All material copyright Rohit Iyer unless otherwise stated.

27 October 2008

Roadside Romeo

I saw the film a few days ago. I was going in with low expectations: I didn’t like the designs (quadripeds standing on two legs is kinda awkward), but I was still curious. Unlike many Indian “animated” features, which are sometimes more like animatics, the trailers for Roadside Romeo showed full animation and some real acting, for a change. Also I was interested in how local this film would really be.

I can’t believe I’m saying this: I actually enjoyed myself. It’s easy to make fun of this film, but when you realize it’s not trying to be more than it really is, you can’t help HAVING fun instead. The story is very cliched - a rich bratty dog named Romeo gets left on the streets of Mumbai when his family leaves for London. He befriends the street dogs, falls in love and hoodwinks the local bull dog villain (Charlie Anna, he literally steals the show).

What it lacks in terms of plot, the film makes up for with some great voice acting and insightful humour. The gags here are not translated from Hollywood, but rather from live-action Bollywood. The characters talk like stereotypes definitley, but INDIAN stereotypes, and that is (in a small way) a step forward.

The film has been written and directed by former (failed) Bollywood actor, Jugal Hansraj, and he actually does a good job of balancing comedy with interesting characters. The animation was done by Tata Elxsi - - and while character design and art direction do take a back seat, the animation itself is pretty good, without a hint of motion capture.

I’m pretty sure that by having Disney involved in this, the standards have definitely been raised. Made over a two-and-a-half year period, it seems to have come along pretty quickly.
My only hope is that this film, while bordering on mediocre, opens up avenues for better big-budget animated features here in India.

I know this has kind of turned into a mini-review I’ll just finish by saying, if you’re a Bollywood fan - go see it. Otherwise a lot of the in-jokes will fly past.