TELEVISION Swami Ayyappan, a 75-minute animation television film, packs fantasy, adventure, mythology and history
The life story of Manikandan, the boy who went on to be worshipped as Swami Ayyappan, is set to become an animation film. The 75-minute film, co-produced by Thiruvananthapuram-based Toonz Animation India and Animagic from Mumbai, follows the life of Manikandan, believed to be born of the union of Lord Shiva and Vishnu in his Mohini avatar. This incarnation was to slay Mahishi, who sought revenge for the death of her brother, the ‘asura’ king Mahishasura. The film will premiere on national TV channels. It has been shot in HD format to make it suitable for a theatrical release too.
“People congregate in large numbers in Sabarimala and we wanted to tell the story of Ayyappan,” says P. Jayakumar, CEO, Toonz. The film will be dubbed in all South Indian languages, and in English. “We haven’t taken any liberties with the story. It is the story of Ayyappan, but in animation. Visually, it’s going to be engaging and interesting. More than being a film on a mythological super-hero, it will highlight the message of religious tolerance. The film can be used to promote tourism too,” he says.
Writer Mahesh Vettiyar, who also directs the film, comes from Mavelikkara in Kerala, very close to Pandalam, where the story of Lord Ayyappan unfolds. “My interactions with people above 85 years who have lived in Pandalam opened up a lot of untold mysteries. As in the case of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata , one can draw many interpretations from this story too,” he says.
The story explores the history behind the 41-day fast Ayyappan devotees undertake, the origin of the name ‘Kadakara Palli’ (the fort where Vavar, the invader from Turkey and Afghanistan, is believed to have settled after visiting Amabalapuzha, Mavelikkara and Kayamkulam in Kerala). It also highlights the friendship between Ayyappan and Vavar, and their philosophical exchanges.The story begins with the Pandalam Raja’s wish to have a child and concludes with the child turning 14 and going to Sabarimala. “The secular elements associated with the deity — such as his friendship with a Christian family in Mavelikkara during the war, and his relationship with Vavar are highlighted too.”
Mahesh says mythological themes work better in animation, as it gives freedom to experiment. “We have tried to blend fantasy, adventure, myth and history in 75 minutes. There are six songs too.”