ALADIN. Director: Sujoy Ghosh. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Sunjay Dutt, Ritesh Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandez. Music:Vishal Shekhar. Theatrical release: Eros International.

f1e85ec2eeb42e86e24251876bec118d-2From the director of the Jhankaar Beats and Home Delivery comes this VFX (Visual Effects) extravaganza, based on the middle-eastern story from the Book of One Thousand and One Nights. The movie was touted as the biggest special-effects film after Love Story 2050 and Drona, both of which, incidentally, were laughed out of theatres.

Yes, there is the eternally enchanting story of Aladdin complete with jinns, intrigue, and romance. There are also magnificent palaces and amazing special effects. For all that the movie, sadly, lacks magic.

The story is set in a fictitious town, Khwaish, where Aladin (Deshmukh), a puny college boy—complete with a satchel on his back—is bullied and teased and made to rub lamps because of his name. Along comes the beautiful Jasmine (Fernandez) and steals Aladin’s heart. It is a lamp gifted by her that brings out the genie, oddly namedGenius (Bachchan). Genius is in a hurry to give his three wishes and retire but Aladin asks him to help him woo Jasmine the old-fashioned way. Before the two can live happily ever after, villainy comes in the form of the satisfactorily evil-looking “Ringmaster” (Dutt). After some confusing rigmarole about a comet’s reflection being caught at a certain time, all ends well; the bad guys are vanquished and the lovers united.

The actors turn in good performances; Deshmukh is believably wimpy, Bachchan excels in both comic and heart-tugging scenes and gives an inspired and impressive performance as Genius, and Dutt is also well cast as the Ringmaster. However, beautiful though she is, Fernandez still has a long way to go as an actress.

Vishal-Shekhar’s tunes specially “Sasur ghar jaana” are foot-tapping but not really memorable.
The problem is: Who exactly is the target audience of this film? Director Ghosh apparently thought that mind-blowing VFX could make up for a haphazard script, which is why the story falls flat for grown-ups. If it was aimed at kids, why devote so much time to the unfolding romance?

The camerawork by Sirsha Ray, set design by Sabu Cyril, and special effects by Charles Darby are world class, but the fact remains that, so far, none of the big budget VFX films made in India have set the screen on fire. It is a pity that directors and producers have not taken the message: without a good script a movie will not work, no matter how good the packaging is.

Look at the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Disney’s Enchanted or even Satyajit Ray’s Goopi Gyne, Bagha Byne (made long before the world had heard of VFX); the common denominators for the success of these fantasy tales are strong storylines and scripts.

Maybe Bollywood could consider leaving this particular genre alone till it get the basics right?

Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer, teacher, and children’s author based in India.

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