|Toy Design||Mahender Swami Nathan|
Review by Sanjeev
I think toys are a very personal thing to all of us here at CDX. And I'm sure that goes for most of you out there (otherwise you wouldn't be reading this!). I'm actually really pleased that I get a chance to write about these things I'm passionate about. This act of sharing the hobby is what really makes it all worth it.
This particular toy holds a lot of meaning for me. Unfortunately for you, that means you're gonna have to sit through a bit of mushy autobiography! ;)
I was born in Boston, Massuchusetts to Indian immigrant parents, and I was raised Hindu. That's not to say I necessarily believe in god--I am, in fact, an atheist--but I hold pretty strongly to the philosophical tennants of Hinduism (Hinduism being really more a Way of life, than a religion or ontological doctrine). Anyway, I've only been to India twice and it gets tough to hold onto your roots when you're immersed in a culture that doesn't always understand you (to put it mildly).
About a year ago, at the New York Comic-Con 2008, our good friend, Matt Doughty from Onell Design, told me that he saw an Indian guy selling toys from the Indian epic poem, the Ramayan. I was intrigued and soon met with Mahender Swami Nathan, head of Kridana...and I was amazed by what he was doing. [Be sure to check out Toybreak's interview at NYCC08.]
What Mahender is creating is far from Ramayan 3392 AD. He's not trying to make a quick buck by exoticizing Indian culture. And he's not trying to make the classics "hip" because he thinks young people lack the intellect or attention to follow anything that isn't loud or flashy like MTV. What he's trying to do is bring a culturally relevant and authentic vision of the Ramayana to today's generation of children.
In Mahender's own words, he is "bringing the Great Indian Epics to life for children. These extraordinary tales have been shared across generations through almost every medium imaginable -- stories told orally, books written and illustrated, paintings, sculpture, music, and dance. Through our unique action figures and comics, we’re now sharing these timeless heroes and their incomparable adventures with our youngest generation in step with the 21st century...
"As a child in the US, Mahender always wondered why he could play with Transformers and GI Joes, but couldn’t act out the fantastic stories of the Ramayana that his Grandmother shared with him. Why was it that he couldn’t take Rama and Hanuman to his friends' houses to play and save the day?" Yup. I had that. Only, it was my mother who told me the stories of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat growing up.
Hearing those stories may have been just about the only thing my mother did right, but I think it was a really important one. Being raised in a white-centric culture is hard on a child of immigrants...especially a child so obviously not white (and that's to say nothing about the parents, themselves!). Those stories helped me remember that there actually were people who looked like me, who ate the foods I did, who thought the way I did about the world...
Being Indian-American too, I feel like Mahender gets that. And what he's come up with as a result of this understanding is something great.
One of the most important figures in Hinduism is the warrior, Hanuman, one of a race of ape-like humanoids known as the vanara. In the stories, the vanara are known for their intellect and bravery, and Hanuman is a paragon of these virtues. In fact, throughout the Ramayan, Hanuman symbolizes loyalty and perseverance above all else. He befriends Rama, the hero, and fights alongside him and his brother, Lakshman, as they seek to rescue Sita, Rama's wife, from the demon-king, Ravana. Yeah. Ya don't need to take place in 3392 AD to be badass.
Anyway, this toy is one of the two released in Series #1 of the Kridana Epic Ramayana Series; the other figure being our hero, Rama. As you can see above, the packaging is nicely done: thick cardboard window box showing off the figure and his accessories, with a fun bio of Hanuman on the back. Inside, there is a clear plastic tray to house the figure, a slide-out cardboard backing for the tray, and a comic drawn by M.C. Breton, who was nice enough to sign the boxes of my figures (the comic's cover art was done by Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald).
When freed from his plastic imprisonment, Hanuman shines. I was honestly very impressed with this figure. The material is a very stiff PVC. There's a little give to it; on one hand, it doesn't feel rubbery at all, but at the same time, it's definitely not brittle.
The joint design is perfectly laid out. It's not over-articulated, thus leading to overstress on certain joints and, thus, a floppy toy. It's no Spawn figure, though: there's enough articulation to strike some very cool poses and have some fun with the figure. The knees, hips, and elbows have pin joints. The wrists rotate and the head and shoulders are ball-jointed. All the joints are super-tight, but not fragile, and there are no glaring interferences or spots where the paint will rub off.
His tail and tabbard are made of a much softer PVC, so they're very flexible. The only way to improve on the tail would've been to insert a metal wire and make it "bendy"! The tabbard is just fine--the flexibility insures that it won't get in the way of any leg movement.
The paint application is flawless. I mean, it's damn near perfect. There's no signs of overspray, air bubbles, or other messiness. The selected colors are nicely matte and fit the character beautifully. The best part is the subtle drybrushing of grey over the brown fur on his body. Very nice touch that adds depth to the figure's surface.
Next up, we have the accessories. First, there's the crown that looks fantastic. At first, I was worried about the fit because the crown seems to sit so precariously on top of his head. Because of the injection molding process, PVC is known to have minute dimensional variances that could totally throw off a subtle fit like this. Fortunately, the crown was designed perfectly! The inner surface is molded perfectly to the top of Hanuman's head, and it fits in such a way that it grips his head pretty sturdily.
The mace is done almost, but not quite, as nicely as the crown. The handle on mine is ever so slightly bent and one of the fins on the business end is slightly warped. There's that "dimensional variance" again! Still, it's just his mace. It fits in his right hand solidly and it looks great!
Lastly, as I promised on the main page, one last accessory and one last bit of info about me.
In the story of the Ramayan, the final battle to rescue Rama's wife, Sita, takes place on the Lanka, the demon-king Ravana's island fortress. During the battle, Ravana's son, Indrajit nearly kills Rama's brother, Lakshman, with a magical arrow that can kill any victim. Rama is obviously overcome with grief and, desperate for a cure, Hanuman is sent to a far-off Himalayan mountaintop, Dronagiri, to find a mystical herb called sanjivani that is said to be able to cure anything.
Fortunately, Hanuman can fly! Incidentally, he's also super-strong, can change is size, and has limited shape-shifting abilities!
Anyhow, the peak reaches above the clouds, but when Hanuman finally arrives, he has no clue what the damn plant looks like! Again, as a paragon of determination and cleverness, he simply grows HUGE, tears off the peak of the mountain along with all the vegetation on it, and flies the whole thing back to Lanka!!
The battlefield physician is able to retrieve the plant from the mountain peak now plopped down on the tropical island, and Lakshman is promptly revived! This plant, sanjivani--also spelled "sanjeevani"--is where I get my name from! I'm a magic healing herb! ;)
So Hanuman's left hand has a peg in the palm that fits into a tiny Dronagiri accessory--complete with clouds. On that mountaintop is sanjivani, of course, so this is technically a toy of me!
Well, that's it for this review. I was really pleased to have been able to bring it to you guys. Thanks for letting me share a little about myself, as well as this great toy with you. 'Til next time!
|Posted 11 February, 2009 - 17:20 by Sanjeev|