo-realistic avatar in the film’s final act. “We left a lot of things to the audience’s imagination about how Lord Hanuman would look like even in the final act. That’s why you only get a glimpse of his eyes and overwhelming size. We are planning to cast a top star to play the role in the sequel Jai Hanuman,” Varma remarked.
Following the huge success of HanuMan, the sequel (Jai Hanuman) is expected to kickstart later this year and release in the second half of 2025. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it’s already one of the most awaited sequels.