Review: Drona bites the dust


Goldie Behl

Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Kay Kay Menon

Is he a storybook superhero, a mythological figure, a prince, or an ordinary guy who forgot to shave? Nope, it’s Drona. What a drone, really.

Priyanka Chopra’s voiceover introduces us to the story, which, for the first ten minutes reads like a mythology lesson. So we learn that there’s this vial of amrit (nectar of immortality) that the asuras (demons) are after and the caretaker of this fluid, the one with adbudh bal, is called Drona. It’s a legacy passed down the generations (where, but naturally, the Dronas only bear sons). We meet present Drona; he’s called Aditya (Abhishek Bachchan) and lives in Europe with a churlish aunt and her annoying son. The mother-son duo put Aditya through such grind, they'd put Cinderella’s stepsisters to humble shame. His only recourse is a blue petal that floats ever so often his way.

One day, a new petal guides Aditya, all grown up and stubbly now, to a bracelet (golden with a red and green stone; tacky, tacky). Once he wears the bracelet, he meets the new-age demon in the guise of magician Riz Raizada (Kay Kay), and thus starts the race for the amrit.

Drona is guided by a bodyguard (Priyanka Chopra, luscious, but carrying a tasseled weapon that couldn’t hurt a mosquito), who starts most of her sentences with babuji kehte the. Riz’s army comprises a bunch of black hoods right out of The Lord of the Rings series. Drona and counterpart Sonia then set off to decipher a series of clues to reach to the amrit, and through the journey we see Hatimtai-type (remember the Jeetendra movie?) fantastical encounters and visual effects.

For one, there’s a magical town called Raazpur, full of midgets wearing pale blue eye shadow, with the location’s art direction straight out of a school craft project. Sadly, as bodyguard, Sonia is rather incompetent. Getting either injured or kidnapped, she’s mostly rescued by this Drona chap rather than the other way around. Of course, the two fall in love, making way for a forced, boring romantic song. The final confrontation between Drona and Riz is riddled with an excessive clink-clank of swords and dialogue baazi about achai-burai and andhera-ujala (good vs. evil; light vs. darkness).

Technically, the film needed more masterful work. The cinematography by Sameer Arya (Koi…Mil Gaya, Malamaal Weekly) is ok for the most part, but revels in some frightful close-ups occasionally. The main flaw is with the writing where no attempt was made to add depth to the characters or think up innovative plot movements. It seems a rehash of former superhero movies—there’s the unknowing child hero from Harry Potter and Koi…Mil Gaya, the predictable love angle, the insinuated songs, the special effects from a hundred Hollywood pictures.

Execution by director Goldie Behl (Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai, 2001) is weak, making a comedy out of intended-to-be intense scenes. There’s the one where Drona’s secret guards, people he’s known all along, are revealed (a neighborhood nun, a chef, two local goons and yadda yadda); one them being Sonia. She explains the secret of Drona to a baffled Aditya and then immediately breaks into a hip song with several oiled musclemen in a garage set-up.

She also insists on calling him Adi sir, as do the others. Which era are we in, exactly? If it’s present time, then why are they wearing those ridiculous costumes with flowing brocades, turbans and all? Apart from looking plain silly, you’d agree it’s a pretty tough call for Drona to dodge a circle of attackers while adjusting his embroidered dupatta. Then of course, after a grippingly picturised zoom-vroom car chase, Sonia and the black hoods decide to combat each other using old-world swords and knives. To the film’s credit, some action scenes are truly engaging – the car chase mentioned above and a train sequence in the second half.

Special effects are nothing special. The faces forming out of sand dunes, we’ve seen already in The Mummy, thank you. The production design (Tania Behl) is unimpressive. Even a conch that’s of utmost importance to the story is painted a garish purple and decorated with stuff you’d in your local hobby store.

Abhishek Bachchan, who has magnanimously carried off challenging roles in the past, is out of sorts here. Slightly overweight and too-stubbly, he’s unconvincing in the role. Much more likeable is the eccentric Riz essayed superbly by Kay Kay Menon. So interesting is this dark character with a sense of humour (inspired by the Joker from Batman), you almost root for him instead. Priyanka Chopra looks like a trillion bucks, and one wishes her character was given more solid foundation.

She excels in the action scenes, but is reduced to a whimpering heroine who waits for the horse-bound hero to rescue her. Jaya Bachchan is graceful in her short role as Drona’s mother, never mind the carelessly overdone make-up.

This is the case of a film where every aspect is affected. There’s the filmmaker’s smug assurance of wowing the audience with visual excesses. This `all show-no soul’ mode is based on the assumption that the viewer is otherwise deprived of such visual splendour. So many films, Love Story 2050 and Saawariya, to talk of the recent, have gone down this road. What to say, another one bites the dust.

Verdict: One and a half stars

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