03.Aug.2010 Ramayana: Divine Loophole by Sanjay Patel

I’ve never read the Ramayana nor really delved deep into Indian mythos. Brought up on the Greco-Roman and Chinese pantheons, the only other mythos I really explored intently as a child were Egyptian (no child can really resist pyramids?) and Norse (Thor! Loki!).

However tonight I read my youngest the first half of Sanjay Patel’s seriously abridged Ramayana (24,000 verses condensed to 107 pages!).

Patel is probably best known to those in the illustration and design world as one of the Pixar animation team. And here in Ramayana: Divine Loophole he tells the general story through vibrant illustration and some not-quite-so-vibrant text.

I really can’t fault the digital illustrations. They are stunning and stylised to capture immediate attention – indeed, they reminded me most of the style of The Incredibles – one of the Pixar titles on which Patel worked. The demons are menacing and fierce without being terrifying, and the colour palette is completely saturated, vibrant. The heroes bright and bold. (Check out Patel’s site Ghee Happy for some spreads from the book.)

The text, for the most part, is functional. But there are some clunkers. I’m not a fan of unnecessary colloquialisms like this – “But [Soorpanaka] was love struck, so much so that she transformed herself into a beautiful maiden and tried making a pass at the blue prince by showing off some of her dance moves”. They end up cheapening the story. Fortunately there aren’t too many instances of these.

Slightly problematic, at times, too is the contrast on the text. With almost edge to edge illustrations there are a quite a few pages where the small point text vanishes. The worst offenders being the pages with pale yellow text on an orange background (ugh!). I almost unintentionally skipped those paragraphs!

The final third of the volume, after the main story, is a collection of key characters, gods and demons; a map of the story locations; and several pages of process sketches.

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