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‘Baby’ Review: Two-minute, instant nationalism!
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Singeetam Srinivasa Rao
Vinod Suryadevara, Smita Maroo
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Animations can be tricky. Evidently, because so few get the mix right—appealing to adults, regaling kids and offending neither.

In Ghatothkach, Bheem and his demon wife Hidimba have a son Ghatothkach, who has the rare combination of strength and proficiency in the art of magic. When Kaurava Duryodhan learns that Ghatothkach is his future slayer, he decides to stop the problem at the root. The two comic-demons sent to kill him are not successful. While baby Ghatothkach slays one of them the, other cops-out and lies that he’s done the job. Which is not true, of course.

Little Ghattu, as his mother calls him, spends his days strolling in the forest and he makes friends with an adorable baby elephant Gajju, who follows him around to learn magic. Years later, when they’re grown up (Ghatothkach looking rather unappealing with a pot belly and bushy moustache, much like the cartoon character Obelix), Gajju is still funny because he continues to goof up his magic mantras and causes mayhem.

Check out the Ghatothkach special | Read interview with director: 'At 75, I'm the biggest kid around'

Ghatothkach becomes involved in his cousin Abhimanyu’s (the stud of the film) love affair with Surekha (an annoying rajkumari sort who’s more helpless than the story book princesses you’ve grown up with). Since the Pandavas are facing exile, Surekha’s parents are keen to get her married to the wealthier Kauravas (Duryodhan’s son Lakshman, shown to be effeminate in the film).

To help his cousin, Ghatothkach abducts Surekha from her palace in Dwarkapuri, and taking her form, begins to live there. And with Lord Krishna’s approval of the goings on, Ghatothkach, in the form of Surekha, also gets set to marry Lakshman. The last 10 minutes have the mandatory good-versus-evil fight. And the abrupt ending hints at a probable sequel.

The animation is good, but perplexingly there are two kinds of animation at play. During two songs, the animation style changes to a more 3-D style (something like the one in Shrek), while otherwise the animation remains regular 2D. Perhaps the makers wanted to give the songs a different visual treatment, but then, it should have been consistent with all songs to avoid a lack of visual continuity. Otherwise, the animation is fairly good with all the usual suspects—saturated colours, adorable animal characters, a rascal-like adorable central protagonist with big blue eyes and sweeping lashes, and a fawning mother.

One cannot help but object to some outdated dialogues and ideas in the film, but that’s a given since this animation is mythology-driven. Women call their husbands swami and one woman consoles Surekha’s mother during her marriage with a `don’t cry. Daughters have to leave and go to their married home’. Huh, was this a kiddies’ animation film, or did we just step into a saas-bahu serial? Talking of inappropriate material for kids, the film has insinuated a love song between Abhimanyu and Surekha, where the two love birds, totally filmi style, cavort in a garden overflowing with flowers and end with an, ahem, kiss.

The second half goes a step further and actually has an ‘item song’ (Maya baazar) complete with bhangra music and skimpily clad women in the background! The lyrics are pretty good, but there’s a slip-up when the words in Maya baazar describe delicacies from the cities of Kolkata and Mumbai.

The songs in Ghatothkach are very imaginatively picturised and are sure to delight kids. Main hun Ghatothkach and Angalika bangalika are fun to watch, and in the latter, Ghatothkach even goes underwater and has a adventures with the fish. Even songs like Saja hai bhojanalay and Maya baazar (in parts) are visual treats. The music by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao (also the director) is the highlight of the film. He mixes various genres from rock and pop to bhangra and Mediterranean and comes up with a superb track.

It’s an ok film that thrives on animation clichés. Apart from the music and some interesting song picturisation, there’s really no other magic in Ghatothkach.

A final word—isn’t it time animation filmmakers thought up original characters or considered other possibilities for inspiration? Fed on a sparing diet of Hanuman, Hanuman Returns and Bal Ganesh, viewers are suffering mythology-fatigue and probably yearning for something fun without the history lessons.

Rating: 2 stars


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