recess radio program

6/29/04
Ramayana, Prince of Light
    by Malini Roy

Japanese anime offers an interesting alternative to Disney for cartoon-lovers all over the world. Often, Japanese collaborations with other countries have resulted in animated films that has break new ground in terms of both style and subject matter.

One interesting products of this cultural fusion was the Ramayana : Prince of Light, produced in the 1990s as a joint venture between India and Japan. The film is based on the ancient Indian legend of Prince Rama, who is exilee to the forest for fourteen years. Rama's wife Sita and his faithful brother, Lakshman, go with him into the wilderness, where Sita's beauty attracts Ravana, a rival king, who kidnaps her. Rama wins her back only after an epic war and with the help of the monkey-god Hanuman. In the end, the exiles all return, and Rama embarks on a long and peaceful rule.

Directed by Yugo Sako and Krishna Shah, this adaptation of the legend combines the techniques of the Japanese school of animation called Manga, and those of Indian classical painting which have been updated by Ram Mohan, the father of Indian animation.

When director Yugo Sako first proposed the project, the Indian Government was reluctant to grant a foreigner the permission to work with these traditional materials. But Sako won them over through his painstaking historical research that attempts to remain faithful to the spirit of the original epic.

Still, the cross-cultural exchange led to some interesting changes in the movie. For example, Rama and Lakshmana look rather like Samurai warriors, and the action sequences are graced by swordfights based on the Japanese kenjutsu tradition, but the characters deliver their speeches in a style reminiscent of the acting tradition in Indian folk theater, though with a certain Manga twist.

And even though (to my taste) the film could have benefitted from a more polished script -- something a little less stereotypical and predictable -- it still offers children a good introduction to one of the world's oldest epics. Released in English, Hindi and Japanese, it is available at your local video stores and on the internet, where the ancient myths are still alive.

Copyright 2004 Malini Roy

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Tuesday, 25-May-2004 15:29:47 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."