Yugo Sako's Ramayan Odyssey
A Japanese director has devoted his life to animating the Hindu epic. But is Hollywood ready for Prince Ram?
BY: Lavina Melwani
Krishna Shah, an old Hollywood hand, got involved in 1993 at a time when the film had been a work in progress for several years. Shah, a graduate of Yale and UCLA film schools, had written or directed shows such as "The Man From UNCLE" and "The Six Million Dollar Man."
Shah points out some interesting similarities between "Star Wars" and the Ramayana, both morally centered tales. If Luke Skywalker is inspired by Rama, he says, Darth Vader has shades of Ravana, and the lovable Chewbacca is a dead ringer for Hanuman. Ask Sako about this, and he says: "In general, Indian mythology is like a treasure box for movie makers. So if George Lucas knows India, I am sure he was influenced."
When Sako first proposed this film, the Indian government had been reluctant to hand over an Indian epic to a foreigner. Now, he's won over the skeptics with his integrity and devotion to details. Says Shah, "He has established his credentials--he knows Valmiki's Ramayana backwards and forwards."
Although the film has been well received at film festivals and has been briefly exhibited in several countries, the insistence of the filmmakers to maintain the storyline has prevented it from gaining wide release.