Chaar Sahibzaade: Movie Review
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There have been countless number of Indian animated films (including a large chunk of made-for-TV ones) based on religious mythology, mostly the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and an occasional one about Hanuman and the others. So, Harry Baweja's Chaar Sahibzaade is certainly something of a first - I don't think there has been a movie about Guru Gobind Singh before - but the nagging question still remains: why can't animated filmmakers look elsewhere for subjects? Why the constant obsession with telling the kids the same old stories in an absolutely lackluster, reverential mode? The problem with Chaar Sahibzaade is that all it wants to do is tell the "story" of the protagonist's heroism and goodness and all that- something that any kid's grandparents can do with much more gravitas. There's zero effort to offer an update on the popular legend or to tell the story in an engaging, compelling way. Baweja resorts to the same old tricks to deify his heroes - the opponents (in this case, the Mughal emperors) are portrayed as conniving, detestable demons while also being boundlessly stupid. At one point in the film, four soldiers from the protagonist's army decide to leave the battle midway because the opposition army looks daunting in comparison to their own, and the film dutifully shows us scenes where they're all ridiculed by their family members. There's little by way of intrigue in Chaar Sahibzaade - a more thoughtful filmmaker would have perhaps chosen to focus on the character instead; giving him a set of weaknesses and vulnerabilities of his own, placing him in tough situations and taking the audience along on his journey. But the film is so fixated on merely telling the story in the blandest possible manner that it squanders every bit of opportunity to offer an inventive take on the subject. There are some unintentionally hilarious tropes Baweja uses, such as those tandem reaction shots of several characters that are common to a daily soap on TV. The film overuses voice-over narration (by Om Puri) which robs even its key scenes of any possible power. The animation, coupled with absolutely gratuitous 3D, still looks laughable to say the least - the level of detail offered here isn't a notch higher than the TV movies which were aired on cartoon channels in the early 2000s. Good guys in real life don't always make compelling movie characters. If this version is anything to go by, in real life the protagonists of Chaar Sahibzaade were without a doubt people worthy of admiration. At one point, the film demonstrates that Guru Gobind Singh was very liberal and forward-thinking and, contrary to how Sikhs are portrayed in Bollywood films (mostly starring Sunny Deol,) he wasn't a hotheaded belligerent but a reasonable pacifist. But the goodness of the person, sadly, doesn't negate the fact that Chaar Sahibzaade is a poorly realised film that is airless and inept on almost every level.