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Ramayana: Divine Loophole
By Sanjay Patel

Review:The Ramayana is a legendary book—not just in terms of content but in terms of sheer size.  The story has been told and retold over a 2,000 history.  And so developing a new re-telling of this epic book might be daunting unless you’re Sanjay Patel.

Patel has worked for Pixar for many years and his contemporary illustrations were what drew me to the book in the first place.  Most Hindu spiritual stories are terribly illustrated—and even more poorly organized.  Patel’s background in the animation world prepared him to tackle this enormous project and do it successfully.

Patel makes the story accessible and gives readers of every faith something interesting to learn about humanity and our inherent spiritual conflicts with one another.   It feels like a good friend has decided to tell you his favorite story using his favorite medium.  It’s hard not to finish it.

Patel’s work is light and accessible but without compromising the importance of the source work.  That’s what eventually made me a fan of Patel and eager to buy his next book.

Excerpt from Interview with Sanjay Patel (from Amazon.com)

Q: How did you get started working at Pixar?
Patel: The only thing I was ever good at was copying drawings from comic books. I just drew, and nothing could ever get me to stop. All throughout school I was considered “the artist,” which really just meant that I could make really bad drawings for people’s letterman jackets. A friend told me about Cal-Arts and animation. The school was the key. Most of Pixar’s directors have come straight out of Cal-Arts and its character animation program. I just walked in their footsteps and they ended up recruiting me after my second year. I’ve been at Pixar ever since, close to thirteen years now.

Q: Describe your creative process. How do you create your illustrations?
Patel: Once I have a concrete idea of the story point that I want to communicate, which is usually nailed down in the writing, I then think of one “story telling image.” For instance, it’s a big story point when Hanuman, the monkey with special powers, uses his burning tail to set fire to the Ravana’s capital city. Since this story has been told many times before I try and research what visual artist have done previously to communicate this moment. Here I pulled together reference from paintings and from vintage comics.

Q: How long did it take you to create the scenes in the book?
At one point the illustrations were getting churned out at about one every two and half days. I was at a good clip till I decided to redo the entire book three times. I kept fighting with trying to make the art light hearted and cute, but the story was anything but that. The Ramayana is pretty dramatic and graphic, and I eventually found a style and voice that captured those things. It only took me four years.

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