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I dream of Genie



Rating: 3

October 30, 2009

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ritesh Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandes

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Few films encourage you to free your mind and unleash your imagination. Say what you will about the Amitabh Bachchan-Ritesh Deshmukh starrer Aladin, but you cannot complain that you’ve seen this kind of Hindi film before.

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, Aladin is set in the make-believe city of Khwaish in Northern India, where a puny boy named Aladin Chatterjee (played by Ritesh Deshmukh) has been bullied all his life and forced to rub lamps by his classmates because he shares his name with the character from that popular fairytale.

On rubbing one such lamp, a genie does appear. This one’s named Genius; he’s played by Amitabh Bachchan in a gawdy wardrobe, and he wants to quickly grant Aladin his three wishes so he can retire in peace.

Aladin’s nursing a crush on the pretty new student in class, Jasmine (played by newcomer Jacqueline Fernandes), but knows it’s unlikely she’ll return his affections. Determined not to use the help of magic to win her over, Aladin urges Genie to help him woo her the old-fashioned way.

In a parallel track, the film’s villain, an ex-genie named Ringmaster (played by Sanjay Dutt) wants to get his hands on that lamp so he can take over the world.

Ghosh uses superlative special effects to bring this fable to life, even if the narrative itself is occasionally choppy, leaving you befuddled over important plot-points like a comet whose reflection must be caught to gain genie powers. The film’s often too-simplistic, going for light-hearted jokes and gags but it’s still a welcome relief from the crude humor we’ve been subjected to in the name of entertainment lately.

Aimed squarely at the kids, Aladin is a spectacle of sweeping sets, lavish dance numbers and never-before-seen visual effects including a stunning sequence in which Genius is raised to the skies, his chest ripped open and his powers snatched away. Not all is perfect, though.

The editing is abrupt in places, with Ringmaster’s scenes appearing almost forced into the narrative on more than occasion. The screenplay lacks smoothness, and leaves the audience to fill up the blanks themselves.

Of the cast, Sanjay Dutt leaves a strong impression as Ringmaster, his look and his wardrobe contributing as much to his performance as his menacing delivery. Amitabh Bachchan is consistent, if a little OTT as Genius, but it’s his scenes with Ritesh’s Aladin that are the heart of this film. First-timer Jacqueline Fernandes is easy on the eye and appears confident, but has precious little to do.

In the end, Aladin, belongs to Ritesh Deshmukh whose endearing performance pins you to your seat even when you’re craving a loo-break after three back-to-back songs test your patience.

I’m going with three out of five for director Sujoy Ghosh’s Aladin; it’s a worthy watch, especially for the kids. It’s also a rare reminder that you can have good, clean fun at the movies. Beneath all the special effects however, it’s a noble story about standing up for what’s right.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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