Animated feature films are an untapped genre in India, however some productions have tried to cash in on the popularity of stories based on mythological characters, such as BAL GANESH, RAMAYANA: THE EPIC, MAHABHARAT 3D, ARJUN – THE WARRIOR PRINCE and CHHOTA BHEEM franchise. In fact, the story of Hanuman alone has been retold several times. This week sees the release of yet another film based on the adventures of young Hanuman titled HANUMAN DA DAMDAAR. But will this film which features today’s lingo and lifestyle references appeal to the children… is what we analyse.
The104-minute animated feature HANUMAN DA DAMDAAR tells the story of Hanuman as a scared little child and how different situations lead him to realise his full potential. It is set in a time before Ram and Raavan, a mythological tale with a modern twist if you will. We see a grownup Hanuman (Salman Khan) saying dialogues like ‘Ek baar maine commitment kar di, toh main khud ki bhi nahi sunta’ and dancing to ‘Do you wanna partner’. And we see Indra (Kunal Khemu), who’s supposed to be the king of the heavens, pulling silly antics and sneezing around. Surely this isn’t the best way to teach kids about mythology, but is passable as an animated film, strictly for kids. Too bad for the adults accompanying them!
The story opens with adult Hanuman (Salman Khan) destroying the scripture of his life telling Valmiki (Javed Akhtar) that the world needs to know the story of Shri Ram only. However later, Hanuman narrates the audience his ‘real’ story—though we can’t tell for sure how much of it is real, given the extra seasoning added by the writer! Baby Hanuman (Arnav) is shown to be a coward but wants to prove his worth to his father Kesari (Saurabh Shukla) and mother Anjana (Raveena Tandon). He then lands up in a forest and makes friends with the animals, proving his accidental bravery to them with his accomplice, a chameleon named Siti (Sneha Khanwalkar). He makes friends with Garud (Hussain Dalal) along the way, but little does he know that Garud has actually been sent to capture Hanuman and destroy him before he destroys Lanka. This in turn, is a ploy by evil saint Vishrav (Makrand Deshpande) which ultimately leads to a war, so Hanuman must lose his fear and fight to save the day.
The story could have been told better, but is just intriguing enough to catch the viewer’s attention. The 2D animation is decent with beautiful visuals of the forest and Lanka and some exciting action-adventure sequences.
Coming to the main draw (or selling point) of the film—it’s stellar cast for voiceovers—well we’re sorry to say that it’s not reason enough to watch the film. Salman Khan, Javed Akhtar, Saurabh Shukla and Raveena Tandon have small parts. Unfortunately, even Vinay Pathak, who does the part of an eccentric parrot Popat Sharma, and Chunkey Pandey, who does the part of a gay tour guide, offer limited laughs with the comedy. Makrand Deshpande does a good job of creative a wicked character of Vishrav with his voice. The only real comic relief is offered by Siti, the smallest but funniest character in the film.
The writing as we said is choppy in parts, with some rather frivolous dialogues that even the kids in the theatre didn’t find funny. The writers should know that kids these days are very smart; you can’t please them with trivial humour.
The animation team of the film deserves to be applauded for doing a good job with the film. They manage to make the characters look cute and loveable. Though not at par with the Hollywood counterpart, the animation in the film is surely a good step forward and a big encouragement to Indian filmmakers who want to make animation movies.
As for the music, (Sneha Khanwalkar) the songs are fun and appeal to the kids. ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ especially is very well composed. The background score (Shruti Kumar-Jessica Weiss and Bapi-Tutul) complements the narrative.
On the whole, HANUMAN DA DAMDAAR is a cute film that mainly appeals to very young kids. Given the fact that the summer holidays are still on, the film should manage to pull its target audience to the theatre.