Aladdin Movie Review

The Hindi language, as presented and executed in “Aladdin,” and the concepts (like the mimicry of popular Hindi actors including Salman Khan and Shatrughan Sinha) pull down the film. (photo provided)

Walt Disney Pictures present “Aladdin”

Produced by: Dan Lin & Jonathan Erich

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Written by: Gul Ritchie & John August, based on Disney’s “Aladdin” and “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” from “One Thousand and One Nights”

Music: Alan Menken

Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Nigehban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen & others

MUMBAI—The story is the well-known one. The treatment is contemporary, complete with lots of music and VFX. The 3-D is much better than that of the average live-action feature, in that it is bright and cheerful as well, though there is little that can be actually enhanced by it. The technical values are brilliant, as expected from a big-ticket Disney movie.

What struck me most about this film are its twin connections with India. One, the story’s treatment is amazingly like a Hindi movie. The emotions and body language of the main characters often remind you of Indian screenplays, and I am sure it is no coincidence. The first influence of Hindi cinema on Hollywood (far before the condescending term “Bollywood” was coined by Amit Khanna) was seen as far back as in the climax and post-climax of the original “Star Wars” directed by George Lucas all of 42 years ago, and since then in a zillion films. The climax in this film also tributes Hindi cinema in several ways.

The next Indian connection, sadly, augurs badly for the Hindi version of the film. The dialogues take recourse to the “Anything goes for juvenile humor” funda that is completely at odds with the location, timeframe and needs of the film. Come on, Mr. Dialogue Writer and whoever else is responsible for green-lighting these trite lines, Indian children are not idiots. An update: the lines are by Sajid Samji (second half of the writing team of Farhad-Sajid that has written so many rib-tickling lines in multiple Hindi hits). This is shocking!

An even bigger sore point is the lyrics, which sound as if they are forced to somehow fit the complex compositions. Regretfully, none of the compositions sound appealing because of this, and again shockingly, the Hindi songs are written by Irshad Kamil.

Without being unduly patriotic, let me just say that if two great talents fail in their respective fields, there is something wrong with the environs and decision-makers around the Hindi version!

So far as the Hindi voiceovers are concerned, Armaan Malik does a good job both in the dialogues and the songs of Aladdin, played by Mena Massoud in a flowing performance. Naomi Scott is a delight as Jasmine, and her Hindi dialogues (Muskaan Jaffrey) and singing voice (Monali Thakur) have an edge, and Thakur gets the Western flavor perfect in her intonations and perfect pitching.

The actor playing Jaffer (Marwan Kenzari), the sorcerer-baddie, hams, though Salil Acharya does a neat job of his Hindi lines. Navid Nigehban and Nasim Pedrad as the Sultan and Jasmine’s maid Dalia respectively and Vishnu Sharma and Richa Pallod score well as their voices, especially the latter. Sumit Kaul dubs for Prince Anders (played by Billy Magnussen), who reminds us, if one can be honest, of a contemporary young Congress leader’s worst antics.

Watch the English version for best results. I am sure the overall splendor will be justified by the characters’ lines and well-written songs. The Hindi language, as presented and executed, and the concepts (like the mimicry of popular Hindi actors including Salman Khan and Shatrughan Sinha) pull down the film.

Rating: *** (For the original film), brought down to ** (by the Hindi lines and songs)

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