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BOLLYWOOD | Film Review
Captive Storytelling: Arjun - The Warrior Prince

Directed by: Arnab Chaudhuri
Produced by: Ronnie Screwvala Siddharth Roy Kapur
Screenplay: Rajesh Devraj
Music: Vishal Shekhar
Cinematography: Hemant Chaturvedi
Yuddvir Bakolia as ‘Arjun,’ Anjan Srivastav as ‘Lord Shiva,’ Sachin Khedekar as ‘Lord Krishna,’ Ila Arun as ‘Kunti’ and Vishnu Sharma as ‘Bheeshma.’

Reviewed by: Joginder Tuteja
Rating: *** (Good)

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
Scene from “Arjun: The Warrior Prince.”

The most striking part of Arjun: The Warrior Prince that makes you look at the film in awe is its visual and dramatic quotient. Also, what makes a good impression is despite the fact that Mahabharata is a tale that has been heard countless times before, one doesn't get bored while watching some of the important episodes from the epic unfold in these 90 minutes. This is where first time director Arnab Chaudhuri's expertise unfolds as it ensures that the story sticks to its core theme and the viewer is glued to the film for most part.

The film focuses on the growing-up years of Arjun and how, despite the skills he had gained, he turned into a warrior only after certain incidents in his life shook him up. Though initially he felt that, like Bheem, he could never be a killer on the battlefield, once he was challenged by his wife Draupadi to bring back her honor, he stepped into the field, only to never look behind.

With Arjun portrayed as the protagonist, the film ends before the War of Kurukshetra. However, that seems intentional as a sequel could well be on the cards. Moreover, the hour-and-a-half of storytelling that leads to this point is engaging enough.

Whether it is the chariot race sequence at the very beginning of the film or the one where he enters the swayamvara and wins Draupadi's hands, it is the grandeur that catches one’s attention. What is most impacting though is the climax where Arjun breaks into the chakravyuha and saves a kingdom where he was living during his agyaatwaas (exile). It is stunning.

There are enough dramatic portions that make you look at the scenes as they unfold even though you pretty much know what would happen next. Whether it is Shakuni mama's brainwashing of Duryodhana, the one where the latter introduces an outcast tribe to the former and most importantly the sequence where Yudhishtir loses everything to both of them in the game of chausar, you are on the edge of the seat to see what would happen next.

Unfortunately, it is not the case for the entire film as after every good dramatic or action sequence, there are five to seven minutes of boring punctuations that just do not add up.

An attempt to inject humor via Bheem hardly works while the lakshagraha fire sequence isn't that impressive. The background sequence and the overall sound design, which otherwise works quite well in dramatic and action sequences, just pulls the film down at the emotional points, courtesy an excessive usage of violin which instead of bringing tragedy ends up making the film a tad too old fashioned.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
Scene from “Arjun: The Warrior Prince.”

The dialogs are average and though they do well to bring an interesting dimension to Shakuni's character (it is the most filmy of the lot and works well too), the ones mouthed by Arjun to Duryodhana to Yudhishtir and even Krishna (who makes a special appearance of sorts) don't leave much of an impression.

Still, one has to give credit to Arnab Chaudhuri for bringing good detailing into the proceedings. First, it leaves aside the clichéd raja-maharaja palaces, costumes, setting and weapons that one has seen in countless films and television serials over the last three decades. He brings an altogether different design that actually suits the era and hence there are far more outdoor sets than indoors. Moreover, it is apparent that he had an entirely different vision for his maiden venture and that shows in the way he shoots his sequences, albeit on a computer rather than a camera.

What is also impressive is the fact that instead of 'shot one-shot two-shot three' formula that almost all animation films follow, at least the ones coming out of Bollywood, Arjun: The Warrior Prince has several well mounted sequences where camera follows the characters instead of capturing them at a particular angle. This is visible in the chariot sequence where several aerial shots and multiple angles enhance the overall appeal of the visuals. Ditto in the swayamavar sequence as well as the one where Arjun and his family arrive in Hastinapur to introduce Draupadi to Dhritrashtra. Kudos!

However, lets face it, this isn't the first time when an animation film from Bollywood has demonstrated such expertise. A year and a half back it was Chetan Desai-directed Ramayana - The Epic which had explored a different dimension in animation. Not just was its sound design better, at several places it's quality of animation was of a higher standard as well. Moreover, it boasted of a far more colorful appeal that made it a rich cinematic experience.
Arjun: The Warrior Prince may not have scored as high as Ramayana - The Epic in these aspects but as an effective tale being told, it indeed works.

Joginder Tuteja is a Bollywood writer based in Mumbai, India.


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