Hey folks, Harry here... There was a recent announcement from Dreamworks Animation that the studio, known primarily as a pop culture generating irreverent animation, well they announced they'd take a Holy Scripture of the Hindu faith called RAMAYAN and adapt it into, "MONKEYS OF BOLLYWOOD." Personally, when I heard this, I instantly thought of the brilliant animated adaptation of this, SITA SINGS THE BLUES - by Nina Paley which you can see for free there at her website, and seriously... it is AWESOME. Owning that on BluRay is one of my prizes. It's like an awesome psychedelic Betty Boop cartoon telling the story of Rama and Sita - intermingling music, Nina's own life and that holy story. So I instantly saw the worth that DREAMWORKS ANIMATION head, Jeffrey Katzenberg saw in it. And I'm positive their take is going to be a far more accessible animated version. BUT... When a lone, inspired & brilliant animator takes on that story, it's one thing. When the company behind SHREK says they're adapting your holy story of RAMAYAN into a film called, "MONKEYS OF BOLLYWOOD" - guess what happens? Hindus take notice and become concerned.
Imagine if DREAMWORKS ANIMATION was going to adapt a Western HOLY SCRIPTURE... oh... like say the story of Moses, but instead of making PRINCE OF EGYPT, they called it FROGS & BOILS? That's kinda what's happening here in some eyes. I've got the utmost confidence in what DREAMWORKS ANIMATION is doing though... They've hired the brilliant composer of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (which had its share of problems and insensitivity issues brought against it), Lyricist Stephen Schwartz is coming on board, along with the producing team of Gurinder Chadha & Paul Berges (BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM) to help work on what will be the studio's first Animated Musical in the CG Animated arena - DREAMWORKS ANIMATION did do some 2D animated musicals. BUT - they're going to have to tread carefully - as their largest possibly film market for this film... well, it is their religion - and I just received the following Press Release urging for care in this adaptation. It will certainly be an interesting tightrope that DREAMWORKS ANIMATION will travel, but I'm positive Katzenberg is already reaching out to the BILLION strong community of worshippers. I mean, right?
Hindus concerned about DreamWorks’ “Monkeys of Bollywood”
Expressing concern at the recently announced animated musical “Monkeys of Bollywood”, Hindus have urged its proposed maker DreamWorks Animation to be careful in handling Hindu concepts and terminology.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that since the reported movie announcement claimed it to be “inspired” by timeless epic Ramayan and Ramayan being a highly revered scripture of Hinduism, film should stay true to the story and the spirit of Ramayan. Insensitive handling of faith traditions sometimes results in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols and hurting the devotees.
With seasoned and skillful professionals at the helm, we did not expect any problem, Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said and added that they were just urging for more sensitivity towards faith traditions. If DreamWorks Animation or their associates in this film needed any expertise on Hinduism related issues, he or other Hindu scholars would gladly provide the resources, Zed added.
Hindus welcomed Hollywood/Bollywood to immerse in Hinduism, but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols for mercantile greed. Hollywood/Bollywood were welcome to make movies about Ramayan but the final product should be the true depiction of it and not a fantasized or a re-imagined version, Rajan Zed pointed out.
Zed argued that changing Ramayan to fit the Hollywood/Bollywood machine was likely to hurt the Hindu sentiment as Ramayan was an integral part of Hinduism and was held in such reverence that Hindus believed that simply reading/hearing of it showered blessings upon the reader/listener. Ram, the hero of Ramayan, was incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and was worshipped by Hindus.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. No faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered, Rajan Zed adds.
This is said to be the first feature musical for DreamWorks. Directors Paul Mayeda Berges (What’s Cooking) and Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), lyricist Stephen Schwartz and Oscar winner composer A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) have reportedly teamed on Bollywood-style “Monkeys of Bollywood”, which reportedly revolves around two monkeys. DreamWorks chief creative officer Bill Damaschke and development executive Chris Kuser will reportedly oversee it.
Ramayan, an ancient Sanskrit scripture that consists of 24,000 stanzas, explores various themes, including human existence, concept of dharma, etc.