Four-Meter-High Gods and Heroes: Mythological Bodies


  • Linda Anne Hemphill Independent scholar


The earliest genre of Indian film, the Mythological, presented the gods and heroes from the myths and epics of Hinduism in a new medium, with all the entrancing corporeality that the cinema screen suggested. Audience reception, to be found in an energetic culture of newspaper review, over time expresses not only the changing tastes of a maturing filmic critical faculty, but the way in which this feedback influenced cinematic portrayals, often leading to an eventual transmogrification of beloved characters. The physical representation on the screen of the bodies of divinities and avatars presented different problems to producers as their concerns grew to encompass not only censorship, but competition from other increasingly popular genres; such as the social genre film, in which sexuality could be scrutinized by the audience while pruriently censured. Films of such genres came to accommodate those physical types that had long been a staple of the Mythological genre, its champions and villains, along with its stories; without the growing confusion that the Mythological genre displayed in the physical portrayal of characters, or in faithfulness to character histories or even names. The alterations over the period of the genre’s dominance and decline, to clothing, sexuality and personal relationships, extended to the representation of myth and epic in other mediums, that of picture books and television, the two worlds in which the Mythological genre was reincarnated.


film, mythological, epic, myth, Krishna, Mahabharata, Ramayana, sexuality


Reviews, advertisements, stills

ANON. (1933). ‘An impression of “Seeta”’, Varieties Weekly, vol. 4 (6), Nov. 11: 7-8.

ANON. (1938). ‘“Dhruva Kumar”’, Filmindia, vol. 36, June.

ANON. (1943). ‘“Ramrajya” draws huge crowds at the super: Prem Adib slanders an immortal role’ review, Filmindia: 67-71, Nov.

ANON. (1945). ‘“Krishnarjun Yuddha” presents a dancer story: boring story, bad direction, rotten music’, Filmindia, vol 51, No3, Sept.

ANON. (1945). ‘“Taramati” fails to move! Beautiful sets don’t help the story!’, Filmindia, vol. 68-9, Nov.

ANON. (1946). ‘“Kurukshetra” provides splitting headache! A disgustingly stupid film concoction! Shamli makes a good impression!’, Filmindia, vol. 53-55, Aug.

ANON. (1946). ‘“Rukmini Swayamwar” proves intensely boring. An all round rotten picture’, Filmindia, vol. 66-7, June.

ANON. (1946). ‘‘‘Subhadra” imposing presentation of barren theme! Shanta Apte gives excellent performance’, Filmindia, vol. 57-9, Sept.

ANON. (1948). ‘Ranjit shows monkey tricks on the screen. “Jai Hanuman” becomes popular draw!’, Filmindia, vol. 61-3, Nov.

ANON. (1948). ‘“Shravan Kumar” is a veritable headache. Stupid story, bad direction and insipid performance combine to make a hopeless mess!’, Filmindia, vol. 55-6, Aug.

ANON. (1949). ‘“Usha Haran” becomes another flop! Idiotic junk insults Hindu gods!’, Filmindia, vol. 49, June.

ANON. (1950). ‘“Ram Vivah” is just old junk! Picture fails to appeal!’, Filmindia, vol. 61, Jan.

ANON. (1950). ‘Superb mythological musicals for the season: “Murliwala” and “Bhola Shankar”’, Filmindia, vol. 59, Nov.

ANON. (1952). ‘“Vishwamitra”: a prodigy of the creative talent of master director of India’, Filmindia, vol. 66, June.

ANON. (1954). ‘Music redeeming feature of “Tilottama”’, Filmfare, vol. 19, Aug. 20.

ANON. (1954). ‘“Radha Krishna”: a maid’s undying devotion’, Filmfare, vol. 22-3, May 14.

ANON. (1956). ‘“Ayodhyapati” becomes a mild mythological: picture fails to thrill picturegoers’, Filmindia, vol. 61-2, Dec.

ANON. (1959). ‘“Gaj Gauri” a fairly well-made mythological: modest but sincere portrayal of a “Mahabharat” tale’, Filmindia, vol. 64-5, Jan.

ANON. (1963). ‘“Sairandhri”’, Filmfare, vol. 37, March 8.

ANON. (1965). ‘Mixture of myths in “Shankar, Sita, Anasuya”’, Screen, vol. 12, Dec. 10.

ANON. (1968). ‘Verdict’, Star and Style, Jan.: 33.

ANON. (1989). “Shyam Sunder”, Sakal, vol. 398, Feb. 2.


Apsara (1961). Chitraleya.

Bharat Milap (1965). Sharad.

Devi Devayani (1931). Ranjit.

Gopal Krishna (1938). Prabhat.

Hanuman Patal Vijaya (1951). Basant.

Krishnavatar (1932). Krishnatone.

Krishnavatar (1964). Kashi.

Kurukshetra (1933). Chhatrapati.

Laksmi Narayan (1951). Basant.

Mahasati Tulasi Vrinda (1947). Jayant Desai.

Mahatma Vidur (1943). Circo.

Manthan/Justice of Vikram (1941). Wadia.

Muraliwala (1927). Maharashtra.

Murliwala/Muraliwala (1951). Madhuwani.

Nand Kishore (1951). M and T Films.

Pandava Nirvan (1930). General.

Radha Krishna (1933). Asian Film.

Radha Krishna (1954). G. P. Prod.

Ram Hanuman Yuddha (1957). Ravikala.

Sakshi Gopal (1957). Ratnadeep.

Shree Krishna Bhakti (1955). Combine.

Veer Babruvahan (1934). Ranjit.

Veer Babruwahan (1950). Basant.


D.G. Phalke Films. (NFAI compilation) Raja Harishchandra (1913) [10 min]; Lanka Dahan (1917) [9]; How Films are Made (1917) [10]; Shree Krishna Janma (1918) [6]; Kaliya Mardan (1919) [45]; Tukaram (1921) [15]; Bhakta Prahlad (1926) [15].

Durga Pooja (1954). Dhirubhai B. Desai, director.

Gone with the Wind (1939). Victor Fleming, director.

Gopal Krishna (1938). V.G. Damle and S. Fattelal, directors.

Lakshmi Narayan (1951). Nanabhai Bhatt, director.

Mahabharat (1989). B.R. Chopra, director, 94 episodes.

Mother India (1957). Mehboob Khan, director.

Ramayan (1987). Ramanand Sagar, director, 78 episodes.

Ramrajya (1943). Vijay Bhatt, director.

Sampoorna Ramayan (1961). Homi Wadia, director.

Shree Ganesh (1962). S.S. Dharwadkar, director.

Shree Ganesh Mahima/Shree Krishna Vivah (1950). Homi Wadia, director.

Vaman Avtar (1955). Raman Desai, director.


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Author Biography

Linda Anne Hemphill, Independent scholar

Books: The Bollywood Mythological, Australian Poems: 1978-2010.




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