Anant Pai, the founder of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), created the comic book, Sons of Ram, in 1971. Now, 41 years later, Kushal Ruia, head of ACK graphic design studio, has directed and produced the film in 3D, based on the comic book. When we met him last month, he told us — with dark circles around his eyes — of his painstaking efforts.
He spoke to us about the comic book being just an inspiration for the film, because “the entire ballgame changes when you’re making an animation film.” “I grew up reading Uncle Pai’s comics, and now, it is a big responsibility to do justice to his works,” Ruia had said. When we watched the 84-minute Hindi film last Tuesday, the efforts seem to have been spent in the right direction. Sometimes, simple is the best.
The movie begins with Lord Ram waking up in beads of sweat due to a recurrent nightmare. Each time, he sees Sita running, before the Earth splits and swallows her. We see the dark times Ayodhya faces, and a rotund and pot-bellied Guru Vishwamitra tells Lord Ram to perform the divine Ashwamedh Yagna to restore Ayodhya to its former prosperity. But, to make this possible, Lord Ram must remarry.
Lord Ram comes across as not a king, but a helpless man who has been separated from his beloved wife. The 3D effect is kept to a minimum, but the graphics are impressive nonetheless.
Luv and Kush live with their mother Vandevi — who is actually Sita — but have not been told of their parents’ real identities. Lord Ram does not know about his sons either, as he was unaware of Sita’s pregnancy when he banished her to exile after rescuing her from Ravan’s captivity.
Sunidhi Chauhan lends her voice to Sita, who has an adorable pair of bubblegum pink lips. Animation films demand a strong emotional connect, which is achieved with the help of the melodious background score. The song, Door Kahin, touches the heart, as Sita questions her decisions and longs for a reunion with her entire family. Ayodhya is a peppy song that kids will love.
Compared to other animation efforts, the effects here are modest. But the storyline and dialogues are strong enough to keep audiences engrossed.
Blue-bodied Luv and wheat-skinned Kush, the younger of the two brothers, share a love-hate relationship like any other siblings. Valmiki bestows on them the Divya Kangan (divine bangle) for their bravery and enthusiasm in helping the forest dwellers with their problems. But there’s a catch — the bangles will bestow their true power only when the brothers unite for a cause. ‘Samay bolega, jab bhagya rahasya kholega’, (time will tell all when life opens its suspense), Valmiki says, more than once in the film.
The adventure begins when Kush, the more reckless of the two, stops the Ashwamedha horse from passing freely through the forest. The brothers have grown up on tales of Lord Ram, courtesy Valmiki. But when they hear of his plans to remarry for the purpose of the yagna, they feel he is wronging Sita.
They take an oath to protect their ashram from Lord Ram.
When Kush and Shatrughana (Ram’s cousin) get into a tussle, Luv intervenes. Kush blames Luv for interfering and insults him in the process. Here, one is reminded of the ego within us.
One of the reasons mythology does not go out of fashion is because every time we watch it, we see the story in a new light, depending on our present situation. The movie is about overcoming internal demons and working together as a team, which will be a great lesson for the younger audience.
Separation follows, as Kush falls into a river and is swept into the land of Gandharva, a mythological creature, while Laxman (Ram’s brother) captures Luv. After their separation, the brothers realise their childishness and understand each other better.
Will the two come together? What will happen when Ram comes face to face with his sons, and unknowingly aims an arrow at them? Will the family, separated by fate, ever set together?
If you know the answers, go watch the film for a fresh, childlike perspective and if you are new to the tale, it is a great film to start with. Meant for kids, the film will find audiences in adults as well, though they may miss Avatar-like effects and find it a bit too simple for their tech-savvy tastes.