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Jajantaram Mamantaram

Javed Jafferi, Gulshan Grover, Joy Fernandes

india Updated: May 31, 2003 20:50 IST

Rating By Full-length films for children are such a rarity in India that picking holes when one does come along might seem a trifle churlish. But Jajantaram Mamantaram (quite a mouthful that, so let's stick to J2M2) does try one's patience just a wee bit. The film goes overboard with the special effects, relegating the storyline for the most part to secondary status. That cannot surely be the ideal situation, even for a children's film.

J2M2 (budget: Rs 10 crore) is far and away the costliest children's film ever made in this country but what stands out more than anything else is the yawning gap that separates what it could have been and what it actually is.

Last year's Makdee was an infinitely better film. So was Santosh Sivan's goofy Halo. These two films showed that stories targeted at children need not be shallow. They were multi-layered, intelligent and witty. J2M2, in contrast, runs on a single track and does not demonstrate the level of imagination that could have made the difference between great entertainment and just another couple of hours spent in the darkness of a cinema hall. It adds up to more of the latter than the former.

That's a huge pity because the inspiration behind J2M2 are works of undeniable pedigree - Gulliver's Travels, the legend of Bakasur and Satyajit Ray's Bengali musical, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, from which Shundi, the name of the kingdom where the hero of J2M2 is marooned, is derived. Nothing else from the memorable Ray film seeps into J2M2.

Scriptwriter-director Soumitra Ranade and his special effects team do a reasonable job with the fleshing out the fantasy and the music by Three Brothers and a Violin has a generally nice ring about it but, sadly, the narrative is too flat to be able to rise above the constraints of the genre. J2M2 plays out like a straight good versus evil and big versus small battle and consequently its appeal remains confined within a limited bandwidth.

Mumbai boy Aditya (Javed Jafferi), washed ashore on a remote island inhabited by a Lilliputian tribe, becomes their friend and protector. An evil general, Chattan Singh (Gulshan Grover), has an eye on the throne of Shundi. So he conjures up a destructive giant (Joy Fernandes) in order to intimidate the people and scare away the alien do-gooder.

Thrown in for good measure are a mish-mash of dramatic elements - a love story involving a soldier and the king's daughter, the inevitable class struggle, homilies about unity in adversity and a climactic duel between the hero and the evil giant. The latter is armed with a magic scimitar and the power to assume different forms, the former with a hurriedly forged spear and the support of the Lilliputians. People power triumphs and shouts of Jajantaram Mamantaram (it is easy to decipher "jan man", popular will, in the title) rent the air.

The acting is rudimentary all around. Javed Jaffrey, speaking Mumbai street patois on the island of no return, ad-libs like a glib music channel veejay while Gulshan Grover mouths gibberish woven around a pair of words - atyant and turant. It does not sound too smart. But perhaps that is quite apt - it is in keeping with the general tenor of the film.