IT'S A JOLLY BOLLYWOOD WITH DISNEY @ 25 August 2011 06:46 PM
A new Walt Disney Home Entertainment product line has just introduced three live-action Walt Disney Pictures features, all filmed in India in Hindi language with optional English subtitles. Disney initiated an ambitious roster of movie productions in India in recent years, including one animated feature called Roadside Romeo.
The recent trio of live-action features -- all released with the full-blown Walt Disney Pictures logo and intro -- are actually quite different in style and tone, all PG family-friendly for the most part (only one is rated PG-13 for violence).
My favorite of the three films is a gentle, offbeat family comedy/drama called Do Dooni Chaar, which translates as "Two Twice Equals Four." An underpaid, under-appreciated school teacher struggles with family squabbles as he putt-putts to work every day on a broken down scooter. His lame but lovable efforts to impress relatives, deal with his adolescent children and scrape together enough money for a small car (even buying boxes of detergent and, using the law of averages, get a winning prize ticket inside one of the boxes) are amusing and just far out enough to be funny but not so outlandish to be ridiculous..
The film is pretty stark and unsentimental, yet it ends on a very sweet, believable note. Along the way, there are some songs. Music and songs are a staple of Bollywood films, but rather than songs stopping the action and the cast singing and breaking character, the songs are heard on the soundtrack much as they are in American films and TV shows.
My 12-year-old son loved Zokkomon, which was aimed squarely at his age group. A sort of Karate Kid-meets-Zorro, Jr., this Disney Channel-style feature concerns a small, superstitious village under the corrupt thumb of a greedy despot, whose adopted nephew (shades of Harry Potter) becomes a ghostly superhero that spurs the children into action and helps lead the adults into realizing the truth.
This film could easily be dubbed and shown on Disney XD. Might be a little creepy for very small children, though. The songs in this film were a blend of off- and on-camera singing but they still seem to make sense and accentuate the narrative.
The most lavish of the three films, Once Upon Warrior, is also the most typical of what "Bollywood" films are "supposed" to be, at least based on my limited knowledge of them and my daughter's observations of films she watches at the home of our Indian neighbors. That makes it a rather unique experience for American audiences unacquainted with the "typical" genre.
Once Upon A Warrior is a full-blown action/adventure/fantasy, drenched in color and detail and played to the hilt by its cast. It comes complete with a dashing, rebellious hero, a lovely and mysterious maiden and a Maleficent-like evil witch to whom power is everything.
The film veers from grim, serious drama to broad comedy, not always seamlessly. Again, I'm looking at it with an inexperienced eye, so perhaps it's just perfect to the Indian audience, to whom it is is primarily directed. There is a lot of action violence, including a scene in which the hero has his eyes stabbed out (we really don't see, but we know), so it's not for everyone.
The songs are the most interesting aspect. This is something I am told is a staple of Bollywood movies, in which the actors seem to completely break out in song and change their attitude as they bop and sing to the bouncy tune. It's a little jarring at times and kind of amusing. But perhaps that is the intent -- we're not supposed to take any of this too seriously, let's take a break and have some fun and dance a bit. It's certainly an entertaining thing to behold.
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