Delhi Safari: Film Review

Delhi Safari Film Still - H 2012

Delhi Safari Film Still - H 2012

Out-of-date animation throws up a roadblock for this Indian animated 3D family film.

Top Bollywood actors comprise the voice cast of India's first locally made stereoscopic 3D animated film; an American version featuring Jane Lynch and Tom Kenny opens Dec. 7.

EMERYVILLE, Calif.  — Animators from India are enjoying a golden age, with some of the leading animation houses with a presence in India, like Rhythm and Hues, nabbing high-profile projects such as Life of Pi and The Hunger Games.

Unfortunately, since the best animators are using their talents for Hollywood films, the resultant animation brain drain means that home-grown projects like Delhi Safari are left in the dust.

Thanks to globalization, audiences in India now have Hollywood animated films at their disposal on the same day as their American releases, making it imperative for a low-budget ($7 million), purely Indian animated film such as Delhi Safari to stand out from the crowd. Despite solid voice work by top Bollywood actors, the film — described as India’s first locally made stereoscopic 3D animation film — features mediocre animation that will cost it viewers both in India and abroad.

The premise of Delhi Safari is an admirable one: Faced with the destruction of their habitat so that humans could construct an “eco-friendly” luxury housing development outside Mumbai, a bunch of wisecracking jungle animals team up and take their case to the seat of government in Delhi.

A militant dancing monkey (energetically voiced by Govinda), an emotional talking parrot who speaks “human” (Akshaye Khanna), a protective mother leopard (Urmila Matondkar) and her brave cub (Swini Khara), and a bear called XXL Bagga (Boman Irani) survive a succession of scrapes to reach Delhi and make their grand environmental statement.

Released in 3D in some theaters (this review is based on the 2D version), the film marks the animation debut of writer-director Nikhil Advani, whose career started with a bang with Kal Ho Naa Ho in 2003 but hit a low with 2009’s big-budget martial arts flop Chandni Chowk to China and again with the Britain-set Patiala House (2011).

One of the reasons its animation (Krayon Pictures) looks old-fashioned is that the film was completed more than two years ago; it was shopped around at various film markets in 2010. Much has changed since then.

According to its producers, an English version of the film will be distributed by U.S.-based Applied Art Productions; the American version, featuring the voices of Jane Lynch, Tom Kenny, Christopher Lloyd and Jason Alexander, is due to open Dec. 7.

Opened: Oct. 19, 2012
Cast: Govinda, Suniel Shetty, Akshaye Khanna, Urmila Matondkar, Boman Irani, Prem Chopra, Swini Khara, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Mishra, Saurabh Shukla
Director: Nikhil Advani
Screenwriters: Nikhil Advani, Girish Dhamija, Suresh Nair
Producers: Anupama Patil, Kishor Patil, Nitish Takia
Animation: Krayon Pictures
Editor: Aarif Sheikh
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Not rated, 90 minutes.