Arjun: The Warrior Prince (Arnab Chaudhury, 2012)
It’s not really fair to lambast an Indian animation production like Arnab Chaudhuri’s Arjun: The Warrior Prince simply because it does not live up to the aesthetic that we are accustomed to via Pixar or Dreamworks. This is matter of pure technology and not one of narrative or creative input. Arjun in all regards is a landmark achievement for Bollywood because it represents a step forward in almost every category that can be linked to the art of animation filmmaking. The drawing is a crossbreed between a 2D and 3D format, most closely reminiscent of Dreamworks’ 1998 film The Prince of Egypt. At its best, Arjun is a film even more mature and well-postured than Bollywood’s live action epics, if only for the fact that it doesn’t revel in its imagery (which is something animation directors can get easily caught up with), but instead its beautiful scenery and palaces only serve as a theatrical stage for the confrontations that Arjun has with his enemies and friends. Chaudhuri beautifully manages to carve the tale with such a graceful poise, that it manages to bring out the essence of the Mahabharata, which is that the important moments in life are not made with actions, but with words and thought. The final battle scene in the film is almost an afterthought and happens so swiftly that you may miss it if you blink too often. This, for the undemanding, impatient entertainment crowd, may be a gigantic letdown, but really it is a revelation that modern live-action Bollywood cinema has never managed to accomplish; the most important moments within Arjun happen in conversation and introspection, whether it be while basking in the sunlight (for the protagonists) or conniving in the dark (for the antagonists). The final battle thus becomes only a 5 second explosion to 2 hours of a mental and verbal tug of war between greed, power, faith and dignity. We know who is going to win and we know how, but for the first time in a long time for Indian cinema, the process is actually interesting and more than worth your time… who knew it would be accomplished by an animation film, a form of cinema India has only wet its feet in.