Hanuman Da Damdaar movie review: Fun for kids, 'dumb-daar' for adults
Your curiosity is piqued when Hanuman Da Damdaar announces a stellar voice cast, the subject of Hanuman and an interesting filmmaker at the helm.
Ruchi Narain, who wrote Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi before directing her first film, Kal –Yesterday and Tomorrow (2005), picks the animated Hanuman Da Damdaar for her next project. The film also carries the very clever line “Jahan na pahunche Superman wahan pahunche Hanuman!” (Hanuman can reach places even Superman cannot conquer).
Unlike several modern animated films, in particular those from the exceptional Pixar Animation Studios, which offer something for all age groups, Hanuman Da Damdaar is aimed squarely — and only — at very young children.
The humour is simple and the storytelling elementary. Narain uses a mix of Hindi and English dialogues and references to modern technology even though the events leading to the rise and legendary status of Hanuman are set in mythological times.
A towering Hanuman, voiced by Salman Khan, recounts the story of his childhood and how he learnt to face his fears and became fearless. Being Khan, his onscreen presence is replete with self-referencing such as popular dialogues from his previous films and mentions of movies titles.
It works, albeit in an unimaginative but amusing way. You believe you are in for an entertaining 104 minutes, but the flashback to Hanuman’s childhood as mischievous young boy with a (maddening) lizard for a best friend, is slumber inducing. Stumbling along at a sluggish pace, energy is infused by some of the voice talents including Makrand Deshpande (Vishrav), Saurabh Shukla (Senapati Kesari), Vinay Pathak (Popat) and Hussain Dalal (Garuda). The one high point is the scene featuring a bored Indra (Kunal Kemmu), who has some sort of hay fever, Vishnu (Viraf Phiroz Patel), riding on an elephant, Hanuman (Arnav) and Garuda.
A coming of age film about young Maruti becoming the revered Hanuman, the effort to have a commercial connection reaches a base level when Chunky Pandey voices the character of an effeminate tourist guide in the state of Lanka. It’s a distilled representation of every cringe-worthy character he has played before.
Besides trying to get a cheap laugh through a gay character’s pants being pulled down, there’s the stereotyping of people from South India with exaggerated accents. Elsewhere, when all originality dries up, slip in a gag on flatulence.
The 2D animation is outmoded, but Narain and her animation team have incorporated much action and movement when required to make the screen come alive. The songs simply slow down the pace. However there are two witty moments worth a mention.
The first comes at the beginning when a slate announces “No Animators were hurt during the making of this film. Ok, maybe a couple, but they are fine now.” The second is the ‘Interval’ graphic with the letter I becoming Hanuman’s gada (mace) and the inverted A being filled with popcorn. Neither contributes to the screenplay but they were cute nonetheless.
Intermittently, the story includes a random message, for example the degradation of the environment and extinction of species denoted through the killing of the last surviving Dodo. There’s also the obvious theme of overcome ones fears.