Moriyasu Taniguchi was an uncredited character designer and the original music was composed by Vanraj Bhatia. It was the opening film of the 2000 Lucca Animation Film Festival in Italy, a highlight of the Cardiff Animation Film Festival in the United Kingdom and won Best Animation Film of the Year at the 2000 Santa Clarita International Film Festival in the United States.
After a brief introduction to some of the main characters of the story, the beginning sees a group of Rishis, led by Vishvamitra, performing a Yajna in a forest not far from Ayodhya, the Capital of the Kingdom of Kosala. This Yajna, like several before it, is interrupted and destroyed by a group of flying demons led by Ravana's relation Maricha. After seeing yet another Yajna destroyed, a despondent Vishvamitra appeals to Lord Vishnu for salvation. Vishnu appears in a spiritual blaze of light, informing him of his saviour- Prince Rama of Ayodhya, first-born of King Dasharatha. Vishvamitra travels to Ayodhya to meet the King and requests him to offer Rama's services to help destroy the demons in the forests. Although the Solar Dynasty King is reluctant at first to send the young lad, he is reassured by the resident Rishi that no harm will come to him and even encouraged to send his third son Lakshmana as an accompaniment.
The three of them then journey into one of the affected forests where Vishvamitra tells them the story of how the once beautiful area was defiled and destroyed by an evil demoness Tataka, mother of Maricha. After informing Rama of his duty, namely to kill Tataka, he then starts to teach the boys some mantras which they repeat, drawing the large demoness out. A few initial arrows from the boys prove ineffectual at first and the demoness seems to be more menacing, but Rama slays her by reciting one of the Rishi's mantras and then shooting the arrow, which hits her in the head. She melts away into a burning fire. Following this deed, the boys are each handed sacred weapons, which Vishvamitra says he himself gained mastery over as a reward from the gods. The following morning, Maricha sees the boys from over a cliff and declares his intention to avenge his mother's death. But his attacks are dealt with by the boys, who slay the demon's compatriots while Maricha himself flies away.
Further on in their travels, the three reach the kingdom of Mithila and witness a procession. During that procession Princess Sita, the King's daughter, catches sight of Rama and the two fall in love. The people are informed of a competition held by King Janaka; the man who could successfully lift and string the heavy bow of Shiva would be rewarded with the hand of Sita in marriage. After several failed attempts by the other princes, Rama wins the competition easily—albeit by breaking the bow—and marries Sita, returning with her to Ayodhya.
After several years, the King announces that with the prospect of troubled times ahead for the Kingdom and his own health failing, Rama is to succeed him as heir. All in the Palace are happy, except for an old nurse Manthara. She informs Kaikeyi, the King's third Queen of the news and reminds her of how the King had promised to fulfill two promises to her. She manipulates the initially loyal Queen and convinces her to take advantage of this. Later that night, the Queen meets the King and reminds her of the promise. The King initially agrees to the request, but on hearing her demands he is unwilling to do so and offers her his wealth instead. But the Queen threatens him by informing the people that he reneged on a promise, so he has no option but to accede to her wishes, namely that her own son Bharata be made King and that Rama be sent to exile in the forests for 14 years. While Lakshmana is indignant at circumstances, Rama himself is stoic about the whole situation and has no ill feelings towards Kaikeyi or anyone else. Sita and Lakshmana then declare their intentions to join him in exile. Rama then says his goodbyes to everyone in the palace, and consoles his guilt-ridden father. While leaving he addresses the people of Ayodhya, urging them to support King Dasharatha and Bharata. While watching Rama leave, the King then falls to the ground in anguish and is taken to bed. Rama, his wife and brother then board a sailboat on the banks of the Ganges River and begin their exile.
Meanwhile, the King, clearly in a state of ill health, slowly fades into death, murmuring Rama's name and urging forgiveness. He then dies. Bharata, who is away in the Kingdom of Kekeya visiting his grandfather, hears the news and immediately returns to Ayodhya where her mother confirms the sad news as well as the news that he is to be the new King. But far from being happy, the boy is shocked and angered at his mother’s treacherous behaviour and demands to know who manipulated her into doing what she did. The youngest brother, Shatrughna, tells him who it is, hauling the culprit Manthara into the room. Dismissing the old woman’s pleas for mercy, Shatrughna is about to kill her but is dissuaded by Bharata, who nevertheless declares that he will no longer consider Kaikeyi as his mother. Bharata then goes to the forests and meets Rama, informing him of the sad news and urging him to return to the Kingdom. The grieving Rama tells Bharata that in spite of everything, the wishes of their late father must be respected and adhered to. Bharata then agrees to rule the Kingdom, but only in Rama’s name.
A long way away, in the Island of Lanka, the King Ravana and his royal subjects are enjoying a performance when he is informed of the existence of Prince Rama in the forests. Ravana’s sister Surpanakha decides to go and see him, enchanted by his famed good looks. Disguised as a beautiful lady, she enters the forest of Panchavati, where Rama, his wife and his brother are living an idyllic exile in the beautiful area in harmony with the birds and animals there. She tries to entice Rama and Lakshmana but is politely turned down, and then changes into her original demon form when introduced to Sita. She tries to attack Sita but is blocked by Rama. Rama then gets pushed and hurt and Surpanakha attacks Sita to Rama's grief. Lakshmana then throws his knife, cutting off her nose in the process. The three are relieved at the disappearance of the danger.
The wounded demoness then returns to Lanka and informs Ravana of what happened, and the enraged King of Lanka vows to avenge the attack. After a failed attempt to awaken his brother Kumbhakarna from his sleep, Ravana mulls over going to Panchavati himself and decides to do so after being goaded about Sita’s beauty by his sister. Along with Maricha, Ravana then goes to Panchavati and reminds his companion of their plan to capture Sita. Maricha then changes into a golden deer and attracts Sita, who requests Rama to capture the deer alive. Rama agrees, and tells his brother to protect her. While chasing the deer Rama fires an arrow, only to find the deer disappearing instead of being captured. Realising that the deer is a demon, Rama fires a special arrow into the deer’s neck, killing Maricha. The demon however lives long enough to imitate Rama’s voice and cry out for help. Sita hears the cry and persuades Lakshmana to go and help him out. He agrees, and sprinkles a ring of rice around their house for protection. Ravana then disguises himself as a rishi and approaches the house to ask Sita for alms. He is repelled by the ring of protection around the house, so he urges Sita to come forward. Eventually Ravana hypnotises Sita and carries her onto his chariot, flying away back to Lanka. Jatayu, an elderly bird, hears Sita’s cries for help and attacks Ravana, telling him to release Sita at once. But Ravana fatally injures Jatayu with his sword and continues on his journey home. The two brothers meet in the forest and Rama informs Lakshmana that the cry for help was merely the imitation of his voice by the slain demon Maricha. Fearing the worst, they hurry back home to find Sita gone. Rama is angry and upset at the fact his wife has been taken, but calms down following advice from his brother. The brothers then go to another clearing in the forest to find Jatayu, who lives long enough to inform them of the capture of Sita and the ensuing battle between himself and Ravana. After reaching Lanka Sita is taken, screaming, into Ravana’s palace at Lanka and placed under the care of one of Ravana’s servants.
Meanwhile, Rama and Lakshmana are in the middle of their search for Sita when they come across a demonic mountain called Kabandha, who tries to swallow them. Rama shoots and arrows but fails and the demon hits Rama and he falls on the ground but Rama uses his arrows to latch onto the demon. Lakshmana shoots an arrow to the eye and Rama uses the arrows to slash it. The demon screams and drops Rama. Rama then falls on the ground but gets up and the uprooted mountain falls to the ground. A bright heavenly spirit then emerges while Rama is healing himself, thanking the brothers for lifting the curse on him and enabling him to return to the heavens, while in return advising them to find Sugriva. Not knowing who Sugriva is, Rama and Lakshmana then continue looking and see a huge palace carved into a hill and decide to go there. They then chance upon a meeting with a flying vanara Hanuman, a messenger to Sugriva, who agrees wholeheartedly to take them to meet him. Sugriva introduces himself to Rama as an exiled vanara King who himself has been living apart from his wife for several days. He informs Rama of Sita’s cries for help that were heard and shows the Prince of Ayodhya a collection of her jewels which were dropped from the sky. Rama then cries and mentions these are the ornaments in her hair and he drops down. Lakshman and Sugriva say Rama should not cry. Rama swore to save his wife and made a deal with Sugriva. He defeats Vali and Sugriva helps find Sita. Rama helps Sugriva by fighting a hard battle with Vali and restores the Kingdom to his friend. In return, Sugriva sends out large search parties to look for Sita in all corners of the country. The search party to the South is led by Hanuman and includes Vali’s son Angada, who allies himself with Sugriva, and an elderly bear, Jambavan. The three, along with a senior vanara soldier, enter a cliff in search of water and come out the other side, facing the ocean. There, they meet Sampati, brother of the slain Jatayu. After being informed of his brother’s sad demise, the upset and angered bird informs the vanara leaders that Ravana indeed flew over the land they were on now and that he could be found, along with Sita, in the Island of Lanka. Jambavan then tells Hanuman that when he was younger, he was put under a spell which kept his powers in check, but that now he would be released from the spell in order to fly to Lanka and find Sita. Hanuman then flies across the sea and withstands a stern challenge from a dangerous sea monster by killing him and tearing him to pieces.
Among one of Hanuman’s many powers is his ability to change shape at will, and he is able to fly across Lanka without being seen. He sees Ravana walking to a forest where Sita is with her caretaker, and after the King joins his subjects and her caretaker leaves her alone, Sita then bursts into tears, pining for her husband, little knowing that Hanuman is watching her. He jumps down from a tree and introduces himself as Rama’s friend, offering also to take her back. Sita magnanimously refuses, saying that there are many people in Lanka who have been captured and enslaved, and that they need to be freed as well. Hanuman assures her that Rama will defeat Ravana and release the people, while urging her to be patient till then. After having some fun attacking the Royal guards, Hanuman allows himself to be captured by the fire-breathing Kumbha, son of Kumbhakarna. The vanara messenger meets Ravana face to face and warns the Lanka ruler of his folly in capturing Sita while instructing him to return her to Prince Rama and seek his forgiveness. Ravana threatens to kill Hanuman, but after being dissuaded by his brother Vibhishana, decides instead to set fire to the vanara’s tail and let him go home. While grimacing in pain from the fire, Hanuman inadvertently sets fire to a few stalls and buildings in the city before flying away. Vibhishana later pleads with Ravana to release Sita out of fear of impending disaster for Lanka, but Ravana angrily rebuffs him and exiles him from the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva and the vanara Kingdom’s subjects are all gathered along the south coast, discussing how to travel to Lanka. It is then that Vibhishana appears and offers to join Rama’s forces. Rama is convinced of Vibhishana’s sincerity by Hanuman and agrees to accept Vibhishana, who in turn advises Rama to pray to the Sea God for a solution to cross over to Lanka. For seven days and seven nights Rama observes prayers, and on the eighth dawn the Sea God splashes a wave on Rama making his hair wet and he reveals himself and instructs Rama to build a bridge with stones that have his name inscribed. The stones would be supported by the ocean and all living beings could walk across safely. The members of Rama’s army then set about building the bridge, after which they proceed to Lanka where they will set up base camp not far from the capital city. In Ravana’s Palace, the King and his council members discuss the threat of war. Prahastha, the Chief Minister, assures Ravana that the threat is futile and that Rama’s army would be finished off. While an elderly member, presumably Ravana’s father, is against the war and even himself advises the King to return Sita, the other members appear wholeheartedly in support of the war, including Ravana’s son Indrajit. From base camp in Lanka, Rama wants to avoid war so Rama then asks Angada to convey a message of peace to Ravana, namely that if he was to release Sita and the other prisoners who would in turn take refuge under him, there would be no need of war and the subsequent bloodshed. But when Angada carries this message to Ravana at the Palace, he is rebuffed and even attacked by the Royal Guards. Ravana gives a clear sign that he wants war, and after Angada relays this message to Rama later that evening, Rama is then a bit upset then addresses his army, asking them if they would fight for ‘Justice and Rama’, to which they emphatically say yes.
The battle commences the next morning and both armies ride up to the battle lines before starting the fight. Hanuman fights for Rama’s army, his role being to use his size and power to repel the aerial threat of the flying demons from Ravana’s army, which he does with panache. Ravana then sends Kumbha and his brother Nikumbha, sons of Kumbhakarna, to battle. Together they are able to kill and injure several vanara soldiers. At sunset the battle is halted, and Rama tends to the wounded soldiers of his army before cremating the dead with honour. Notably he cremates the bodies of Ravana’s soldiers too. Rama gives a speech about how being a good human is important. The wind is high then and Rama's hair is waving majestically.
The second day sees Prahastha join the battle, and he goes into a duel with the general of the vanara troops. After a fierce battle Prahastha is killed. Sugriva then enters the battle against Kumbha, and the vanara King slays his enemy after a tough encounter where he himself is badly bruised. Ravana’s shock at the death of two of his major fighters prompts him to order Indrajit to attempt to awaken Kumbhakarna, which he succeeds in doing. Meanwhile, on the battlefield Nikumbha and Hanuman are engaged in a tough battle from which the vanara comes out on top, just before Kumbhakarna arrives. Kumbhakarna’s great size causes wonder among several of Rama’s soldiers and even Rama himself. Vibhishana advises Rama that while Kumbhakarna is indeed a mighty opponent he is not unbeatable, and that this would be the opportune moment for Rama to go to battle. After an encounter with Angada, Kumbhakarna then agrees to fight Hanuman, who has altered his size to match that of his giant opponent. Before the fight, Kumbhakarna’s softer side is revealed as he weeps over the dead bodies of his slain sons, and thanks Hanuman for handing them to him. The giant enemy soldier proves a fine opponent for Hanuman, who is expertly thrown against the city compound wall, breaking it. It is at that moment that Rama introduces himself and joins the battle. Near the end of the day, Rama uses a mystic sword to first injure Kumbhakarna at the knee causing him to fall, then stabbing him in the heart. Rama then falls over and injures his arm. After the battle the vanara soldiers all run into the city, attacking the retreating enemy soldiers and setting free the people who have been enslaved by Ravana. Kumbhakarna’s defeat is a source of both satisfaction and sadness to Rama, who wishes that the two of them had been friends. It is also a great source of shock and heartbreak for Ravana, who now fears for his country, but Indrajit assures him of a devious plan to devastate Rama's army.
That night, while the wounded and dead soldiers are being gathered and taken to the base camp, Ravana's son flies through the air in a chariot and insults the soldiers. After injuring both Hanuman and Angada he shouts for Rama to make himself seen, then shows Sita sitting in the carriage. Indrajit then grabs Sita and threatens to kill her, much to Rama's shock and anger. Sita is then slain, which upsets Rama greatly and he starts crying. Indrajit then shoots an arrow, grievously wounding Lakshmana in the process. And as Lakshmana is helped to safety, Jambavan is also injured. Indrajit, confident that the job has had its desired effect, flies off with the slain wife of Rama.
While treating the wounded, Rama and Sugriva are informed that the supply of medicinal herbs is depleted and not enough to heal the wounds inflicted by Indrajit. This causes Rama great distress, for after seeing his wife slain he how faces the prospect of losing his dear brother, and wonders what more would be left. He then goes to a pole and starts to cry.It is here that the turning point occurs, with Vibhishana telling Rama that Sita is still alive, and that because of Indrajit's mastery over magic from his regular prayers to the goddess Nikumbhila he was able to create a mere illusion of Sita. The exiled brother of Ravana then advises Rama to attack Indrajit while performing one such yagna, but is himself reminded that with the number of soldiers wounded and paucity of medicinal herbs, it would be very difficult. At that moment Jambavan awakes and informs Rama that there are some herbs which could work well, but that they were all the way in the Dronagiri mountains of the Himalayas. Once again Hanuman is sent to get the herbs in spite of his own wounds and after flying through the night and all the way across the country, passing Ayodhya, he reaches the mountain and looks for the herbs. On finding the herbs, he tests them on his own wounds and is pleased to see that they heal perfectly. But reasoning that a mere handful will not be enough for the troops, Hanuman comes up with an idea. First, he knocks down a tree and sticks it in the soil upside down, not far from where the herbs are. Then assuming his largest size, he breaks into the mountain and picks it up. He then flies back to the base camp and on reaching there only a few hours after having left sets the mountain down. The herbs are gathered in time and Lakshmana is healed, as are the others. Rama expresses his gratitude, calling the vanara ‘a beloved brother’.
Later that day some of the members of Ravana’s army, mostly flying demons, are all gathered in the cave of Nikumbhila in prayer, feeling confident that with the moral and physical damage done to Rama’s troops there was no need to go to battle that day. After Angada and the vanara general get rid of the guards outside, Lakshmana and the vanara soldiers then walk across the large bridge that is Hanuman and approach the cave. From inside a tunnel which leads to the prayer area, Lakshmana then shoots an arrow towards the idol of Nikumbhila, creating a few cracks and causing some chipped pieces to fall. Indrajit sees Lakshmana, angry that he is still alive, and orders the demons to attack and kill the soldiers. During the battle several of the demons are killed in the cave, and a few who try to exit the cave through the entrance are also killed. Indrajit himself is able to escape through an opening at the top of the cave. Seeing him fly away, Lakshmana captures a flying demon and orders him to take him up to Indrajit. He flies up to the chariot and engages in a tough battle with Indrajit, which ends with Lakshmana about to kill him. Rather than giving him the moral satisfaction of killing him, Indrajit then releases his grip and falls to his death.
A grieving Ravana then threatens in anger to kill Sita in order to punish her for her devotion to Rama, but is dissuaded by his elder who was against the war in the first place. The elder then offers to join Ravana in battle himself, but Ravana instructs him to stay while he himself goes to battle. This proves to be the final day of the battle which features the main confrontation between Rama and Ravana.
The Lanka King flies through the battlefield on his chariot and shoots several fiery arrows into the field which kill and injure several soldiers. It is then that Rama flies on Hanuman’s back and upsets the chariot, then kills Ravana’s compatriot also flying the chariot. Unable to muster control, Ravana falls to the ground, and Rama catches up with him, thus precipitating the last and greatest battle. Rama and Ravana engage in battle. Rama eager to get Sita back. Ravana attacks Rama and he falls backwards but he is quick to get up. Rama then charges towards him but Ravana counters and pushes him against a wall. Rama falls out the way and hurts his back but Ravana's sword gets stuck on the wall and Rama cuts it. Rama then beheads Ravana. But a new head grew and he did it again to the new head which grew. But to his shock, a series of multiple heads grows from Ravana’s neck and the Lanka King then morphs into a large demon with ten heads and as many as six arms. Rama is scared. Ravana shoots a fiery arrow which hits Rama and throws him onto his back and wounding him while he screams in pain,he then throws a spear which encircles the hurt Rama in a ring of fire, but the Rama prays and gains a special chakra, which he uses to radially put out the fire. Ravana then lifts Rama and severely throws him against the wall. Rama screams and he falls down on his head and it looks as if Rama is dead. Lakshman and Sita and all the others watch in shock as Rama is dying. But with great difficulty Rama reaches the chakra and it expands at his touch. He throws the chakra, which first severs some of Ravana’s arms, then returns to sever the Lanka King at the waistline. With only his head immortal in comparison with the rest of his body, Ravana falls to the ground in death, and the chakra then pierces the clouds, bringing sunshine and light through. Rama is tired and hurt. In an almost fantasy-like sequence, grass then grows along the barren battlefield and the compound walls, and the lower half of Ravana’s body becomes a hill with a tree growing from it, signifying the return of Ravana to Mother Earth.
With the battle over, Rama exhorts the soldiers of Lanka to cease fighting and work towards restoring the glory of Lanka. Vibhishana is made the new King.Rama and Sita are reunited. Before leaving, Sita expresses her remorse at the large number of lives lost for her sake in the war, but Sugriva comforts her, saying that her peaceful and happy life with Rama would make their death a glorious sacrifice. The vanara soldiers and the freed slaves then leave Lanka and walk across the bridge on their journey home, Hanuman flies back to the Himalayas with the uprooted mountain, and Rama and his compatriots fly home to Ayodhya. Rama fought a great battle and sacrificed his health for Sita after being separated for years.Nikhil Kapoor - Rama
Rael Padamsee - Sita
Mishal Varma - Lakshmana
Noel Godin - Hanuman
Bulbul Mukherjee - Dasharatha
Madhulika Varma - Kaikeyi
Rahul Bose - Bharata
Pearl Padamsee - Manthara
Bhargava Krishna - Kumbhakarna
Shagufta Jaffrey - Surpanakha
Easo Vivin Mathew - Indrajit
Denzil Smith - Sugreeva
Cyrus Broacha - Angada
Dodo Bhujwala - Additional Voices
Rohan Arthur - Additional Voices
Avi Shroff - Additional Voices
Salome Parikh - Additional Voices
Farid Saboonchi - Additional Voices
Leeya Mehta - Additional Voices
Shatrughan Sinha - Narrator
Arun Govil - Rama
Namrata Sawhney - Sita
Shakti Singh- Lakshmana
Adarsh Gautam - Bharata
Dilip Sinha - Hanuman
Amrish Puri - Ravana
Harjeet Walia - Dasharatha
Sava - Kaikeyi
Manju Bhatia - Manthara
Rakesh Vidua - Jatayu
Umesh Sharma - Jambavan
Raj Joshi - Sugreeva
Pradeep Shukla - Kumbhakarna
Ravan - Amrish Puri
James Earl Jones - Narrator
Bryan Cranston - Rama
Edie Mirman - Sita
Tom Wyner - Ravana
Richard Cansino - Lakshmana
Michael Sorich - Hanuman
Mike Reynolds - Dasharatha
Mari Devon - Kaikeyi
Simon Prescott - Kumbhakarna
Barbara Goodson - Shurpanakha
Catherine Battistone - Tataka
Tony Pope - Vishvamitra
Kirk Thornton - Indrajit
Steve Bulen - Sugreeva / Prahasta
Eddie Frierson - Angada / Maricha
Jeff Winkless - Jambavan
Michael McConnohie - Vibhishana
In 1983 while working on "The Ramayana Relics" a documentary film about excavations by Dr. B. B. Lal near Allahabad in Utter Pradesh (India) Yugo Sako came to know about the story of Ramayana. He liked the story of Ramayana so much he researched deeper into the topic and went on to read 10 versions of Ramayana in Japanese. After reading the Ramayana he wanted to adapt it into animation as he didn’t think a live action movie could capture the true essence of Ramayana, "Because Ram is God, I felt it was best to depict him in animation, rather than by an actor."
Yugo Sako wanted to remain true to the original epic so he came to India and met with scholars, archaeologists, historians and started working out on the details, during this he met Ram Mohan and collaborated with him on the film. Krishna Shah got involved in the production later in 1993.
The story was simplified to a great extent in order to appeal to the international audience.
A new production studio Nippon Ramayana Film Co. was set up and the principal animation of the film began in 1990 with 450 artists on board. The scripting and screenplay were done by Narendra Sharma, an Indian scholar.
Indian animators helped their Japanese counterparts with Indian customs and traditions depicted in the film like how dhotis are worn and how the children receive blessings from their elders.
The Indian Express misinterpreted Yugo Sako’s "The Ramayana Relics" documentary and published that he was making a new Ramayana. Soon thereafter, a protest letter based on the misunderstanding from the Vishva Hindu Parishad was received by the Japanese Embassy in Delhi, which said that no foreigners could arbitrarily cinematize Ramayana because it was the great national heritage of India.
After the misconceptions were cleared, Yugo Sako proposed the idea of an animated Ramayana to the VHP. He told them that animation was a serious art form in Japan and it would help bring the Ramayana to a wider global audience.
The VHP agreed at first but later rejected his proposal for a bi-nation collaboration, saying the Ramayana is a very sensitive subject and cannot be depicted as a cartoon.
The movie was eventually produced in Japan and all animation was done there.
There are different songs for the Original English Version (sung in Sanskrit) and the Hindi Dub version (sung in Hindi), both are listed below. The lyrics are written by Vasant Dev (Sanskrit) and P.K. Mishra (Hindi).