Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: (Voiceovers) Shah Rukh Khan, Ashish Vidyarthi, Aryan Khan, Shernaz Patel, Shreyas Talpade, Sanjay Mishra, Asrani, Neha Gargava, Achint Kaur
I deliberately chose to first watch the Hindi version of Disney Films’ live action The Lion King for obvious reasons: Many top-line Indian actors who have been roped in as its voice cast to do the voiceovers. Of course, Simba’s story is always fascinating whether one reads it or gets to see it on screen, that too, at whatever age.
Is it worth one’s money? All those who love state-of-the-art technology and also comprehend the complexities of filmmaking, particularly in animation films, would love the film. For all those looking for yet another delight in terms of a cinematic experience, it falls somewhat below your expectations.
Budgeted at a whopping figure of $260 million worldwide, this Jon Favreau directorial had millions across the world looking forward to its release for long. Back home in India too, it is one of the most awaited films that is making cinefans equally excited about its wide release as the makers go all out to attract the audience to the theatres by releasing it in four different languages — English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
Using “virtual-reality tools”, visual effects supervisor Rob Legato has created a VR-simulated environment, combining VR technology with cameras in order to film the remake that has resulted in a new form of filmmaking.
The new version journeys to the African Savannah, where a future king is born — Simba — who idolises his father, King Mufasa. As the royal destiny plays out and celebrates Simba’s arrival, not everyone in the kingdom seems to be happy with the new cub. Scar, Mufasa’s brother and former heir to the throne who has aged and had to give up his rule — has plans of his own. As Simba gets groomed to replace his father as the head of the pride and the ruler, the battle for Pride Rock begins to show signs of betrayal, tragedy and drama. Scar tricks Simba and his best friend Nala (to whom Simba is betrothed) into exploring a forbidden elephants’ graveyard, where they are attacked by spotted hyenas led by Shenzi, Kamari and Azizi. The hornbill Zazu, however, makes a timely intervention, who rescues the cubs at the eleventh hour. Though upset with Simba, Mufasa forgives him and explains that the great kings of the past watch over them from the night sky, from which he will one day watch over Simba.
Soon, fate plays dirty with him. Ravaged by the unexpected turn of events that has Mufasa losing his life, Simba leaves and goes away on exile. He is deceived by Scar into believing that he caused Mufasa’s death, and so guilt-ridden is Simba that he takes refuge in a tropical paradise all by himself. Disillusioned and almost devastated, he is no mood to come back even as his mother Queen Sarabi wails and waits for his return. She also has a tough time warding off the evil intentions of Scar, who is keen to make her his queen. As things remain unchanged, Simba needs to figure out how to take back what rightfully belongs to him. His new friends are all he has and they never disappoint him.
It’s not so much the new version and its story that will hold your attention — there isn’t much of a new interpretation of the classic story or its content — rather it’s the same tale retold. But it comes with admittedly mind-blowing visuals that are detailed, and so, it’s a visual treat that has highly superior and sophisticated visual effects to create almost real-life animals, birds and insects to keep you entranced.
In the Gaurav Bhoomi referred to as the Hindi translation of Pride Land — that there are animals who are as emotionally wicked or affectionate as many among the human race are — is what we see in the wild world. Alongside, there is also the element of being duty bound and the overall concern for the subjects by the ruler remaining as humane is what you marvel at — but not so much by the similarity between them and us — it’s the lifelike animation that takes your breath away. From whiskers to the dental work, the CGI expertise weaves magic with the characters.
The reimagined tale that you get to enjoy for 118 minutes is low on energy and excitement though. It becomes imaginatively impoverished with nothing, almost nothing new to offer in terms of layered characterisation.
For me, though my biggest treat was the voiceovers done by Shah Rukh Khan (as Mufasa); Aryan Khan (as Simba); Ashish Vidyarthi (as Scar); Shreyas Talpade (as Timon); Sanjay Mishra (as Pumbaa); Asrani (as Zazu); Neha Gargava (as Nala); Shernaz Patel (as Sarabi) and Achint Kaur (as Shenzi). While all of them do a commendable job, it is Aryan Khan, the similarity of whose voice to his father SRK will surely keep you amused. As the adult Simba, he is all staid and unadventurous and with no punch added to make him standout. It is up to the likes of Sanjay Mishra and Shreyas Talpade as Pumbaa and Timon to woo the young adults in the audiences with their customary humour and funny one-liners.
The hyenas as lakad baggas in Hindi have been given a Bihari or Bhojpuri inflection to portray evil, and that also remains problematic with many of us. Why single out a community or a region and perpetuate the preconceived notion of a race that is marginalised and hence, wicked and nasty? It definitely is unfair and jars in this politically-charged environment that we all are a part of!...