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Prabho Shivaji Raja review: Good intentions tripped by poor execution

Release Date: 16 Feb 2018 / Rated: U / 01hr 46min

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

The first animated Marathi movie has an impressive voiceover by actor Umesh Kamat.

First-time director Nilesh Muley’s Prabho Shivaji Raja is the first animation film in Marathi. After many decades, whenever a list of such films in the language will be compiled, the name of this movie will appear first.

Unfortunately, this is going to remain Prabho Shivaji Raja’s only major achievement. The film has its moments for sure, but, ultimately, it turns out to be an example of noble intentions not being executed effectively.

The film is an animated biopic of the great Maratha king Shivaji. He takes birth when the region that is today Maharashtra is under the boot of the Mughals.

Shivaji grows up to be both courageous and intelligent. His mother Jijabai has a big role to play in his upbringing. Shivaji starts battling his enemies from a young age. The film tells how he goes about setting up what he characterized as Hindavi Swaraj.

Prabho Shivaji Raja is like a musical biopic with the constant and natural use of impressive songs composed by Bharat Balwali. Shankar Mahadevan shows his class in the track on lord Shiva and another on the greatness of Shivaji.

The film gets you interested with its creativity, especially through the mythological analogy. The character of Shivaji is introduced by comparing him with the god Shiva. This could have fallen flat if it lacked smart presentation, but, thankfully, that is not the case. 

Inspiration from the Indian epic Ramayan is also clearly visible. When Ravan was creating havoc on earth, the gods urged Vishnu to intervene. The lord took birth as Ram with the sole aim of eliminating Ravan. In the film, a priest prays to the goddess Bhawani for freedom from the atrocities of the Mughals. And Shvaji is born in Junnar.

The writer and director get the character of Shivaji, from his childhood to his youth, right. Besides being a brave and strong warrior, he was known to defeat his enemies with his intelligence. This aspect of the Maratha warrior makes the character believable and inspirational.

These plus points in the first half, obviously, raise your expectations. However, the film's graph goes down after the halfway stage. The screenplay loses its flow and incidents are presented hurriedly and in a haphazard manner.

It is obvious that the audience will expect the inspirational story of the leader to end in an impactful manner. What we get instead is a lukewarm ending. This will certainly not go down well with the kids, the biggest target audience.

It is easy to see, and understandable, that the director wants to glorify his hero. What is not understandable is how he goes about achieving this goal, by failing to imbue any depth to his antagonists, the Mughals. The audience is only told by the voiceover about their evil activities; they are never shown committing any. We are supposed to hate them because they are the Mughals, they look dangerous and they wear angry expressions.

But the downfall of Prabho Shivaji Raja is the poor quality of animation. When the audience today is exposed to all kinds of brilliant animated films from the West, this job looks 15-20 years behind the times. The visuals of landscapes and forts are bearable, but the images of humans, especially when they are speaking, are almost embarrassing.

This is not all. When two groups are shown indulging in swordplay, it appears as if they are dancing in pairs. There is a scene in which sweets are distributed from a plate that is actually empty. Such gaffes ensure that even the impact of the film's plus points is subdued.

The voiceovers, which are very important in an animated film, are good. Umesh Kamat plays a big role in bringing alive the character of Shivaji. He effortlessly portrays the king's strength as well as his soft heart. Sachin Khedekar is naturally passionate as the narrator. 

Ujwala Jog’s voice perfectly suits the caring and strong-willed mother Jijabai. Uday Sabnis does justice to the brave, loyal and courageous character of Baji Prabhu Deshpande. The voice artistes save the film from becoming a disaster.