Son of Gujarati immigrants, the London-born Sanjay Patel moved with his family to California at the age of four. His father bought a motel in San Bernardino, California. Sanjay grew up in the motel helping his father at the front desk but mostly immersed himself in his passion – drawing cartoon characters and watching animation shows on television. Now, his short film “Sanjay’s Super Team” has been nominated in the Animated Short Film category at The Oscars to be held on 28 February 2016.
“My dad would pray three times a day — morning, afternoon and night. Morning and afternoon was when the cartoons would come on. But there would be no conversation since we would start to sing aarti. And he would turn off the cartoons. But I wanted to watch Voltron. In the morning there would be Japanese cartoons and American ones in the afternoon. And they would both come diametrically in conflict with my dad’s pujas,” said Sanjay.
Sanjay’s father never gave his sons the context of Hinduism and gods mentioned in Hindu mythology. “Sure I grew up with the names,” he added. “But would I know that Hanuman was the son of the wind god? Or that Krishna was an avatar of Vishnu? Of course not,” said Sanjay. It was only later as an adult that Sanjay read books about Hinduism, reports The Hindu.
The conflict and the connection Sanjay felt around the rituals, and around his Indian roots in general, inspired him to direct the short film, “Sanjay’s Super Team”. The seven-minute short begins with young Sanjay watching cartoons and eating cereal in a bland, beige room as his father jingles a bell, beckoning him to join in meditation. Reluctant and bored by the ceremony, Sanjay begins daydreaming a kind of ancient, Hindu version of “The Avengers,” with the gods appearing like superheroes. As the daydream progresses, the colour, light and animation of the film grows increasingly dazzling and cosmic, and Sanjay grows closer to understanding his father’s inner world.
“If I could, I would go back to the 1980s and give my younger self this short,” Patel said. “I want to normalise and bring a young brown boy’s story to the pop culture zeitgeist. To have a broad audience like Pixar’s see this…it is a big deal. I’m so excited about that,” said Sanjay in Los Angeles Times.
Considering Pixar’s track record at the Oscars, Sanjay may claim his first golden statue this February 28th.
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