His Majesty the King's "Story of Mahajanaka" comes to the screen in animated form
It started life as an illustrated book and was later developed into a comic. Now His Majesty the King’s much-loved “Phra Mahachanok” (“The Story of Mahajanaka”) is set to make its screen debut in an animation project that the public can get to see for free in honour of His Majesty’s birthday.
Some 250 artists from 15 Thai animation companies have worked on “The Story of Mahajanaka” over the past four years. The project, which was presented for approval to the King at its inception, is under the supervision of the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Software Industry Promotion Agency and Thai Animation and Computer Graphics Association.
Distorn Vajarodayam, Grand Chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau, says the King personally oversaw the editing process of the book, as well as its transition from illustrated tome to comic.
“The King was keen for the story to be turned into a serialised comic strip, something along the lines of [long-running Thai comic magazine] Khai Hua Ror so that it would reach out to youngsters,” he says,
The comic book, which was illustrated by political cartoonist Chai Rachawat, was used as the reference to develop the storytelling and character design of the new animation.
Director Nonzee Nimibutr, who has been involved with the project from the beginning, says the surfeit of manpower has both hindered and helped the process of getting the book from page to screen.
“It was not easy to manage all the work between so many animators but once everyone knew the project was for the King, they were all enthusiastic about cooperating,” he says.
His Majesty brought a modern twist to his “Mahajanaka”, which is based on the story from the Tripitaka. It recounts the last incarnation of the Buddha as King Mahajanaka, who ruled the kingdom of Mithila, before being born again as Siddhartha. As King Mahajanaka, he valiantly faces challenges and trouble of every kind – from sinking ships to bloody succession feuds – and survives them all through his remarkable perseverance.
The animation, which is shot in high-definition, was initially designed for the small screen but the producers later decided to develop it into a movie project.
Divided into three acts, the first chronicles the life of Mahajanaka’s father Prince Aritha Chanok and his younger brother Prince Pola Chanok who enter into conflict when the high ranking minister drives a wedge between them. Pola Chanok escapes but later returns to fight against Aritha, who is killed in the battle. Aritha’s pregnant wife manages to escape to the border and it is here that Phra Mahachanok is born.
In the second act, the prince is already grown up and is travelling by boat to Suvarnabhumi when a massive storm blows up and wrecks his ship. He survives by swimming for seven days and seven nights and finally gets help from the angel Manee Mekhala, who takes him to Mithila.
The third act sees him married to King Pola Chanok’s daughter and becoming the king.
“I’m thrilled as I think the story really relates to the people of today. It’s not just about perseverance but also reflects how two brothers can be in conflict because their love is not strong enough and their minds not open enough. It reflects so much of what we face in this country today even though the story was written almost 20 years ago,” Nonzee says.
While translated from the Tripitaka and not always easy to understand, the animation is nonetheless perfect for children.
“The story is quite difficult to interpret and we’ve had to be careful in our adaptation. Our priority was to bring the story to children and teens so we’ve try to make it more action-oriented and lively,” says the director, who is a consultant to the project.
“One of the key scenes that lent itself to more action is when Prince Mahajanaka is trying to swimming to safety after the shipwreck.
“The crabs, fish and other marine animals in those scenes make it fun for young viewers.”
Just as with the other versions, Disatorn has reported every step to the King. The Monarch examined the proofs carefully, offered his comments and also approved the casting of the voice actors.
“We also presented each actor’s biography, his and her voice and how they interpreted the characters’ lines,” says Disatorn.
Attaporn Theemakorn voices Phra Mahajanaka, Chatchai Plengpanich is Prince Aritha Chanok, Nonzee takes on Prince Pola Chanok while Manassanan Panlertwongsakul does the voice for Manee Mekhala.
- Running 112 minutes, “Mahajanka” premiere on Friday at Paragon Cineplex and then screen from Saturday through December 6 at select Major Cineplex branches.
- In Bangkok, the screenings will be at Paragon, Mega Cineplex and Major Cineplex Ratchayothin, Pinklao and Rangsit.
- Other screenings will be at EGV Khon Kaen, EGV Korat, Hat Yai Cineplex and Major Cineplex Chiang Mai Airport Plaza, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
- Showtimes are at 10 am and 3pm.
- It will also air at various times on all TV channels from December 6 to 8.
- For reservations and tickets, contact your local Public Relations Department offices. For more information, call (02) 618 2357.