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Arjun: The Warrior Prince

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By Arjun becomes an all-action warrior in an animation film set to hit screens next friday Priyanka Roy Which Indian mythological hero would you like to see in an animation film? Tell
  • Published 16.05.12
Arjun: The Warrior Prince

Arjun: The Warrior Prince, an animated take on Indian mythology’s most celebrated hero, hits screens on May 25. t2 caught up with first-time director and Darjeeling boy Arnab Chaudhuri on the ambitious project produced by UTV Motion Pictures and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

What is Arjun: The Warrior Prince about?

It’s a big martial arts treatment of a story that we have all grown up hearing. It’s the story of Arjun, his journey from a young boy to a warrior prince. It’s a coming-of-age story of Arjun discovering what it takes to become a hero. While the story is familiar, the action is spectacular. There are huge war scenes… a lot of martial arts… hand-to-hand fighting… a lot of horses. It’s mounted on a huge scale.

You took three years to make this film…

When we started out, we knew very early on that we couldn’t do this in a cutesy, cartoonish way. This is the Mahabharata and it’s about war and death and deceit and betrayal…. We realised that if we take a ‘talking donkey’ approach, it would never work. So we decided to take the Anime (a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterised by colourful graphics) and Manga (a genre of Japanese comic books) route which has a mature look and feel.

What will the Indian audience get to see that they haven’t before?

There’s nothing in this film that the Indian audience would have seen before. There’s no familiar reference point in terms of an audio-visual presentation or even as a film presentation. We tried a number of interesting things. Usually when you see the voicing in an animation film, the process is about selecting the actors and putting them in a booth. They put their headphones on and read the lines. We took a theatre group that is run by K.K. Raina and Ila Arun and we did the whole voiceover in the form of a play. As a result, what you get is people interacting with each other and lending their voices to the characters in my film instead of dubbing them from separate booths.

For the action, we did a two-week workshop with a Kalaripayattu troupe from Kerala and a Thang-Ta troupe from Manipur — both of which represent very diverse martial art forms. We put them together on a mountaintop for two weeks and made them fight each other. What we got were results that I wouldn’t even hope to achieve if I was using live-action actors.

For our production design, we had to deliver on a massive scale. My designers projected themselves into that era and imagined the kind of architecture that would have been present at that time. In the aspects of both story and design, we took huge leaps and made a significant departure from the norm. And the results are there for everyone to see.

Arnab Chaudhuri

What are the languages that you are releasing the film in?

Hindi and Tamil and there are plans for Telugu later. We are not releasing in English because I find it very difficult to visualise someone talking to Dhritarashtra in an American accent! I guess what we can do is subtitle it later in English.

How would you categorise the animation market in India?

It’s quite nascent right now, but our consumption of animation on television is voracious. Look at all these animation channels and their reach and viewership! We do have an appetite for it… we are a visually rich culture and we are very accepting of art and different kinds of visual styles.

Do you plan to do more animation work based on Indian mythology?

Of course! Look at the scale of it… there is so much to explore in our mythology. It’s an endless fount of stories. I have the whole Mahabharata to go through before I die!