27 May 2012

Movie review: Arjun - The Warrior Prince: Almost There...

Even as the storyteller and the listener walk back from the battlefield, and the end credits roll, there is a sense of something unfinished in what is an impressive and occasionally awe-inspiring animation movie.

Engaging Moments
Since most of the Indian population is supposed to know the story, the screenplay is certainly clever in not making this a checklist of events. The young prince of the Kuru dynasty can’t sleep without hearing a story from the maid servant, hence the lady commences to tell him the story of Arjun.
Despite the skipping over story chunks there are seat-grabbing moments. One factor is the detailed, decorous set pieces of each scene. Indian animation (with a little help from Disney) hasn’t looked so right in each scene. The expressive faces and great voice modulation by the dubbing artists takes us right into the action. The dialogues are right in there, humourous, insightful at times, and timely. The festival sounds and innovations of Vishal-Shekhar’s soundtrack are heartening too. Sample the Sukwinder Singh vocals on Karam ki talwar at the end - rocking. So where does it all feel lacking?

Considering that it has been six years since I first saw the rocking trailer of the movie which showcased the stunning Draupadi Swayamyar* scene, there should have been so much more. OK, they wanted to focus on Arjun, yet the grouse remains, especially the partial treatment of other characters. The languishing, lone side of Karan has no outlet, or that of the fatherly grand old Bheeshm; Bhim and Yudishtir come across as caricatures. As for Krishna, who should have been the most enigmatic, is only a scratch in the storyline. All you get is the conflict between Duryodhan and Arjun.

So Much Not Told 
There are sporadic sights of violence, severed torsos, also in contrast, like did they want an adult audience? Draupadi is not depicted as the wife of five husbands, several dark aspects are not shown, so then was the target audience scale tilted to the under-18 audience? The pendulum uncertain swing of the audience certainly shows in the base story, if less in the storytelling. Like, what about Mahabharat, the whole war? Despite the tag line ‘The Amazing Story of India’s Greatest Hero’, there is so much not told, this one is screaming for a sequel.

In summation, thumbs up for the attempt, Arjun - The Warrior Prince is brave and inspired stuff, and that sheen shows, certainly worth a watch. Hope that the director Arnab Chaudhari walks his road now. 

The Best Scene 
A man dives backwards into a pool; falls almost endlessly, meets the water in a whooshing collision and then, reaching the pool bed, watches the shadow of a fish intently, even as a bubble escapes him, releases an arrow from the bow...

*Swawamyar - An ancient Indian ceremony where many men vouch to win the hand of a woman for marriage. The groom was usually decided through a contest.   

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