Among the clutch of releases on 2 November is yet another animated film inspired by a Hindu religious epic. Sons of Ram, produced by ACK Media and Cartoon Network and directed by ACK Animation Studio head Kushal Ruia, is based on characters and episodes in the Ramayana. The 85-minute 3D film follows the adventures of Ram’s twin sons, Luv and Kush, who have been born in exile to Sita. Although the boys don’t know who their parents are – their mother is living under the assumed name Vandevi – they are a cut above the other kids in the village. Under the watchful eye of the sage Valmiki, they are expert fighters and problem solvers. Yet, Luv and Kush are also like regular kids. They have different personalities and contrary reactions to situations. They stamp their feet and puff their cheeks when they don’t get their way.

Unusually for an Indian animated film aimed mostly at kids and their parents, Sons of Ram opens with a nightmare. All is not well in Ayodhya: Ram is having sleepless nights over the moment when Sita abandons his side after being accused of infidelity. His personal unhappiness has spread to his kingdom, so a sage suggests an ashvamedha yagna – a ritual sacrifice of a white stallion – to alleviate the gloom. Meanwhile in the forest, Luv and Kush are growing up to be fine lads, even if don’t always get along with each other. After a series of adventures, they end up doing battle with their uncles and eventually their father.

The screenplay is based on a story written several years ago by Anant Pai, the founder of the comic series Amar Chitra Katha, which is now a part of ACK Media. However, the story deviates from the comic and the epic source by alluding to present-day family conflicts. “The screenplay has in common with the comic the main dramatic moments – the twins born in exile, the capturing of the horse, the battle against Ram," Ruia said. The rest is an imagined coming-of-age story of two boys who are growing up, in essence, in a single-parent home.

“I felt the need to make mythology less mythological and more relatable to modern audiences, to humanise the story and go beyond gods and goddesses," Ruia said. “Everybody knows a version of the myth that has been told to them by their grandfather or their grandmother. I can’t compete with your grandmother, so that’s a lost cause. But I did try and keep certain things that would hook people. The idea was to make to make it entertaining, but to also respect the spirit of the story."

Among several noteworthy animation sequences, one of the most successful in the sequence featuring Kush and a forest spirit, which takes place in a magical blue-grey pool of dropping flowers. The animation is hand-drawn rather than computer-generated. “Hand-drawn animation is now something of a rare event because everybody sits in front of the computer," Ruia said. “It has the beauty of handwritten letters in an age of emails." Every frame of Sons of Ram was hand-drawn on a tablet and then fed into the computer. “The 3D effect enhances the hand-drawn effect, so you can see the flatness of the art of the painting and the brush strokes," explained Ruia, who studied animation at Sheridan College in Canada.

Ruia deftly balances the battlefield action with the drama arising out of the squabbles between Luv and Kush, but he is tripped up by the Sanskritised Hindi that is spouted by most of the characters. “The Hindi expected from this period is daunting," Ruia said. “We had to draw the line, so for Valmiki’s character, I tried to keep it pure, whereas the kids hardly use those kind of words."

Sons of Ram went through a few significant changes since its inception a little over two years ago. It was initially meant to be shown on television and was originally in English. That’s why the lip movements of the characters don’t always match the dialogue.

The 3 crore movie is the first animated title from ACK Media to be released in cinemas. (A television series on the iconic Tinkle character Suppandi will also be broadcast in the coming weeks.) Three more films are being developed at the company, Ruia said. And not all of them will be rooted in mythology, even though trade pundits believe that only animated movies based on Hindu epics click with audiences. “The gatekeepers tend to believe that mythology is what works," Ruia said. “But there are so many stories to tell."

Sons of Ram opens on 2 November.

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