I light the lamp and pray to Hanuman,” Aur devta chit na dhariye. Hanumat se hi san sukh kariye.”
The phone rings. My grandson is on FaceTime. We are thousands of miles away but through the Legend of Hanuman series, we transcend the space-time continuum and are sitting side by side on a crescent moon, eating mangoes and taking turns gleaning takeaway points from each episode.
The Legend of Hanuman is a 3D animated fantasy streaming television series based on the Hindu Epic Ramayana, created by Sharad Devarajan, Jeevan J. Kang, and Charuvi Agrawal for Disney’s Hotstar, under the banner of Graphic India. The series premiered globally on January 29, 2021, in seven Indian languages. The storyline narrated by Sharad Kelkar showcases the life of Hanuman and his metamorphosis from a mighty warrior to a legendary omnipresent powerhouse of good over evil.
The artistic color scheme does not afford a sharp contrast but affords a vintage look akin to Amar Chitra Katha and Phantom comics. However, the animation is not as fluent as some Hollywood 2D animations like Donald Duck and Micky Mouse. Sugriv’s laughter is quixotic and Angad’s possessed evil eyes are quaint!
Everyone’s a critic in India. I think that comparisons to prior versions of Ramayana are not justifiable because Ramanand Sagar’s 1987 Ramayana was a Television phenomenon of the century. No wonder it was the most popular show during the pandemic because it conjures hope in distress. I remember life came to a standstill in the 80s, all over Inia, at 10 AM when the epic was aired. It was like an hour of holy pilgrimage. The portrayal was authentic even though the battle scenes were archaic! Legend of Hanuman is an attempt to appeal to wider global audiences who are familiar with the Avengers.
Vedic aphorisms between old Jambavan and Hanuman borrow conversation style from Kungfu Panda, Lion King, and Jungle Book. I watched it in Hindi and discussed the story with my grandson in India who calls it the “Leeegend” phonetically. The episodes that generated a lot of discussions were: “Indra’s Curse”The Mango and the Sun” and “Forgotten Truths”.
There are many easy to remember sayings:
The path of life changed in a moment.
Sometimes the egos overpower the soft relations of siblings.
Everyone shoulders their own responsibilities.
I am responsible for my own actions – Marne wale se bachane wala bada hota hai.
The discussion makes it more meaningful. Although my grandchild is fluent in the Hanuman Chalisa and wears a Hanuman pendant under his SpiderMan Pajamas, the only stories he remembers are the ones where we incorporate incidents from the Avengers and relate them to our own life experiences. He confidently repeats the fables to his friends and lifts their cloud of unknowing: Hanumanji uprooted the entire mountain because his dadi had not taught him how to recognize Sanjeevani booti.
My life flashes by me in a vignette. My mother chanted Hanuman Chailisa and went to the temple every Tuesday. When I was five years old, I frequented the Durgiyana Mandir in Amritsar with my great-grandmother. When I was ten, we prayed at the Sri Hanuman temple in Jalandhar, and at fifteen, the Hanuman temple on Sion Trombay Road in Chembur was our refuge. Married at twenty and in Jaipur, I found Khole Ke Hanumanji. In my thirties, I started frequenting the Jagruteshwar temple in Vashi Gaon and the 33 feet Bhakt Anjaneya temple in Nerul similar to the one in Thiruvananthapuram where they offer garlands of udad daal vadas as prasadam. At forty, when my mother came to visit me in the US, she dreamt of a standing Hanuman deity in Alabama. Sure enough, we found him in Birmingham Hindu Temple When I was fifty, we found Flying Hanumanji at the Neem Karoli Ashram, in Taos, New Mexico on Hanuman Jayanti. In my sixth decade, I painted a kalamkari painting of Hanuman so that I can share the story with my grandson and ask him if the sun really tastes like a ripe mango? In my home temple, I have a small Panchmukha Hanuman idol.
So as you can see, I did not write this review on a whim, I have spent several lifetimes preparing for this.
As far as my grandson is concerned, one day he will recognize my spin in the narrative but I hope he will comprehend that it was all in an effort to make him a devotee of Hanumanji! For this weighty reason, I give The Legend of Hanuman and A for effort! I will certainly watch Season 2 with my family when the terrible battle ensues between Ravan, the King of darkness, and Rama, the Mahapurush.
Jai Sri Ram Jai Bajrangbali Hanuman!
Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.