OTTplay caught up with Sharad Devarajan, the brain behind The Legend of Hanuman S3, one of the most eagerly awaited animated series that is releasing tomorrow on Disney Plus Hotstar
“Dharm ke rakshak, Prabhu Shri Ram ke Param Bhakt, aa rahe hain Pavan Putra Hanuman” ... states the slogan of The Legend of Hanuman S3, one of the most-awaited animated series of recent times. Loaded with magic and the might of everyone’s favourite God Hanuman, the makers of The Legend of Hanuman S3 are all set to transport the viewers to a world that they have made come alive through world-class animation. OTTplay caught up with Sharad Devarajan, who is one of the three names behind the animated series for an extensive conversation (the other two being Jeevan J Kang and Charuvi Agrawal). The Legend of Hanuman S3 will be premiering on Disney Plus Hotstar tomorrow (January 12, 2024).
Sharad, to start with, tell us what sparked your passion for bringing stories to life through animation?
To be honest, nothing in particular as such. I would tell all kinds of stories. As for Hanuman... Hanuman has really inspired generations for thousands of years. The morals, lessons, and the universal truths that they highlight remain relevant even today, more than ever I would say. These stories are totally timeless and continue to speak to people in many different ways and connect people across the ages.
The power of contemporary animation and the power of storytelling enable us to portray the characters the way we imagine them. That’s what we have really tried to do with the series. It’s been a personal mission to do justice to all the people who have worked on the project.
Were there specific challenges in adapting Hanuman's epic tale into an animated format, and how did you tackle them?
There were challenges every day. Because I think we want so much from this and wanted to do so much to try and make this story really appealing. We obviously put incredible pressure on ourselves to do this. And I want to just give a proper compliment to both Jeevan J Kang, my co-creator on the series, and the director Charuvi Agrawal, who really led the direction of the series, while he was the creator on the series. All of us, I think, came from this incredible place of passion.
Can you share a pivotal moment in the creation of the series that made you think, "We're onto something amazing here"? in other words, when and where did you discover your ‘Hanuman moment’?
When did I find my Hanuman moment? That’s an interesting question! Let me tell you … I found my ‘Hanuman moment’ in many ways! Basically, I grew up in the West and from as young as I can remember, from probably two years old, I grew up hearing stories about Lord Hanuman. And so, to me, that was something that my parents always taught me. I learned it from reading the Amar Chitra Katha. I learned it seamlessly reading those stories, and Marvel superheroes.
And for me Lord Hanuman was so beyond any superhero! I was like, why were these stories not being brought to the world in the way that they had such an impact to me was part of my defining mission, and really something that has driven me to try and tell these stories in this kind of great way that they meant to me. But so, my moment started as a young child. The greatest lesson one can ever learn from Lord Hanuman is that the true measured hero is not defined by their physical power, but by an inner strength, fortitude, courage, and compassion.
How did you approach the character development of Hanuman to make him relatable to a modern audience?
Obviously, I'm balanced in my creative process here with Jeevan J Kang, who grew up here. I think the creative balance of all of these forces, coming from different ways, is what made this show unique. So, I think there's a unique sense of ingredients. For any person who is creating anything, their own life experiences are a part of how they shape every story they tell.
And certainly, growing up as one of the only Indian families in a city of predominantly Americans, I treasured these stories, probably more deeply. This was in a way they spoke to me in a way pre-internet and pre-phones era.
Were there any unexpected challenges in adapting the legendary story into an animated format?
I think that the most important thing was that we had, above all, strived to be relevant, reverent and respectful. I think those are the things, it has to be reverent and respectful. Also, these are timeless truths in this story because they speak to us in a universal transcendent way. So, it's always relevant, also the story.
And we've had the great fortune of working with the three of the best story advisors in the country, who have really been with us from the beginning working with us on all the scripts and character designs, really going back to the texts, and helping us. I would encourage you with everything, we're trying to tell this story. And we hope that people are so inspired by even seeing our show that they want to go back and read Valmiki’s original Ramayan and the original texts that are there, which are beautiful texts, to go back to and spend time with.
What inspired the choice to make Hanuman the central character?
The journey of Hanuman was this journey of self-discovery. The character obviously means everything, and the hero means everything to so many people. But that story was the reason we wanted to tell the story, because we felt there was a much more relatable part that had not been told before.