After creating various records like the most viewed streaming show, Disney+ Hotstar’s The Legend of Hanuman released its second season on 6 August 2021. The story of the Mahabali’s journey from warrior to god has attracted a large Indian audience. Following the success footprints of season one, The Legend of Hanuman season two also proved to be a classic masterpiece with advanced animation style and powerful contemporary storytelling that touched a chord with audiences across India.
The mythological animated series is produced by Graphic India and created by Sharad Devarajan, Jeevan J. Kang, and Charuvi Agarwal. Directed by Jeevan J Kang and Navin John, with lead writers Sharad Devarajan, Sarwat Chaddha, Ashwin Pande and Arshad Syed. The 13 episodes of the show are available in seven languages – Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Malayalam, and Kannada.
Animation Xpress got in touch with Graphic India co-founder Sharad Devarajan to explore behind-the-screen aspects of season two of the mythological animated series.
What was the response received for the first season? Based on the first season’s response, were any particular points kept in mind while working on season two?
It’s really rewarding for all of us to see the hard work we have put into this series, find an audience and achieve these great milestones for Indian animation. We continue to be truly humbled by the response and positive reviews and feedback we are receiving.
I have no doubt that any success for the series is first and foremost due to Lord Hanuman who is the quintessential hero whose legends and stories have inspired generations of people, including myself. This has been a very personal mission for everyone who worked on it and we all strived to do justice to this hero and the billions who hold his story in their hearts.
Because of the lead times in animation, we were already deep in production on the season two episodes when season one was released in February, so there was no real-time feedback from season one’s release that we could incorporate or look to change for season two. However, we were really encouraged by the great audience response and encouragement for season one that it gave our team a renewed sense of energy and purpose to put all our efforts into season two and try to deliver a similarly strong experience for the audience.
Tell us about the ultimate faceoff between Ravana and Hanuman? Both are supremo, so how did you manage to give equal weightage to the characters?
Our series was shaped around the essential story of a young vanara rediscovering his godhood, which was a unique point of view as that journey of Mahabali Hanuman has not been depicted as widely and offered a fresh take on the legend. This is a journey of self-discovery and emotional growth.
In this younger hero, we see the traits of the legend he will soon become; playful, fun-loving, righteous, optimistic, humble, and authentically honest. Lord Hanuman’s journey is filled with challenges of the body, the mind, and the soul. But no challenge is greater than his encounter with the demon king, Ravan.
Ravan is the counterfoil to Hanuman’s journey of self-discovery as through both characters we get to explore the larger theme of immortality. While both are immortal – Ravan has now become numb to his endless life, whereas Hanuman has just awoken to his own power and immortality. The second season contrasts these two opposing views of how immortality can be both a blessing and a curse.
For Ravan, he tore the universe apart to gain immortal power, only to find in the end, that eternal life without meaning leads only to madness, obsession, darkness, and despair. For Lord Hanuman, his power was taken from him as a young child, only to have him discover the true hero within himself by embracing faith, hope, love, and compassion and an unwavering spiritual anchor in his devotion to Lord Ram. This season is the story of two lives intertwined by the cosmic wheel of destiny; the demon king Ravan, whose end is soon beginning, and the immortal Hanuman, whose beginning shall never end.
The actions of Lord Hanuman in this second season, and throughout the series, will once again prove that courage and hope will always defeat darkness – and that the true measure of a hero goes far beyond the powers they have, but rather, is defined by their inner strength, compassion, and character.
The backgrounds are very realistic and overall it’s a high-quality 3D animated show. How long did it take to create the entire 3D animated world for the series?
This was a multi-year project and that amount of character and world-building hopefully shows on the screen. The brilliant character designs and the visual world were a real testament to the amazing creativity of my co-creators, Jeevan J. Kang and Charuvi Agrawal who led the design of the series characters and environments. Along with the dedication of my fellow producers, Shaik Maqbool Basha, Roopa De Choudhury, Shivanghi Singh, Ashish Avin, and the amazing Navin John, who also directed the series with Jeevan – we all together aimed to set a new high bar for Indian television animation. We were also fortunate to have the stellar team at ReDefine, led by Greg Gavanski and John Harvey work with us to scale that vision into an aggressive production pipeline.
One of our goals of the series was to make Indian audiences forget it’s an animation and just be pulled into the story, the world, and the characters, in the same way, they would with any big event live-action film or TV series. We focused a lot on creating a naturalistic humanism in the way the characters moved, acted, and spoke as well in their subtle facial expressions and emotions and all of this was heightened by the amazing character designs and environments. We were also fortunate to have some amazing voice actor talents, who really brought this series to life. The entire cast was incredible.
What is the response or feedback you are receiving from the industry and audience for The Legend of Hanuman season two?
For many years people have known the mission to really spark a creative renaissance in India across comics, animation, and character entertainment, and our colleagues and friends in the industry have really been supportive of what we are trying to do with this project.
The audience response through comments and ratings on IMDB have been amazing with a 9.4 rating as well as a 4.9 out of five on Google reviews, making it one of the highest audience-rated shows across all the Indian streaming originals. It reinforces our belief at Graphic India that animation has the potential to be enjoyed by wide audiences in India far beyond just kids. We hope new viewers will continue to discover and enjoy the series in the coming weeks, months, and years!
We also hope it will inspire audiences to explore new takes on our great mythology, both visually and narratively. These myths of our culture, like those of Lord Hanuman, have inspired generations for thousands of years and are some of the defining insights of all creation. Their relevancy and universal human stories continue to inspire over a billion people today. Our mythological epics should now be produced with the same visual grandeur and narrative complexity that does justice to their profound spiritual and emotional truths. Animation is certainly one path forward for that and we are also exploring live-action film and television opportunities as well.
Will there be another season of The Legend of Hanuman? Will we get to witness the life of Hanuman post the epic battle?
We are very hopeful a season three will happen, but there is no news on that yet. Anyone who sees the last episode of season two will realize that creatively we are just getting started with this series and have a lot more of Mahabali Hanuman’s story to tell. Hopefully, we will have that opportunity.
What would you like to say about the association with Disney+ Hotstar?
This moment in animation would never have happened without the amazing team at Disney+Hotstar. I have such admiration, respect, and gratitude for Gaurav Banerjee, Nikhil Madhok, Roopa De Choudhury, Shivangi Singh, and the entire production and marketing teams. Their belief in us and in this project never wavered and often inspired us to really attempt something unique and special. At every stage, they encouraged us to push the boundaries of what was possible in Indian series animation and reinvent new ways of working to create something special for OTT audiences in the country.
Also, the Disney brand is synonymous with animation, and I have no doubt that this association had an enormous impact on the show’s success. To have this be launched on Disney+ Hotstar as their first animated Hotstar Special is an amazing responsibility and honor for us.
Are there any plans to release the series globally and will the local Indian audience get a chance to view it on linear TV as well?
The series is available only on Hotstar in India but also on the Hotstar platform in various territories outside India as well. We have received some amazing responses from audiences reaching out to us from Southeast Asia and the US who have watched the series there.
We are also exploring some interesting partnerships to hopefully launch the series in some key Asian markets like Japan and Korea and hope to announce some news there soon.
What’s next for Graphic India?
We have a number of new animation and live-action projects we are working on that we are hopeful we will be able to announce soon.
Separately, we recently announced we are going deeper into our roots as a comic book company to launch India’s first dedicated webtoons comics platform, Toonsutra, which will come out later this year. We are bringing our massive library of original Graphic India comics to the Toonsutra platform, but it will be so much more than that with the majority of the content we release in the first year coming from other partners and new creators.
At Graphic India, we’re recruiting artists, writers, painters, creators, and disruptors with one defining mission – to create stories, heroes, and characters that spark the imaginations of audiences across India and the world. That’s the goal of our company and the personal driving mission of my life.