Weak Plot, Patchy Animation

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Star Live 24, Star Live 24
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Published On: 18:18:59 PM

The last film of the year should have been rousing. Because there is nothing as all-encompassing and powerful as the story of Mahabharat, the epic that has everything. Love and death, war and wit, bravery and cowardice, 'maanav' and 'daanav', and all kinds of gods and gurus and 'apsaras', and every creature in between.

Jayantilal Gada's lavish production draws attention to its scale. Some sequences are detailed and grand, especially the ones which give us a panoramic view of forests, water bodies, palaces and battlegrounds. But the animation falters when it comes to people. Instead of the full-bodied characters with realistic expressions, the film is stuck in a two-dimensional time-warp.

This has nothing to do with the film not being in 3D, which is mostly used to grab more money from the viewer for nothing extra, except a pair of glasses that sit heavy on the nose and darken the view. This has to do with the imagination of the animator, which is more Amar Chitra Katha than Avataar. The dialogue also shows the struggle-in-tone-and-tenor that is the bugbear of most Indian animation: swinging between current English slang and old heavy classical lines. So there are songs that use English phrases in lyrics, jostling with lines like: "yeh kadapi nahin ho sakta".

This is not a new problem. You would have thought that with animation having taken such giant strides globally, and so much of it washing up in our screens (from rampaging dinosaurs to swinging spidermen to young wizards on broomsticks), Bollywood would have picked up some tips. You can see a smidgeon of good work in a few films, but more or less it is the same old: unimaginative plotting, and patchy animation. And still so mythology-heavy.

Which would be fine if the film was first rate. The technical effort that's gone into making Mahabharat is evident, but overall nothing leaves much impact. Then there's the disconcerting problem of getting stars to do the voice-overs: most characters have been given the face of the actors voicing them. So Bhishma Pitamah looks like Amitabh Bachchan, Karna looks like Anil Kapoor, and Draupadi looks and sounds so much like Vidya Balan, that I kept peering around the character to see the person in flesh. The character that came up the most was Karna: in so many ways, Karna is the only truly heroic character in this epic.

Mahabharat shows that Indian animation knows there is a way forward, but there are still many miles to go.

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