For the first time, Swami Ayyappan is all set to get an animation avatar. Toonz Animation India, one of Asia’s largest studios, is preparing to unleash gods and goddesses, demons and kings on cinema screens across South India with its 90-minute animation film ‘Swami Ayyappan’.
Jayakumar, CEO, Toonz Animation, said that the movie would be released in four languages - Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. “When we have a theme with such mass appeal like ‘Swami Ayyappan’ closer to home, why look elsewhere? This is a subject that has the power to transcend borders, a subject that has immense scope for animation. These days we rarely get time to tell stories to our children, and Toonz is happy to play the raconteur role through our animation films,” he said.
The film shows the story of Manikandan, the boy who went on to be revered by millions. ‘Swami Ayyappan’, co-produced by Animagic, Mumbai, is the first 2D animation film on the mythological hero to be made entirely in India.
The film highlights religious tolerance and secularism and is a blend of mythology, history, action, adventure and fantasy. All this is done without tampering with the original story, or the real essence of Lord Ayyappa’s legend.
The film follows the life of young Manikandan, believed to be born out of the union between Lord Shiva and Vishnu in his Mohini avatar. ‘Swami Ayyappan’ portrays Manikandan’s life at Pandalam, his childhood days at the ‘gurukul’ and the miracles he performed. The film also depicts Manikandan’s fight with Udayana, the slaying of the demoness Mahishi and the instances that lead to his friendship with Vavar, a robber from Turkistan. This friendship is considered to be the epitome of religious tolerance till this day.
Interesting facts like the story behind the 41-day fast that Ayyappa devotees observe, the origin of the name ‘Kadakara Halli’ (the fort where Vavar is believed to have settled down and where archaeologists discovered an ancient shipwreck), and the relationship between Ayyappan and a Christian family in Mavelikkara during the war are some of the other highlights of the movie.
Writer and director Mahesh Vettiyar and team had to do some serious delving in and research to piece together some missing links in the legend. Interesting location scouts to places like Cherthala, Alappuzha, Nilakkal and interactions with people aged over 85 years living in and around the Pandalam area revealed many sides and interpretations to the same story.
“The scripting part was the most challenging. We had to take extra efforts to ensure that the rather delicate balance between myth, history and fact is handled with precision. As spiritual and religious elements are involved, every aspect of film, be it background, colour schemes, design of costumes or characterisation, had to maintain a certain feel and authenticity,” said Mahesh Vettiyar.
Presently, 70 - 90 artists are working on the film, which is in the final stages of production and is slated for an early 2013 theatrical release. The film will have six songs, penned by ex- Chief Secretary and Malayalam University Vice-Chancellor K Jayakumar and set to music by Viswajith.