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
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