Thursday, 12 September 2013

Arjun: The Warrior Prince

Arjun is the middle of five brothers and son of an abdicated king.  Their return to the empire sends ripples through the aristocracy as their claim to the throne matches that of their cousins.  Political intrigue ensues as if Arjun and his brothers cannot be assassinated before long, a war will surely come to pass.

Disclaimer: I have no prior knowledge of Arjun (a.k.a. Arjuna) or the original Mahabharata epic from which this film is inspired.  As such I can only offer a superficial opinion compared to more culturally fluent audiences, and I get the impression the story is widely known throughout India to which this film is targeted.  A little prerequisite knowledge might be useful to the viewer, but I didn’t really feel that I was missing a whole lot out by coming in blind and still feel confident in recommending this film to anyone wanting a grand-scale film.

Arjun’s story covers many years as he grows into adulthood and the film rolls at a steady pace.  The film’s grand scale is weighted by following only a few key characters and resists in indulging itself in its potentially huge cast.  It keeps things simple, and is still easily able to fill its 95-minute running time (less 5 minutes if you skip the intermission).

Arjun’s characters are animated as cel-shaded CG characters on a mixture of 2D, 3D and composite backgrounds.  The slightly low frame rate of the animation is occasionally distracting but the overall quality of the film is quite high.  It’s below the usual Disney/Pixar standard, but is easily several notches above the majority of its home competitors.  Some of the 2D background work is particularly stunning and conveys the scale of the story well.

One of the more intriguing elements about Arjun is that Disney logo seen at the beginning of the film and draped on the promotional art.  Disney had no hand in the film’s production and acts only as the film’s distributor, so it would have been easy for them to release this title as a Touchstone or Buena Vista release and think nothing more of it.  The logo appears almost as a seal of approval that this is a film they are happy to be associated with in the Indian market, possibly with half an eye to encourage more films of this standard to be produced.  Don’t hold your breath for a western release as the subject matter is probably seen as too culturally unique for general audiences while the violence beyond anything you’ve seen in any other animated Disney product.  The local DVD happily contains good quality English subtitles however and is definitely worth seeking out.

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