Mumbai, 05 Jul 2018 19:00 IST
Updated: 06 Jul 2018 11:22 IST
Directed by Ezhil Vendan, the animated feature neither comes across as an impactful dramatic story, nor as an impressive work of animation.
For all his fame and worth as the most famous animator of all time, Walt Disney referred to himself as a 'storyteller'. It is here that the Indian animation industry finds itself faltering. Where the western world of animation finds new ways of telling age old fables in the form of Brave (2012), Moana (2016), Coco (2017), Indian animation seems to be unsuccessful in trawling a very rich mythology to create similarly enchanting universes or characters.
Ezhil Vendan's Hanuman v/s Mahiravana seems to be a film in the similar direction.
The film taps into the fable of Mahiravana, who, in the epic Ramayana, kidnapped Rama and Lakshmana on the penultimate day of the battle for Lanka. The story, a fairly obscure part of the legend, is one that has enough mystique, adventure and action to lure in the audience. But the trouble is creating a screenplay and characters that emerge out of it.
Vendan's film has all the elements of adventure in place with a ghastly villain, muscular heroes, and very dark and creepy monsters, but seems to have lost focus on the character arc of its protagonists. Whether it is the heroic Hanuman or Rama himself, there is little to draw, children or adults, towards the story other than the curiousity about the animation.
The story revolves around Hanuman having to venture into the underworld of Mahiravana in order to rescue Rama and Lakshman and restore parity to the battle against Ravana. On his way down, he battles snake men, giant leeches, and venomous plants, not to mention the shadowy mystique of Mahiravana. In the end, he emerges victorious.
Credit is due for the attempt to add some structure to the fairly simple storyline. The portrayal of Mahiravana, as a man with an agenda separate from his king, Ravana, is also interesting. However, it all fails due to the lack of a developmental arc.
As for the animation, the team at Green Gold Animation have certain elements going for them. The creation of the underworld with its cavernous palaces, lakes and neverending falls is impressive. However, the characters seem to have the similar problem that has plagued Indian animation - of appearing plastic. Whether it is Rama, Lakshmana or Ravana, there is a certain plasticity that makes their walking, posture, or behaviour hard to relate to or believe in. This is compounded with a wafer-thin screenplay that works against the film.
Trying to squeeze in a romantic song between Rama and Sita is also not the best of ideas.
The 3D animation is impressive in moments like the fall into the vast cavern. However, it only works in close focus. With multiple characters in the background, the effects seem to be crowded out, and have little impact. The lack of co-ordination betweeen the voice dubbing and the lip movement on screen adds to the problem.
In the end, the film fails to make an impact either as an animated adventure, or a retelling of the ancient legend of Mahiravana.
Watch the film's trailer below:
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