Make a wish, make a wish….The Djinn, played by the indefatigable Amitabh Bachchan, is the tonic in this Indianized adaptation of Aladin’s arabesque adventures in blunderland.
Once the Big B slams and hurls into the loser Aladin Chatterjee’s life things are never the same again.
Aladin Chatterjee? That could well qualify as the most oxymoronic name-calling in the history of fantasy cinema. Writer-director Sujoy Ghosh has a sly sense of humour. He portrays the bullies and the fakes with great gusto. He brings up his favourite themes such as the music of R.D. Burman and the fears and foibles of the working-class that lives its life in a cande-lit cupcake, in an adventure-caper that’s high on special effects, but somewhat low on narrative muscle.
Once the genie , or the Genius as the Big B calls himself ,arrives and gets the lovely new girl in town(newcomer Jacqueline Fernandez, pretty but vacant) to fall in love with the nerdy Aladin there’s just no room for any forward movement in the plot. All Aladin does is sing and dance and indulge in verbal sparring with his magical mentor.
Mr. Bachchan brings in that special and unique blend of tongue-in-cheek wit and childlike chutzpah to his supernatural role. He played a ghost dost in Bhootnath. He plays Ghosh’s genie as more an entertainer than a meanie. We can’t remember the last time he seemed to be having so much fun. Furnishing the genie’s part with an audacious ingenuity he simply takes you to a world where wishes do come true.
Yup the Bachchan is that kind of a maestro.
Riteish Deshmukh is the perfect foil. Fearful anxious insecure and lonely, Deshmukh’s eyes convey ‘feary’-tales about wounds in rooms filled with conspiratorial ghouls and ogres.
Art director Sabu Cyril creates a magical synthesis of gothic architecture and the quaint but deep mystique of a hill station…right there at Mehboob Studios in Mumbai! Sirsha Ray’s camera has a whale of a time letting the lenses do all the talking, walking and exploring.
Is that a miracle, or what? Aladin could have been one of the most accomplished children’s films ever with special effects that comfortably nudge and wink at its Hollywood counterparts. Instead Ghosh’s narrative gets stuck in repetitive situations…Aladin chased by tormentors (Saahil Khan and co, repeatedly rescued by the phantasmagoric Guardian Angel… Much in the same way that Mr. Bachchan is expected to rescue all the films that feature his name in the credits.
The film’s most unimpressive performance comes from Sanjay Dutt who seems to think he’s Jack Nicholson doing a Joker in Batman Returns.
This Joker is poker-faced. ‘Brat’ Man never returns once he takes off on his own evil journey.
Aladin is a labour of love. It does get laboured at times and the going gets progressively tedious once we get to the point where we get the point.
But the film’s faith in the nurturing qualities inherent in fantasy never flags. You can’t stop yourself from smiling at the antics of the dude who epitomizes longevity.