DreamWorks’ Film “Monkeys of Mumbai” inspired by the Ramayana?

DreamWork’s feature film “Monkeys of Mumbai” is inspired bu the great Indian epic Ramayana? Although DreamWorks Animation SKG has renamed the working title of their “Monkeys” film and announced Kevin Lima as its director, but Hindus are still concerned on how the Hollywood will handle their sacred scripture Ramayana, which is said to be the inspiration behind it.

Glendale (California, USA) based DreamWorks, in a release today, said that Kevin Lima (Enchanted) will direct upcoming feature film “Monkeys of Mumbai” (which was announced as “Monkeys of Bollywood” in January), Bollywood-style animated musical adventure. Lisa Stewart (Turbo) and Chris Chase (Tarzan) are producers, Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) is lyricist, Oscar winner A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) is composer, and Gurinder Chadha & Paul Berges (Bend It Like Beckham) are writing the feature project. The release adds that the movie is “Inspired by the great Indian epic tale of The Ramayana”.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that since the reported movie announcement claimed it to be “inspired” by timeless epic Ramayana and Ramayana being a highly revered scripture of Hinduism, film should stay true to the story and the spirit of Ramayana. Insensitive handling of faith traditions sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols and hurting the devotees.

With seasoned and skillful professionals at the helm, we did not expect any problem, Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said and added that they were just urging for more sensitivity towards faith traditions and careful handling of Hindu concepts and terminology. If DreamWorks Animation or their associates in this film needed any expertise on Hinduism related issues, he or other Hindu scholars would gladly provide the resources, Zed added.

Hindus welcomed Hollywood/Bollywood to immerse in Hinduism, but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols just for mercantile greed. Hollywood/Bollywood were welcome to make movies about Ramayana but the final product should be the true depiction of it and not a fantasized or a re-imagined version, Rajan Zed pointed out.

Zed argued that changing Ramayana to fit the Hollywood/Bollywood machine was likely to hurt the Hindu sentiment as Ramayana was an integral part of Hinduism and was held in such reverence that Hindus believed that simply reading/hearing of it showered blessings upon the reader/listener. Rama, the hero of Ramayana, was incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and was worshipped by Hindus.

Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. No faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered, Rajan Zed adds.

Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit scripture that consists of 24,000 stanzas, explores various themes, including human existence, concept of dharma, etc.

All feature films of DreamWorks Animation, which claims to create high-quality entertainment, are now being produced in 3D. The Company has theatrically released a total of 22 animated feature films, including the franchise properties of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. Roger A. Enrico is Board Chairman, while Jeffrey Katzenberg is CEO. Oscar winner Steven Spielberg (Schindler’s List) is a principal partner of DreamWorks Studios.

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