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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Hanuman v/s Mahiravana, Review: Monkey god, who knows many tricks and means business

Hanuman v/s Mahiravana, Review: Monkey god, who knows many tricks and means business

Green Gold Animation, the creators of India's favourite animation character which is a rage among TV watching children, Chhota Bheem, has released Hanuman vs Mahiravana in stereoscopic 3D. A mythological animation movie, it's based on a less known story from the, Hindu holy book, the Ramayana. The movie showcases the race against time for Hanuman to save the princes of Ayodhya, Rama and his brother, ace archer Lakshmana, and Rama’s wife Seeta, from the clutches of Mahiravana, the king of the netherworld (paataal), an evil sorcerer and the step-brother of Raavana.

Raavana, you must be aware, is the demon deity who wanted to marry her, kidnapped Seeta and held her captive, till Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman’s Vaanar Sena (monkey army) rescued her, after killing him. In the battle of Lanka (believed to be present day SriLanka), Rama defeats and disarms Raavana but magnanimously spares his life. That night, Ravana unleashes his most powerful ally--his brother Mahiravana, whose shadow casts a blanket of deception over Rama's army and the unseen enemy captures Rama and Lakshmana.

Mahiravana intends to kill the two princes at day-break, to fulfil a prophecy made by his guru, Sage Tamisra, that will make him invincible. Rama’s dear friend Hanuman, son of the wind god, Vayu, takes on the might of Mahiravana, in a clash of titans, before the glorious final battle. He has a powerful ally, Sugreeva, the monkey king of Kishkinda, and Vibheeshana, Ravana’s younger brother, who defects to Rama’s side, convinced that what Raavana has done is wrong.

It is remarkable that Ezhil Vendan, the debutant director, is basically a dentist. In 1996, he began learning graphics and animation at Prasad Studios, where he went on to become a lead designer. Next, he went to the U.K., working for 10 years on games such as Medal of Honour and the Lego Games series, at Codemasters and TT Games, with renowned animator Paul McCormack. Hanuman vs Mahiravana took three-and-a-half years of actual production to fruition, after some six years of genesis and planning.

“We employed teams from all around the world, such as USA, Japan and Mexico, to work on this film. We worked on computer-generated models that have animated skeletons in them. The frames in between are generated by the computer. The key-frames, which handle the movements of the characters, are done by animators. My friend and collaborator Narayanan Vaidyanathan took care of the writing and music, while I handled the visuals and direction,” reveals Ezhil.

In terms of technique and CGI, the look is very different from Western cartoon and animation films. There is a very Indian feel to it. Special effect after special effect is thrown at you in quick succession, as if a crafty conjurer has been let loose, and most of it is impressive stuff. Devotees and children are more likely to enjoy the exploits than other audiences. Voicing, a factor that needed to be very carefully done, is below par. Rajesh Jolly, Viral Shah, Ganesh Divekar and Sweta Pradhan are the principal voices. Fans addicted to Chhota Bheem, including a six year-old I know who got hooked two years ago, are going to have a whale of a time. Proceedings unfold at a reasonably fast pace and the excitement wanes only occasionally. The fact that it is a less known tale from the Ramayana will work in its favour. Not having read the full epic, I cannot say whether the makers have taken any liberties, creative or otherwise.

Hanuman vs Mahiravana is produced by Green Gold, founded by Rajiv Chilaka, who is also the CEO. Chilaka wanted to create a company that would be known as the "Disney of India". He left a comfortable software job in the US to study at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. The movie is being screened at 350 screens across India in Hindi and 25+ screens across Tamil Nadu state, in Tamil language.

Rating: ** ½

Trailer: dOUKZw

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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