Phra Ram has risen!
By Paula Ho
Special to The Nation
Published on July 16, 2010

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The glorious murals of Wat Phra Kaew leap into life in 'Ramakien: The Animation'

The lights dim, dramatic music erupts and the viewer's anticipation heightens as Nontok, the giant servant of Phra Isuan, begins mercilessly killing numerous divinities merely by pointing at them with his diamond finger.
The murals of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha appear to leap into life in Atitat Kamonpet's 35-minute "Ramakien: The Animation", abandoning their stiff postures and charging into a battle that once belonged only to the imagination.

The characters' interaction, owing a great deal to shadow-puppet theatre, rivals that of the beloved cartoons of Pixar and Disney, while the presentation adds a distinctly Eastern look and a wonderful Siamese charm.

It's a startling effect overall, and the public can see the first episode during next month's celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen's birthday.

Atitat and his team photographed every panel of the Ramakien murals at Wat Phra Kaew in 4x5-inch grids, creating 20 images per panel.

"We photographed each of the main characters at least 10,000 times," Atitat says, "but some of the characters from the story aren't fully depicted in the murals, so we got the painters who restore the murals to draw them for us."

The "cast" was enlarged to life size, in high resolution, and the animation process began.

After digitally separating the body parts, adding joints and retouching features hidden behind clothing, the team produced a rough animation. To this was added instrumental accompaniment, a combination of Western and Thai instruments.

Atitat teamed with more than 50 animators from Kantana Animation, G Box, Baan Darun and Appreciation. The sound by Jingle Bell was done at Apollo Lab, with post-production at Oriental Post.

The Ramakien, Thailand's version of the Hindu literary classic the Ramayana, tells the story of one of Phra Narai's 10 incarnations.

Nontok is given a diamond finger that can kill anything he points at, but he abuses his power, and Narai is sent to kill him.

Nontok regards Narai's four arms as a clear advantage, so Narai enables him to be reborn with 10 faces, 20 arms and the ability to fly, whereas Narai will reincarnate as a mortal, with just two arms.

Narai thus demonstrates how ethics and virtue prevail over physical strength.

"Ramakien: The Animation" focuses on the beginning of the story, when Narai is incarnated as Phra Ram, the son of Thao Tossarot, King of Ayutthaya, while Nontok is born as Tossagun, son of Thao Lastian and the King of Lanka.

Ram is destined to rule, but Kaiyaksee wants her son Phra Phot, Ram's half-brother, to succeed Thao Tossarot, and sends Ram into exile for 14 years, ostensibly to prepare for his ascension to the throne.

"Our objective was to illustrate the Ten Virtues of the King," says Atitat. "These are what Phra Ram uses to defeat Tossagun.

"When Phra Ram is ordered into exile, it's clear that his father, his brother and the people want him to be king. But his exile shows his karma, and the way he humbly accepts exile illustrates his mastering of the Ten Virtues."

Free screening

- Events will commemorate His Majesty the King's 60th anniversary on the throne and the royal wedding, along with Her Majesty's birthday.

- The August 12: Side by Side for the Sake of the Thai Citizens Project include three events honouring "the Mother of the Land" from August 9 to 15, sponsored by the Reducing Greenhouse Effect Foundation of Thailand, the Finance Ministry, Mcot and SF Cinema City.

- The first event is a free screening of "Ramakien: The Animation" at 14 SF cinemas.

- The second event is an exhibition at SF Cinema City at The Mall Bang Kapi about the Queen and the Ramakien murals at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. commissioned during King Rama I's reign, the paintings within 178 rooms have been restored several times, most recently for the Rattanakosin Bicentennial in 1992, by a committee chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Charki Sirindhorn.

- The third event will be the distribution of "Ramakien: The Animation" interactive DVDs to more than 32,000 schools, an undertaking expected to continue into September.

- Watch a trailer for the movie at www.NationMultimedia.com. (Direct link to an excellent 6 min preview)

The Ten Virtues of the King

The ideal ruler abides by the Ten Virtues of the King - the Tenfold Moral Principles of the Sovereign, known in Thai as Tossapit Rajatham and in Pali as Dasa-Raja Dhamma.

- Dana: Liberality, generosity, charity, giving alms to the needy. It is the duty of the king (and his government) to look after the public welfare, if necessary by sharing wealth and property.

- Sila: Morality, observing the Five Precepts, serving as a shining example. If the ruler disdains corruption and violence, his people will too.

- Pariccaga: Making sacrifices to benefit the public, even life if necessary. By granting gifts, the ruler fosters loyalty and efficient service.

- Ajjava: Honesty and integrity, never taking recourse to crooked means to achieve an end, freedom from fear or favour.

- Maddava: Kindness, gentleness. If firmness is required, it should be tempered with kindness.

- Tapa: Austerity in personal habits, shunning indulgence in the sensual pleasures.

- Akkodha: The absence of hatred and grudges, acting instead with forbearance and love.

- Avihimsa: Non-violence, both refraining from harming anyone and promoting peace, as far as firm rule allows.

- Khanti: Patience and tolerance, bearing hardship and insult, the refusal to give in to emotions.

- Avirodha: Non-opposition and non-enmity. The ruler should not oppose the will of the people. He must cultivate the spirit of amity among his subjects.