It is my deep desire to see Mahabharata or Ramayana made as movies with effects and direction like Lord of the Rings. I have read both these great epics; they are very profound.

Many movies, including animated ones, have been created on these epics but they don't have that feel that one gets when watching Lord of the Rings. I would say they were poor effects.

Is there any specific reason behind this? Because what I don't understand is Hollywood has made movies inspired from Greek and Norse mythologies, and so on. So why don't they look to Indian epics to be made into movies? It's surprising.

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    Arjuna....the answer could vary from budgetary constraints, market feasibility to downright disinterest by the big production houses. Nobody knows for sure! The question you ask can only yield opinion based answers, nothing concrete.
    – Sayan
    Jul 10, 2014 at 6:50
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    Maybe just because they're not as known/famous in the US/Western culture, i.e. within Hollywood's production society and major target audience. But I agree that this seems hard to answer in a definite way.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 10, 2014 at 8:05
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    It is my deep desire to see Mahabharata or Ramayana made as movies ... Beware of your wishes: They will probably come true. Jul 10, 2014 at 10:54
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    So Mahabharata is 18 volumes and the Ramayana is 7 - perhaps part of the issue is that nobody in Hollywood would now where to start. In both cases, there is too much material for a single movie and it's very difficult to get funding for one movie, much less a series. Jul 10, 2014 at 15:13
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    Hollywood isn't a single entity. And it's definitely not conscious. Jul 10, 2014 at 17:10

4 Answers 4


Sadly, as an American, I've heard little to nothing about these epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana), not that I wouldn't like to see the movies.

There are still no big-budget epics based on works like Odyssey, Iliad, and The Aeneid; not even the Epic of Gilgamesh (which is possibly the oldest story known).

I wouldn't take it as an intentional slight against the stories or culture, but merely a marketing decision.

In the age of superheroes and other proven franchises ruling the US Domestic Box Office, we have a long way to go before the older stories get their due. The producers and studio heads only want a guaranteed Return On Investment (ROI). They're not really known for taking intentional risks.

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    Troy was on a similar level, another epic Odyssey movie has just been announced.
    – his
    Jul 10, 2014 at 11:01
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    One example of Holywood doing a historical / mythological epic from another culture: 47 Ronin, based on Japanese mythology, which was "both a commercial and critical failure, failing to impress Japanese audiences where studio expectations were high". When Holywood attempts an epic from another culture and gets it wrong, it tends to get it badly wrong... Jul 10, 2014 at 13:03
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    I think a lot of the success would depend on the treatment. I think the issue with 47 Ronin is that it took too many liberties for the Japanese audience, and perhaps not enough (or the wrong ones) for a more general audience. I think that old stories can have modern success. For example, the Sons of Anarchy has been one of FX networks biggest shows. It's based on Shakespeare's Hamlet - however many people would never now that as it appears to me only about a motorcycle gang. Jul 10, 2014 at 15:09
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    @NapoleonWilson Too bad Brad Pitt and Armand Assante were the stars of the two you mentioned. Hollywood pretty-boys in ancient Sword-and-Sandals epics? It's the same level of silly and annoying as westerns where everyone's beautifully groomed (even the horses), and thrillers where all hackers and scientists look like fashion models. Jul 10, 2014 at 18:03
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    @MeatTrademark "It's the same level of silly and annoying as westerns where everyone's beautifully groomed" - Interesting that you bring this up, since then it seems it was the interpretation by a foreign culture that made Westerns non-"silly". ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jul 10, 2014 at 18:10

It has to do more with familiarity, or perceived familiarity on assumption of an audience, than you might expect: get ready to be slightly appalled/offended.

Historical films will either have to unpack the contextual circumstances of an event or assume a preformed familiarity the audience has brought with them. Hollywood assumes a typical cinematic audience of 18-25 year old white males. That's not an accurate reflection, and there are thousands of examples where films aren't made for this demographic, but those films are typically crafted against this audience in order to court another: even when it's being fought against, the demographic is still recognised.

So if a film producer is trying to appeal to this demographic, they could support their project with as many pre-circulated paratextual material as possible: basically, if someone has a vague familiarity with something, they will apparently be more likely to engage with it.

Most white Americans are from European colonialist decent, and as such will take Judeo-Christian and Roman/Greek European mythology as the etymology of most of our fables and cautionary tales... western stories are built on these memes: Christ-like messiah, Cain and Abel, Hercules...blah blah blah.

Even when not recounting these stories directly, we are largely circulating updated and modified variations of them. They are infinitely familiar and woven into the cultural identity of western entertainment...

... It has been posited many times before how Asian stories differ from Western ones in style, structure and content. Linguistic theorist Claude Levi Strauss is noted for declaring that Mythology is a language, and is vital to how cultures communicate both with themselves and with others... from this perspective, asking why Hollywood doesn't make Indian epics is similar to asking why Hollywood doesn't produce films in Gujarati: it's clearly not the audience they are trying to reach, nor would it be profitable in the north American market.

There is something sour about the introverted way Hollywood has to recycle itself: there is yet another Hercules movie coming out this summer, when we've already had a slew of derivations of the same character (Conan being chief amongst them)...

... for a country with a huge diaspora, not to mention a significant African American population, it is odd that we haven't seen a great deal of internationally derived output. Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are capable of crossing this divide: but it must be pointed out that this movie itself was produced and directed by a Taiwanese director already deeply entrenched in the Hollywood system...

In answer, its unlikely we'll see any Eastern/Indian inspired cinema until Western civilisation inherits a familiarity with such cultures and traditions, experiences a sudden 'Crocodile-Dundee' infatuation with a country very quickly or until more movies are made that create a cinematic precedent for the area to be explored: it will also take a significant amount of persuasive Indian personalities on film boards to lobby and campaign for this...

...Whilst Bollywood still exists, and has the Indian film market tied up, what would be the point in competing with Hollywood audiences, at least from a financial perspective?


Actually, it was announced in March 2014 that Disney will be making a two-part movie of the Mahabharata. Also, a couple of years ago they did do an animated movie about Arjuna:

Granted, I do not remember seeing it advertised here in America, but at least they are being made - slowly but surely.


Its about cultural differences. What you find worth appreciating in Ramayana, a foreigner might not. The moral ambiguity and lessons engrained in the tale which you understand easy, are not so trivial for an outsider.

Its not that Americans are not fascinated by epics and mythological stories. The production house just won't be so sure if their audience will find Ramayana tale interesting. And of course, as a production house you have to be sure of what you are investing in.

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