The Smorgasbord
Thursday, 16. June 2005
Where is Uncle Pai?

The other day, a colleague based out of Bangkok asked me if I could arrange for a few CDs/DVDs of either the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. A huge fan of Indian mythology, he wanted to showcase the epics for his children. “No problem,” I told him and promised to have it sent over in under a week.

Since then, I’ve scoured the market high and low for high quality animation films that bring these epics to life. I’m appalled to report that apart from Ramanand Sagar’s horribly low-brow kitsch, there is nothing of any consequence anywhere in the world that does justice to these works.

One of the sad versions I stumbled on was created by a group that goes by the name Association of Grandparents of Indian Immigrants. Huh? I downloaded a trial copy and gave up trying to watch the obnoxious rendition in under five minutes.

Then there was this UK-based site called DesiKids ( threatened to unleash “Religious, mythological, and moralistic Books, CDs and DVDs for children and parents of an Indian, Hindu, and Sikh origin.” Moralistic books? What in the devil’s name does that mean actually?

Ironically, a version that tried to break free of these clichés was produced with Japanese collaboration. It shows.

Ram and Laxman are portrayed as Samurai warriors. Sita is a whimpering damsel. And Hanuman is nothing like the Hanuman we know. Instead, he resembles the Chinese folk saint turned Japanese manga/anime cultural icon Sun Wukong—also known as the Monkey hero.

Why, I wonder, can’t a “software superpower” produce films that do justice to its most loved epics?

Where is Uncle Pai?

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Where is Uncle Pai? The
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