Arjun: The Warrior Prince is a kaleidoscopic dazzler of what the possibilities are if thought and aesthetics are applied to our bottomless reserve of mythological wealth
When you think of the Mahabharata or Ramayana adapted to the screen, for some reason a predominant reference point is that of the TV serials that became symbolic of life in socialist India – dhobis, domestic servants, neighbours without television all scrambling for space in the living room so that they could watch televised versions of what BR Chopra and Ramanand Sagar had been inspired to make using India’s epic tomes for inspiration. So much so that Mark Tully’s India book from the time even had a chapter dedicated to the phenomenon. And a phenomenon it was. A captive audience of close to half a billion were obsessed with Ramayana and Mahabharata in the late ‘80s. These were Doordarshan’s answer to Cecil Demille.
Flash-forward to 2012: it has taken close to $2.5 million dollars and ace animator Arnab Chaudhuri to make Arjun: The Warrior Prince, possibly India’s only international standard animation feature. Thank god for it, one might add. For here is a feature that merges incredible backdrops with intelligently rendered characters – superb art direction truly meets world-class Disney expertise in an animated feature film that will equally delight children and their mid-life crisis-riddled parents on the weekend.
A look at the trailer
The story is the ‘untold story of Arjun’, hero of the Mahabharata, cast in an impressive coming-of-age saga that brings him face-to-face with Duryodhana in a battle that is the precursor to the Kurukshetra war. The characters are amiably sketched, creating a benchmark for how Indians can view themselves in animated form outside of the Jungle book/Rudyard Kipling type of exotica. A lot of exotica abounds here as well, but here is a canvas that is so meticulously researched that you don’t mind diving into the exotica. Here is an India that was lush, mystic and marvellous enough for wars to be fought over it.
On a final note, the screenplay by Rajesh Devraj sets a pleasant balance between entertainment and the ‘main samay hoon’ sort of gravitas. Arjun should well be on your DVD-to-gift list when it releases later in the year (especially for your confused NRI relatives) but you should also try to take some time out and watch it on the big screen. It promises to enthral you.