Monday, January 14, 2013

Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel

Animator and storyboard artist Sanjay Patel has condensed the sacred Sanskrit tale of Ramayana into a gorgeous illustrated version. In the introduction, he calls it "epic mythology without all the paper cuts." Each two-page spread of eye-popping artwork is accompanied by a paragraph of text. Instead of a thousand pages, Patel uses only about 150. The presentation is fun and easily digestible, yet the story's majestic sweep and concepts of idealism are retained.

Ravana, a demon with ten heads, is taking over the universe and the gods are powerless to stop this cosmic bully. Lord Vishnu points out that there's a loophole in Ravana's special powers, which is that he can be defeated by humans or animals. Vishnu reincarnates himself as a human, Rama, who happens to have blue skin, just like Vishnu. Rama is the hero who eventually, with the help of bears and flying monkeys, defeats Ravana (who has been holding Rama's wife Sita hostage).

Patel has an engaging, informal storytelling style that gives this a totally modern feel:

"One day a demon named Soorpanaka, who happened to be Ravana's sister, spotted Rama and fell in love with him. I know, gross, but hey, demons have hearts as well, even if they want to eat everyone else's most of the time."

The stylized art uses decorative patterns against bold shapes in bright, high-contrast colours, like blue next to orange, purple against yellow. Characters have enormous eyes and distinctive silhouettes. Check out images from the book online here.

So there's fabulous art, plus adventure, loyalty, monsters, romance, and good triumphant over evil. This book is also a great way to brush up on classic literature. Suitable for all ages.

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