Friday, October 21, 2005

Hanuman, the animated film; and the puzzle of the Vanaras

Rediff has a review of the new animated version of Hanuman that's just come out. From the stills, it looks like they're showing him not as a monkey, but as a more or less hairless human (whose adult form is quite muscular), with a monkey-ish face.

I was surprised by this, but I gather that most iconography of Hanuman follows this pattern. I find it a bit curious, though apparently it has something to do with Hanuman's mother being a Vanara ("monkeylike humanoid"). So I guess what I'm curious about is the idea of the Vanara itself -- which is different from the ancient Greek 'combinations' (i.e., centaurs or griffins). A Vanara isn't two animals grafted together (or a human grafted with an animal); rather it's a being that is essentially human (or "humanoid" as sci-fi people might say), but with limited animal features.

* * *
In general, I'm looking forward to Hanuman, which looks like it might be a winner if it ends up getting widely distributed and marketed. Since CGI films are among the most commercially successful films Hollywood produces these days, Indian studios are right to try and develop that market as well.

More stills here.


SMR said...

I've read other promising reviews of this too. The idea of mining Indian mythology for animation movies is brilliant - I only hope this one does well enough so more can follow - though alas, Rediff was correct to remind readers that animation movies generally dont do well in India.

3:08 PM  
Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

I was always given to understand that the Vanar (like the Naga, snake people) were referring to animists outside the society following Sanatana Dharma. However there appears to have been quite a bit of interaction between these societies, what with Arjuna marrying Ulupi and Bhima marrying Hirimba.

Additionally of course as Hanumana is Bhima's older brother it seems appropriate to see him as a slightly chubby large humanoid rather than a muscular he-man (an image I associate more with Arjuna, who I understant was not supposed to be a pretty boy, what with his calloused hands and all, that was Sahadeva).

3:46 PM  
The Black Mamba said...

Talking of mining mythology for animation movies. I came across Sitayana by Nina Paley. Not a serious motion picture. But interesting in its own way :)

3:47 PM  
pennathur said...

You are getting your stories all wrong. The Vanaras don't look like homo sapiens sapiens but are no less human from the point of view of the purnanas and itihasas. In the Ramayana the Sugriva/Vali family (distinct from the Hanuman family) look like primates with a tail while the others like Jambavan are Ursine. Jambava's daughter was given in marriage to Krishna. Garuda, Sempati (incidentally both of which lend their names to airlines in Indonesia) and Jatayu are avians and again talk and walk around with humans. A non-human animal or rather pure human animal like a squirrel also plays a role in the Ramayana earning Rama's gentle caress for its help with the bridge to Lanka (which is why it has three stripes on its back!). Hanuman was hairless as a boy and became hairy like all boys do when they groww up. Calendar art shows him in both forms bearded and beadless. Hanuman is way stronger than all the characters put together in the successor epic - the Mahabharata - save Krishna and can assume any shape, form or size (I suppose subject to physical laws!) Bhima and Hanuman are the sons of Vayu but Bhima is a mere mortal in strength. He could not budge even Hanuman's tail. Arjuna is the graceful, artistic and ambidextrous (Sabyasachi) archer. Bhima is the uber sumo sama. Hanuman is way beyond all of them.
Arjuna is a fine a dancer too and spent a whole year disguised as one.

5:49 PM  
Amardeep said...


Wow, that is a lot of Puranas gyaan... It seems like the complexity of ancient Hindu mythology knows no limits...

Incidentally, here is a cool photo of some kids dressed up as Hanuman I came across on Flickr.

10:39 AM  
Suvendra Nath Dutta said...

Use the source, Pennathur.

"What office will be performed by Arjuna who, dwelling for five years in the abode of the thousand eyed deity shining in celestial lustre, acquired by his own energy the science of superhuman arms with all celestial weapons, and whom I regard as the tenth Rudra, the thirteenth Aditya, the ninth Vasu, the tenth Graha, whose arms, symmetrical and long, have the skin harded by constant strokes of the bowstring and cicatrices which resemble those on the humps of the bull, -- that formost of warriors who is as Himavat among mountains, the ocean among expanses of water, Sakra among the Celestial, Havyavaha among the Vasus, the tiger among beasts, and Garuda among feathery types". You should know where that's from. Sound like a pretty boy to you? Sounds more like a real old fashioned Indian hero.

8:08 PM  
pennathur said...

And he also who could wield the bow with both hands (Arjuna), who was incapable of being vanquished by any of the monarchs on earth, who was exceedingly handsome in person and well-skilled in the destruction of the foe, accompanied by the possessor of great strength (Bhima), came out of that tort with Krishna driving the car whereon he rode.

11:22 PM  
uncleji said...

I was in India over Diwala and caught an Indian-Japanese Manga on the tv version of the Ramayana. I think it was called tales of Rama and its a Oberoi films production.

9:18 AM  

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