An epic in new colours

It’s been a long wait for director Arnab Chaudhuri but his animated epic has come alive on the big screen, and the effort has been worth it. While most Indian animated movies have turned to mythology for stories and ideas, Arjun: The Warrior Prince has taken the art, drawing and rendering to a new level of achievement and respectability.

Coming of age: Arjun—The Warrior Prince marks a significant step for Indian animation.

As is the danger with most mythological stories so well known and oft-repeated across the country, the first half of Arjun tells you nothing new. It splashes around trying to find its individuality and simply establishes the rivalry between the Pandavas and Kauravas. This section feels flat and dull. The songs add to your frustration.

But post-interval, Chaudhuri revitalizes the film as the focus shifts to Arjun’s rites of passage from boy to warrior, leading up to the pivotal battle between Arjun and Duryodhan’s vast army, the precursor to the epic battle of Kurukshetra.

Accomplished art direction, drawings and animation create a world that has magnificent palaces, fearless warriors, proud princesses, vast landscapes, regal characters and violent battles. Although the scenes lack consistency in execution, a few are particularly worth a mention, namely the computer game-type fight during Arjun’s preparation for war, the underwater bow-arrow-fish skill test, Arjun’s meditation on a mountain top, the Chaupar contest between Yudhishthir, Duryodhan and Shakuni, and the final battle.

Of the voice artistes, Yudhveer Bakoliya as Arjun is weak, lacking the enigma and strength you associate with the character. Others who disappoint are Vijay Kashyap as Shakuni and Brijesh Jha as Yudhishthir. The most convincing are Sachin Khedekar as Krishna and Hemant Mahaur as Duryodhan.

Bloody and violent, although animated, Arjun is aimed more at adults than at children, and as much as it traces the warrior prince’s coming of age, it also marks the coming of age of Indian animation features.

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Love, wrinkle-free

Sandeep Mohan writes and directs this comedy-drama about a family coming to terms with identity and ageing. Savio (Ash Chandler) is a frustrated sales agent for an underwear company who is planning to launch his own—believe it or not—edible underwear venture in Goa. His wife Annie (Shernaz Patel) is a 40-something church-going member of the choir. When Annie suddenly discovers she is pregnant, Savio and she have to delicately handle breaking the news to their adopted teenage daughter Ruth (Arika Silaichia).

While you would imagine this to be the catalyst in the film, it isn’t. Annie is more bothered about losing her spot in the church choir and her wrinkling face than her unborn baby; Savio is obsessed with his business and with the lovely tourist Natalie (Seema Rahmani); and Ruth is insecure about not looking like her parents. There’s also a con man, a local gangster and his pot-smoking son, a salsa dancer and a Tibetan waiter.

It all gets rather messily entangled, and that’s when Mohan loses the grip on his material. The plot is slightly predictable but well set up. Mohan seems unsure how to tie up the ends, resulting in a forced and hurried ending.

Luckily for Mohan, the performances keep you engaged—primarily Silaichia, Rahmani and mostly Chandler, who excels as the confused, well-meaning, naïve and kind Savio. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Patel, who tries to pass off Parsi as Goan.

Love, Wrinkle-free looks at Goa the way Goans might, and not the way tourists and the media view it. It’s musical, chilled out, quirky and the pace is susegad (laid-back). Watching this film will surely make you nostalgic for Goan music, bebinca and beaches.

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Men in Black III (MIB3)

Entertaining: Will Smith (left) and Tommy Lee Jones in MIB3.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld takes the helm for the third time and adds enough wisecracks, gadgets, grotesque creatures and 1960s period styling to make MIB3 an enjoyable ride. So, for instance, the agency head O (Emma Thompson) begins a eulogy with the opener: “Ladies, gentlemen and other life forms".

Also as J prepares to zap into the past, to change events in order to change the future, he is warned that the 1960s were “not the best time for your people". Sonnenfeld adds background gags, easily missed, like a portrait of Lady Gaga alongside other life forms and a quip about a meeting with the Viagrans who “have a revolutionary new pill".

J hopes to get to K before Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), who has just escaped after 40 years in a high-security lunar facility—thanks to a wobbly pink cake—can exact his revenge on K.

Reminiscent of the Michael J. Fox-starrer Back to the Future, time travel is the best part of MIB3 and a franchise that seems to be spluttering along. Jones looks fatigued and old and Smith has lost his comedic charm. Thankfully, Brolin injects some freshness into the performances. While the visual effects are great, the 3D technology is pointless.

MIB3 is entertaining but forgettable, even without a neuralizer!

Arjun: The Warrior Prince, Love, Wrinkle-free and Men in Black III released in theatres on Friday.

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