Hollywood embraces Indian deities

English cinema finds inspiration in Indian mythology characters


October 10, 2018

/ By / New Delhi

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A scene from the motion picture ‘Avatar’

There are countless characters in the Indian mythology and many still remain unknown to most people. Hollywood movies like the Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar, have been taking their character inspirations from Indian deities. Read on to see; how many can you tick off?

Indian culture is widely known for its richness and diversity, and for ages, has naturally influenced the world of cinema. If not many, there are a few big-budget Hollywood series, cinemas and animated movies based on Hindu deities and their powers.

Recently in a statement, Ted Elliott, one of the screenwriters of the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ revealed that the character of Jack Sparrow played by Johnny Depp was influenced by the Indian god – Krishna. Jack Sparrow can be described as a trickster, who often uses his wit and words to get out of sticky situations, as opposed to physical force.

Lord Krishna is one of the major Hindu deities and Elliott revealed that while writing the character sketch of Jack Sparrow, the makers referred to the description and various shades of Krishna.

Hindu Mythology and beliefs 

The 2009 motion picture ‘Avatar’, directed by James Cameron, is also highly influenced by Indian mythology. The word ‘avatar’ is of Hindu origin, meaning that Gods incarnate on the Earth in various forms to fight demons and evil. According to Cameron, the Indian scriptures were a helpful inspiration to pen down the script for Avatar. Even the characters of the movie are inspired by Lord Vishnu and Shiva.

Another Hollywood movie ‘Matrix’ directed by Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski is based on concept of maya (illusion). Indians believe that their gods have the divine power to create ‘maya’ – an illusion to lure away demons. According to Indian scriptures, this whole world is an illusion. When Keanu Reeves gets shot down by Agent Smith in Matrix, he assumes it to be real and dies. But later, he regains consciousness only to realise that the entire matrix system is an illusion. This concept was beautifully presented in the movie.

However, not just films, but an American superhero television series called Flash in its third season, also has a reference of a hindu God, when Scarlet speedster is pitted against Savitar, the villain in that season. Savitar is based on ‘Savitr’, which is a Sanskrit word. Savitr has been attributed to as upholding the movables and immovable in hindu mythology and if not directly, but in some way can be attributed as the God of speed. That season of flash was taken very enthusiastically by the Indian fans as they went on Twitter to give India a shout out.

Abhinav Verma, a 25 year-old resident of New Delhi and big fan of the show says-“It was nice to see Indian gods getting a mention in such a popular show like Flash. The only thing I probably didn’t like, and it’s maybe because of my religious beliefs, was the fact that it was shown in a negative light. Maybe the show caters majorly to an American audience and the makers didn’t think how the audiences in India will feel about it. Having said that, I think it’s great that American shows and films are now including Hindu gods in their story lines.”

Another Hollywood film released in 2018, Black Panther also has a small reference of Lord Hanuman in one of its scene. M’Baku, the leader of the Jabari tribe (played by Winsten Duke), says “Glory to Hanuman”. Hanuman is one of the most popular gods in India who is simple, large-hearted and a powerful warrior in the Hindu Mythology.

However, the word ‘Hanuman’ found itself edited out when the film got teased in India, to make sure that the Hindu sensibilities were not offended.

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