Civic Imagination

Sanjay's Super Team

This is an animated short film from Pixar directed and written by Sanjay Patel who based it off his experiences as a child. The story revolves around a young boy, Sanjay, and his father, an Indian-American migrant. Sanjay is watching his favourite superheroes on TV while his father is praying by the shrine in the same room. His father urges him to join in the ritual but Sanjay refuses so he switches off the TV and takes his toy in order to force him into it.

Finally joining his father at the shrine, Sanjay then daydreams a superhero scenario with the Hindu gods. He teams up with the gods Vishnu, Durga and Hanuman in order to defeat the demon god Ravana. He symbolically breaks his American action figure at the end in order to win the battle.

Snapping out of his daydream, Sanjay’s dad lets him watch TV again but instead illustrates a picture of the Hindu gods as superheroes. 

This was the short film that preceded Pixar’s ‘The Good Dinosaur’. Poignantly enough, my mother took me and my 11 year-old brother to see it at the cinema while I was visiting them in Qatar over Christmas.

It appealed to me because, just like Sanjay, my brother and I are children of migrants. We were both born in the Philippines but spent a majority of our lives in Macau. We were educated and surrounded by people who had varying morals and way of life from my mother.

I recall having disagreements with my mother on respecting my elders and speaking my mind as the customs back home place the utmost importance on respecting adults to the point where I found it constraining at times. She insisted on an unwavering show of respect towards her whereas I took a more liberal approach to call her out on things I disagreed with and voicing my opinion.

On a parallel note to the premise of the movie, I never rejected my Catholic upbringing but now, I don't practice it either. However, it something that is still rooted in me, in the way I think and how I look at the world. It's something that I treasure and appreciate despite not necessarily following it.

This film made me think about migrants and their children often have conflicting ideas sourced not just from a generation gap but a cultural one as well. I noticed this with multiple of my friends too. I think that despite causing disagreements and arguments between the two parties, it also gives them an opportunity to learn from each other. It gives the child the chance to learn to embrace his heritage and origins but it also opens up the parent’s mind to new ideas and ways of thinking and this short demonstrated that concisely. 

In terms of social change, this story gained a lot of traction because it's the first movie from the production house to predominantly feature an Indian-American family. It’s an important piece of argument towards the media’s increasing need for more diverse representation and stories. The highlight of Hindu gods not only tries to transcend racial barriers but religious ones as well.

Its themes of culture gaps and understanding is one that is especially relevant today where migration is a phenomenon in multiple countries and where migrants from 10 to 30 years ago are facing this kind of conflict with their children. It shows that there can be that balance between keeping hold of your roots while opening yourself up to and adopting the customs of your new home. 

This is a link to the full 7 minute film:

Hindu, Pixar, migrants, immigrants, family, short film, religion, culture

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