On July 26th, Disney made cinematic history when they simultaneously released two Hindi films (Do Dooni Char, Zokkomon) and one Telugu film (Anaganaga O Dheerudu / Once Upon a Warrior) on DVD, digital download and video-on-demand in the US.
I opted for the Siddharth swashbuckler directed by Prakash Kovelamudi that had its theatrical release in January of this year – Anaganaga O Dheerudu /Once Upon a Warrior – and did a completely spontaneous watchalong with my Midwest chum Beth (she of Beth Loves Bollywood and a considerable Siddharth enthusiast). With one hour time difference between us, we both logged on and - after I ran into some initial glitches at the Disney press (free) screening site and gave up, opting to fork over the $4 to Amazon to see it - we were off.
I have to admit, it’s a bit distracting to watch a film, and a subtitled one at that, while also typing your comments on screen and reading the other person’s, but it was a fun way to see immediately what things about a film are appealing to the other person, versus your own likes and dislikes, and we did have quite a few yuks between us.
I commend Disney for dipping their toes in the multiple option delivery arrangement pool, and I hope more people will get on the band wagon and with newer films (day-and-date anyone? Please?), but I also have to admit I do not get a thrill out of watching films on a computer. I tried recently to see how many films I could see via streaming before Netflix started its new price scheme and I got as far as 3.5 over the space of a week and a half before I had to stop. For me, if I can’t watch a movie in a cinema, then the next best preference is the comfort of my home in front of the massive TV in the living room. But that’s not Disney’s fault; if it looks like watching more and more films this way will be possible legally, then I’ll be hooking up the living room TV to the Interwebs pronto.
The film is about an evil snake queen Irendri (a wonderfully petulant Lakshmi Manchu) on a fictitious teardrop-shaped island who has got it in for a precocious girl child with healing hands named Moksha, who has to go on a journey protected by the amiable and blind warrior Yodha (not Yoda, YodHa), played by Siddharth. Along the way, we find out how Yodha lost his eyesight and how he met his beloved Priya (Shruti Haasan). Then there’s a whole story line about the tiny snake living inside Irendri’s choker and how it needs a drop or two of Priya’s blood, but let’s not bother ourselves about the story… this movie’s strength is the amazing visuals of the sets and the kingdoms they create along with the often stunning, sometimes baffling costumes.
Beth and I were both agog over the multi-culti Pier One type décor and the striking color themes (a lot of non-country-specific Asian/Buddhist red/yellow combinations, also the blue/green peacock colors) and we were apoplectic when we first saw Irendri’s naag-influenced lair and clothes…there were bright crimson snake eyebrows and hair, snake shoulder pad-epaulets, snake headdresses (which eerily foreshadowed Philip Treacy’s princessly millinery creation in April).
We were equally delighted by the playfulness of the seaside gypsy camp where Priya does her tarot thang in her peacock-themed apartment, while people play board games out on the beach and go about in snail shell boats.
The romantic angle of the story allowed for several songs and multiple costume changes, some more successful than others, especially when it came to our handsome male lead, who got the short end of the costume stick. There were some odd uses and slapdash fabric application and quasi codpieces and such that had us wondering what they were thinking (to say nothing of the fact that there is an on-screen credit for the wig wrangler!), but Shruti was generally better kitted out.
She got some lovely peacock-inspired outfits that, even when not in the blue-green shades still managed to carry the motif on, albeit in red and with a matching sideways pointsettia fascinator. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a beautiful girl to begin with.
One big disappointment was the sudden appearance at the seaside gypsy camp (with “camp” being the operative word here) of an effeminate man with pinwheel breasts who seemed to be there for nothing more than comic entertainment, and both Beth and I said boo-hiss at the anti-gay flavor of that role. I guess it’s because of him and his suggestive demeanor that the film is rated PG-13. I still find it baffling and sad in this day and age that prancing, camped-up gay man = easy laughs, especially when you consider that this film is intended to appeal to kids. This is what we’re telling them is acceptable behavior?
See it or skip it?
If you like the prospect of any story with a “long-ago-and-far-away” bent, and are not going to sit there and meticulously pick apart plot points and ask sensible things like “Why did Yodha throw his only sword at the bad guy?” or “Why did he just jump down off that ledge if he has to jump back up to get to the bad guy?” then you’ll be fine.
The film is visually spectacular and entertaining, even with the faults mentioned, and we both kept typing to each other “Oh man, I wish I were watching this on a cinema screen!”