Animation has become a popular visual art in India, garnering a lot of love from twenty-first-century children. Among the historical accounts that chart the development of this art form, one intriguing tale connects it to the Ramayana, the famous Indian epic. TEM Co., Ltd. and Animation Pop Mall has announced a 4K remaster of the Ramayana : The legend of Prince Rama anime to strengthen relations between India and Japan.
During the early 1980s, when the Ram Janmbhoomi movement gained momentum in India, Japanese Director Yugo Sako was working on a documentary, The Ramayana Relics. Dealing with the excavations conducted by the noted archaeologist Dr B.B. Lal, the movie captured a burning issue of those times. It was then that Yugo Sako was drawn by the spiritual and mythological tangents of the epic. It is claimed that his interests and motivations drove him. He read ten different versions of the much-revered tale in Japanese.
Moving forward in his pursuit, he decided to make an animation movie, Ramayana: The legend of Prince Rama, retelling the story of Ramayana. In a bid to uphold the authenticity of the epic, the director wanted an Indian-Japanese collaboration for this project. Despite his efforts to partner with the Indian government, this idea could not be materialised.
‘Ramayana’ Controversy & Protest
While anime occupied a prestigious position in the Japanese world of arts, animation and cartoons but they were still considered a children’s genre in India.
Due to this, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a socio-religious outfit, protested the cartoon-based characterization of the divine characters from Ramayana. Adding to this, the production time also prevented the film from getting an Indian release. During 1992, the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid dispute had reached its height, and the atmosphere was not conducive to allowing any such activity, which could disturb the public’s sentiments. Thus, the film was solely made in Japan with help from Indian artists, and front-runners like Ram Mohan and Krishna Shah became a part of it.
The Making of ‘Ramayana: The legend of Prince Rama’
The production began in 1984, when Yugo Sako, a famous Japanese animator, and Ram Mohan, India’s best animation director, teamed up. The Indian team was in charge of the storyboards, background, original drawings, animation, colouring, photography, and editing, while the Japanese team was in charge of the storyboards, background, art settings, dialogue recording, and music.
On the Indian side, top-notch scenario writers, music directors, artists, and film actors of the day took part, while on the Japanese side, a total of 450 people worked tirelessly to create more than 100,000 hand-drawn celluloid pictures, including excellent animators who were also active in Hayao Miyazaki’s works.
This project required a workforce of roughly 450 people to complete. The creators did not leave any stone unturned in creating a true marvel, from aiming for perfection in each character’s dress and attire to the background setting of numerous scenarios. After nine years and an investment of around 800 million yen ($12 Million), it was finished in December 1992.
Strengthening ties between the two nations, the movie was made in the year that marked the 40th anniversary of Indian-Japan diplomatic ties. In spite of not getting a cinema release in the story’s home country, the movie made its way to the global platform under the name “The Warrior Prince.”
‘Ramayana’ is India’s most popular animated series.
Over the course of time, Indian audiences have adapted to animation being a universal medium. With this, a lot of mythological stories have reached the younger population through this engaging interface. Though the film did not get a theatrical release in India, the kids from the 90s and 2000s have grown up watching Ramayana: The legend of Prince Rama on Cartoon Network.
After an eight-year gap, Cartoon Network showed Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama in 2000. Many more Animated movies were created after it on Indian mythology but none have created the magic that Yugo Sako “Ramayana” did. It is still one of the most popular and successful Indian anime series in history, receiving high praise and an IMDb rating of 9.1.
One of the notable facts about this movie is the simple narration of the historical tale with no commentary or subjective interpretation. Besides assuring simplicity to the viewers, this approach also helped the film free of any further controversies. While the original film was voiced in English with Japanese subtitles, it was also dubbed in Hindi later. Remarkably, the Hindi version has voices of Indian screen stalwarts like Shatrughan Sinha and Arun Govil. It was also known for its melodious song sang by Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurthy and Sadhana Sargam
Japan bringing back Yugo Sako ‘Ramayana’ in 4K
In line with the advancements of contemporary times, the movie is now being revamped with a 4K remaster. It is expected that the remastered film will now be available for viewing across an array of platforms, including theatres television, through Blu-ray disk and DVD, and on OTT platforms. For this, the managing authorities have already created a website to invite parties to purchase the streaming rights.
The fans of Indian Anime have to wait for a bit longer without the distribution. The streaming of ‘Ramayana: The legend of Prince Rama’ is not possible nor the distribution of physical assets (ex. DVD). The distributor needs to fill out this Contact form to get in touch with the creators. Netflix and Amazon prime video have higher chances to get the distribution right, if they show their interest.
Given its merit, the film registered a string of applaud. It got the inaugural screening at the 2000 Lucca Animation Film Festival, and it also became a highlight of the Cardiff Animation Film Festival in the United Kingdom. Adding another shining feather to its cap of glory, the movie won Best Animation Film of the Year at the 2000 Santa Clarita International Film Festival in the United States.
Japanese people gathered in huge number to see ‘Ramayana’ in 2020
TUFS Cinema recently screened ‘Ramayana: The Legend of Rama,’ an Indo-Japanese animated film, at AGORA Global’s Prometheus Hall in Japan. This is the first time the film has been exhibited on a huge screen since its release in 1992. Professor MIZUNO Yoshifumi (Institute of Global Studies, specialising in ancient Sanskrit literature and mediaeval Hindi literature) of TUFS conducted a lecture on the history of the Ramayana.
This event sparked attention and attracted over 520 individuals, much exceeding AGORA Global’s capacity. People who had not been able to get a seat were seen standing and enjoying the movie. People were given these ‘Ramayana’ pamphlets to learn about Ramayan’s history. The film has yet to receive a digital release, so it was screened on 35mm film.
Not only does the movie give valuable insights into the ancient Indian culture and ways of living, but it also threads a story that is truly unparalleled in many ways. This is what elevates its importance for the younger generations in India and across the globe. Exploring a range of themes like human-animal associations, the ways of living a just and righteous life, the victory of good over evil, and others, it is a source of inspiration for everyone.
The seeds of a fertile present and a prosperous future germinate with the warmth derived from the golden days of the past. This makes it pertinent for us to protect our heritage, and it is equally important to ease and enhance its accessibility so that more and more people can be benefitted. Thus, such creative initiatives have to be fuelled with heightened spirit and enthusiasm if we want to connect today and tomorrow with the days of yore!
We hope Yugo Sako’s ‘Ramayana’ finds distributors so that we can revisit our childhood once again. Tell us in the comments section when you last watched the Ramayana on television.