animation films

‘Hanuman Da Damdaar’ has Salman Khan, animation, songs and a big-budget feel

The film positions the monkey god as a superhero.

There has been a profusion of films and television shows on Hanuman’s exploits, including VG Samant’s Hanuman (2005). Ruchi Narain’s Hanuman Da Damdaar is the latest addition to the list. The June 2 release focuses on the monkey god’s childhood and traces his evolution into a divine force. The voice cast includes Javed Akhtar as Valmiki, Salman Khan as Hanuman, Raveena Tandon and Saurabh Shukla as Hanuman’s parents, Kunal Khemmu as Indra and Hussain Dalal as Garuda.

Narain made her big screen debut as a screenwriter on Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi in 2003 and her directorial debut with the crime thriller Kal : Yesterday And Tomorrow in 2005. After directing commercials for 12 years, Narain has chosen to make her comeback with a family-oriented animated film. Animation gives greater opportunities for creativity, she told Scroll.in in an interview.

What drew you to animation?
I have grown up watching animation films. They trigger your imagination more than any other medium. The kind of scope they give cannot be expected in any live action film. You can stretch the script of an animation film to fantastical levels. In live action, however, you are bound by the physical possibility of things.

How different was the experience in terms of the production?
If I knew how hard it was going to be, I may have thought twice about it. The medium is very different because everything is deliberate. In live action, you cast the actors and put them before a camera, and sometimes magic happens. But in animation, you have to make that magic happen.

Having said that, we did have a ball filming. Our only rule was that the line we literally fell off our seats listening and laughing to would go into the film.

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Hanuman Da Damdaar.

Why did you choose Hanuman from all the Hindu gods?
In my mind and in my research, there was very little material on him, especially when he was a kid. As a writer and as a thinker, I would often wonder what would make someone so loyal. Nobody has the unwavering loyalty that Hanuman has. To be that loyal, you need a lot of conviction and strength in the face of opposition.

Usually when someone is all powerful, they tend to become the be all and end all. But Hanuman isn’t. And in today’s world, I found this personality to be even more fascinating. Nothing is about doing something for someone else or for a greater good anymore. It is a very relevant quality to remember.

There have been many films about Hanuman. What makes ‘Hanuman Da Damdaar’ stand out?
The story and the treatment of Hanuman Da Damdaar make the film different. There is a popular mainstream treatment. For instance, there is the song Confusion , which has been choreographed by Mudassar Khan. He got his crew to dance the sequence, which we then edited and gave to the animators. We have approached the production like a big feature film.

The trailer has many pop culture references, such as Salman Khan’s dialogue from ‘Wanted’.
Whatever you say, people associate Salman Khan with Hanuman because of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. There are certain lines in his films that you tend associate with Hanuman. The “Ek baar jo commitment kar di” line, in essence, also works very well for Hanuman. The meaning of the line echoes loyalty.

I wanted to tell a story in a way that people today can relate to. Also, in terms of language, there is a way we are used to seeing these stories depicted – which is very stuffy and highfalutin. What is made in your time needs to speak to you in your language. Language has to reflect and communicate with the people that you are making it for.

Ruchi Narain.
Ruchi Narain.

How did you select the voice cast?
In those days, narrators used to tell the stories and not write them. By virtue of the fact that the Ramayana was so widely transmitted, Valmiki must have been a great narrator. And I thought to myself, who is the greatest narrator in our industry? It had to be Javed Akthar.

Raveena Tandon has been someone who has worn her motherhood on her sleeve, which was perfect for Anjani’s role. And of course anyone would first think of Salman Khan for the role of Hanuman.

Sneha Khanwalkar, who has scored the film, has worked with you in ‘Kal’.
Sneha’s first feature film was with me, and I have always loved the way she thinks about music. While she is known for composing darker, edgier music, I wanted her for this film because her approach towards music is utterly unique.

Did you want to portray Hanuman as a superhero for children?
Yes, definitely. When you go to any kid’s fancy dress event, you see them all come dressed up as superheroes like Batman and Superman. Not one Indian character features in the lot. I want to be in a situation this time next year, where children would be dressed as Hanuman.

How strong is the market for children’s films, especially animation, in India?
I have a very different take on the notion of what a children’s film is. What ends up happening is that when children are cast in a film, people think it’s a children’s film. But a children’s film is something that is entertaining. In India, more children watch blockbusters because they are funny.

Are there more animation films in the pipeline for you?
Another animation film is definitely in the pipeline. Meanwhile, I am currently working on two films. One is a love story titled From A to Z, which is written and directed by me. The other film is a big-budget comedy, which will be produced by R.A.T. Films, my joint production venture with Ashutosh Shah and Taher Mithaiwala.

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The Maa song from Hanuman Da Damdaar.
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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.