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


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Indeed, Sako's film remains close to the original epic, while gaining a contemporary appeal. Fast moving, humorous, and colorful, the film makes Ram a 'cool' figure and a part of pop culture--without losing the direction set by the moral compass of the Ramayana. Hindu parents will be able to show it with pride to their second-generation children.

As Shah observes, "Anyone can tell a story, because Ramayana is a plot-oriented tale, but the key to Sako is that he finds humanity in his characters. Indeed, this is not a cardboard Ramayana, and the characters from Ram to Hanuman to Kumbkharna are three-dimensional ones. Sometimes, you forget these are merely animated figures, for the film almost has a lush, David Lean kind of ambiance."

What Sako particularly likes about the Ramayana and feels is a message for today's generation is the loving co-existence between the humans and the animal world that it depicts.

Although Sako is not a Hindu, he is attracted to many of Hinduism's beliefs. He explains, "I trained to be a priest and am a Zen Buddhist formally. But after all these years, Hinduism is very familiar to me. However, to be Hindu, you have to be born in a Hindu family, so I don't know whether Hindus would accept me as Hindu or not. So I am Buddhist, but in my mind I feel I am Hindu."

Next on the agenda for Sako is the story of Lord Krishna, the Celestial Cowherd. In this animated film, the magic will be recreated by bringing the Blue-Skinned God's story to life through Rajasthani miniature paintings. Sako is in the process of raising funds and is looking for partners, for the financial aspect is always daunting when he takes on a labor of love.

What gets him through tough times? Sako believes his exposure to India has taught him to see the larger picture rather than worry about short-term goals. "If I pass away, then this work can be done by others," he says and adds with a laugh, "and if I die, I can be reborn and continue the work."

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