First things first: Anaganaga O Dheerudu is a brave attempt at bringing world-class (that's a given - this is partly a Walt Disney feature) kid-targeted entertainment to an industry currently starved of such products. What makes it different from the Magadheera
s and the Arundhati
s of the day is that the latter were, pretty much, aimed at the traditional sensibilities of the Telugu audience, and have plenty of commercial frills.
On the other hand, this Arabian-Nights-fantasy-meets-Tinkle-adventure is a sanitized fairy tale, that really tries to remain honest to its intentions. The sincerity shows. The visual effects are rich, full of life, and totally contemporary. The cast is eager as hell. The concept is never shoved aside by slickly-marketed item songs.
However, when a film that has so much going for it relies on a 2-minute appearance by Brahmandam (playing a random person called Jaffa, boozing inside a tavern) to kick its audiences back to life, there's something wrong somewhere.
When Siddharth's lionhearted blind warrior Yodha accompanies Moksha (a promising Baby Harshita) on a long journey to Agarta to free the people of the land from a great misfortune, what you're looking forward to is a delightful adventure with surging emotions. Instead, what you get is an endless trip interspersed with predictable obstacles, tired dialogue, lengthy fight sequences, and one villain saying the same things again and again.
When Yodha starts reminiscing about his lover Priya (Shruti Haasan), what you're looking forward to is a tender and sweet romance. Instead, what you get is a stage play. The sets featuring the leading lady are dreamy, gorgeous and romantic - the lavish Middle-Eastern theme, the flowy fabric tents, the sequins, the pretty lanterns, the delicate drapes, the well-coordinated colours - but beyond eye-candy, there's not much else.
Part of the problem lies with the casting. Very few will disagree with the fact that Siddharth is not right for the part. He's in a far better movie than some of his recent films, but casting him as a strong macho warrior who speaks chaste Telugu just doesn't work.
Shruti Haasan pulls off her simple role well. She's a pretty good actress, and it would be good to see her in meaty roles in future. The kid Harshita, in a key role, is expressive, and brings the screen to life.
The segments featuring Lakshmi Manchu, with her portrayal of the evil snake-spirit Irindri, emerge triumphant among the whole film. Manchu is dramatic - and so is her stylist - as she bellows and grunts her way through her humongous make-up. Ravi Babu plays a plain villain, a character that could have been made more fun. Then, there's Ali as a eunuch, wearing something quite obscene for a film that's meant to be kiddie fun.
The opening credits are impressive, as also are the songs. A bunch of top composers have been credited with the music, that is grand and sets the tone to the film's visual grandeur.
AOD's opened the doors to what will, hopefully, be interesting times for the local entertainment industry. Till those times come, though, let's wait at the door.