Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Roadside Romeo — Doggy tale gone wrong
When you find the villain of the film more endearing than the hero and even 90 minutes seem like a lifetime, there has to be something wrong with the film.
That’s right. Charlie Anna, the heavy, farting and bespectacled bulldog with a south Indian accent, who throws a spanner in Romeo’s plans, is way more entertaining and funny than the protagonist of Roadside Romeo
Romeo, the actual hero, comes across as a somewhat cowardly, smooth-talking snob. And the Jugal Hansraj-directed Walt Disney co-produced “Roadside Romeo” seems like an incredibly long, boring film merely because the script is quite shoddy.
In fact, I felt everyone associated with the film sat down one day, decided they were going to make an animation film about a dog, realised at the last minute they actually needed a script, and threw together the most clichéd plot line, hoping this would be masked by some good animation.
Ultimately though, a good film is about a good story, even if it is a simple one. The film starts off with Romeo (voiced by Saif Ali Khan), a pampered dog, being forced to live on the streets because the people he belonged to go abroad.
Unused to the ways of the real world, he is flustered at first, but soon finds friends in the form of Interval, Mini, Guru and Hero English, a group of strays who take him into their fold. Romeo teaches them to be “cool”, gives them haircuts and they all start a doggy salon together. Romeo even falls in love, with the mysterious Laila (Kareena Kapoor).
Enter Charlie Anna, the neighbourhood goonda, who has his sights set on Laila. Romeo, in a somewhat cowardly attempt to save his skin, promises Charlie Anna he will convince Laila to be his “girlfriend”, all the while romancing her on his own.
Laila finds out, pouts, and dumps Romeo. Charlie Anna finds out too, and come baying for Romeo’s blood. At this point, you are supposed to feel sympathetic. I just felt that Romeo kind of had this coming.
I wasn’t hoping for a “Ratatouille” or a “WALL-E”, but I wasn’t expecting a half-baked Bollywood film either. This was supposed to be Walt Disney’s entry into India. Yes, the animation is good. Not world class, but good enough. But whatever happened to the good old story?
Animation films have a children’s audience in mind, and the plot shouldn’t be too complicated. But who said simple couldn’t mean good? This plot is filled with characters mouthing old Yashraj film dialogues, item numbers, and even a full-on kissing scene, all of which I am not sure are entirely appropriate for kids.
Of the performances, Jaaved Jaafrey as Charlie Anna is undoubtedly superb, bringing little nuances to the role that make you laugh out loud. Tanaaz Currim as Mini is also very effective, but the real standout performance for me was Chainoo, Charlie Anna’s scruffy sidekick, voiced brilliantly by Sanjay Mishra.
Saif Ali Khan is staid and a little boring as Romeo, while Kareena Kapoor hardly has any lines as Laila.
In the end, I was disappointed in the film, merely because with the skill and resources at hand, there could have been a much better product on display.