Stunning New Illustrated Ramayana from Pixar Artist Sanjay Patel

{Sanjay Patel. Ramayana: Divine Loophole. Chronicle Books 2010. $29.95}

Reviewed by J. Ryan Parker

Ramayana Divine-loophole-cover-1.jpg

Lost in the never-ending debates about biblical inerrancy and infallibility is the recognition of the Bible’s worth as a great work of literature. Lost is the focus on how it has inspired countless translations and interpretations, both written and visual. If anything, we should at least be able to agree that it and other sacred texts of the world’s major religions are works of immeasurable literary value that have stood the test of time and will most likely endure, in one form or another, until the end of time.

Artists have attempted to tell the Hebrew/Christian mythology through a variety of media and some have succeeded better than others. Of course, looming behind all such work is the Divine proscription against the production of graven images. Muslim artists are bound by a much stricter prohibition, which is why we never see images of Allah or Muhammad and why Muslims are so outraged at satirical images of them. Thankfully, Hindus, to my knowledge, have not had to reckon with such theological speed bumps and have created beautiful works of art inspired by their sacred texts, which have also increasingly permeated popular culture. One of the more recent examples of this is Sanjay Patel‘s latest book, Ramayana:  Divine Loophole, a visually stunning re-telling of one of the most famous sacred stories of all time.

ramayana-sita-sanjay-patel.jpgThere can be no doubt that Pixar Studios is one of the most talent-filled and successful animation studios of all time, and one that clearly benefits from a diversity of races, ethnicities, and faiths. Outside of his work as a lead animator and storyboard artist on Pixar films such as Monsters, Inc.,A Bug’s LifeToy Story 2Cars,RatatouilleThe Incredibles, and Toy Story 3, Patel spent four years working on Ramayana:  Divine Loophole.  His book also includes glimpses of his creation process, as the last several pages feature early sketches of his work before he scanned them into his computer to complete the work with Adobe Illustrator. These images give us a window into his thought process as he determined what shapes these characters would take.

J. Ryan Parker is the creator and editor of and main contributor to Pop Theology (www.poptheology.com). A fourth-year PhD student in Religion and the Arts (with a focus on film) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, his research interests include contemporary religious cinema after The Passion of the Christ, the history of religious cinema, and the ways in which films affect, and are affected by, religious consciousness. He has also served as a media consultant on documentary film projects. He holds a BA in English from Mississippi College and an MDiv from Wake Forest University Divinity School.

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