Response to New Ramayana Video Review by Urmila Devi
by John Breathwaite Senior Entertainment Journalist
Posted December 9, 2002


INDIA JOURNAL /NEW AFRICAN MAGAZINE

I have been writing for 10 years for India Journal here in Los Angeles, and New African Magazine that has over a million readership all over the world. I am a member of the Motion Picture Association of the World as a film journalist and have reviewed over a hundred films.

The Ramayana has professional actors from all walks of life from around the world. All lead actors and not extras were from many famous films that have been made around the world. Jeff Rector (Star Trek movie) James Hong (Bladerunner), Steven Williams (X-Files the movie and show), John Phillip Law (Sinbad and the Golden Voyage), Chandini (Money Talks), were some of the talent that worked on the film. The movie has been viewed at many film festivals around the world with many good reviews and praises from film critics like myself.

It is unclear to me why Urmila Devi considers the movie to be an embarrassment for those who wish to see the Lord glorified in the modern media. It has glorified the Lord and Indian culture by the use of state of the arts acting and special effects from Hollywood . No movie that was about the Vedic stories has been done outside of the Xena TV episode in the west in this way. Yes, the costumes cost a half million and are the best I have ever seen in any production. And what Sita wears is what was researched, the costume designer picked this dress because it is what experts on costumes of the period chose. Sita actually wore leaves and bark of trees, according to historians in the country. The makeup is done by the artist that worked on the famous Ninja Turtles, and the monkeys were historically resembling real monkeys that talked with tails, and some clothing.

The settings were all on location in India with scenes of beautiful Temples and buildings. The script is true to the essence of the story but with some artistic license, which Prabupada told many of the actors in ISKCON to do to make the stories more entertaining to the public. As long as the true nature of the story is intact you can change some small points to enhance the material. The movie and stories line is very easy to follow guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy saves girl, evil is vanquished!

The point is made that Rama must rescue his wife from a ten headed demon with the aid of a monkey army. Hauman did bring a plant to Laksman to heal him, the mountain was not pictured because it was a part of the stories that we had no time or funds left to do. Because of budget constraints we had to leave out parts that were not as important to tell how he was cured. The whole movie had to be done in this way to tell the basic story. The Monkeys crossed the ocean on a bridge of stones that was spoken about to Rama in the film but was not shown.

The monkeys hijacked a demon airplane to help Rama with the fight, which could have happened in the heat of battle. Monkeys are known for stealing everything! Demons had technology like airships etc. you can find this in the Vimanyka Shastra text. James Hong asked to change the scene with Rama and Agasta Muni to make it more interesting on how they met, so we change it to make it more exciting. It never changed the story and the way it was running.

Yes, the story is interrupted with Vimanas because they were flying around at the time showing a advanced civilization in and around India that was not India at the time. This is all explained in the Shastra text. Rama 'so fight with Ravana is short and sweet because of cost demands and restrictions.

We are now working on a bigger battle scene for the next Ramayan part 2, which will only be seen in theatres. We are redoing the whole film right now with CGI and the advance effects work of today. The main characters have enough character development to aid in the flow of the story, you want to see Rama rescue Sita, and you learn to like Hanuman in a funny way.

The story is real basic good fights evil. The main characters are defined in the story and it moves along. You can find Bhakti with Sita a fine performance by the English/Indian Actress named Chandini when she is kidnapped by the demons you see her agony and devotion to Rama when faced with death. The characters in the film have not been grossly misrepresented such as Mandodari she is the wife of a demon and is not a "prostitute type." The French actress that played her was told that she was a wife who was faithful to her demon husband.

So only from Indian films you know what she was like. I researched her role and it was done with respect to her as the wife of a demon. She wore a sari and was around the court and didn't question her husband's rule. Actors from many countries show that the world at that time was full of races from other worlds etc. Peter Brooks did this for Mahabharata to make it so everyone in the world can relate to it. Kaikeyi has a New York accent, but that's how many Americans talk so you can relate like the famous actress Fran Drescher from the popular TV show the Nanny".

And Shurpanika sounds like the famous Count Dracula from Transylvania, what's wrong with that? She is a vampire-like demon. Some times family members speak different my sister talks with a different accent because she spend time in England. Sanskrit names are hard to pronounce for English speaking people and most Indians complain about it all the time but the Hare Krsna devotees still say all the chants. Poor India effects can not make the west interested in these Vedic stories and the lack of Hollywood actors, can never make the world know who Rama or the Ramayana is all about.

Now that this movie has been made the world knows more than they ever did before.