Roadside Romeo



Opened: Friday, Oct. 24 (Yash Raj Films)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mickey Mouse, your job is still safe. The character of Romeo, a scrappy and clever ginger hound who stars in Disney’s first-ever foray into Hindi animated cinema, may be an amusing trifle but he’s not likely to leave an indelible imprint on the national psyche.

Yash Raj Films, a major player in the Hindi sphere, has teamed with Disney in a groundbreaking move, but has erred by hiring debutant filmmaker Jugal Hansraj, a former actor, to direct and write the film. The disappointing result has led to a lukewarm boxoffice take in India and overseas.

Voiced by Bollywood’s Saif Ali Khan in a hep Hinglish dialect that mixes Hindi slang with English terms like “Dude!” Romeo is a charismatic mongrel who, after being abandoned by his rich masters, must learn to fend for himself on India’s mean streets. Pitted against savvy strays and forced to fight over scarce resources like water and juicy bones, Romeo soon learns the ways of the “wild” and charms his way into a canine clique. Along the way, he meets the sleek Laila (Kareena Kapoor) and falls in love.

The villain of the piece is a bulldog named Charlie Anna (Jaaved Jaaferi), a corpulent (and flatulent) king of thugs who rules his doggie mafia with a ruthless hand and has his eye on Laila.

Skilled animators in Indian studios such as Rhythm & Hues and Crest Animation Studio have contributed to the success of films such as the Oscar-winning “The Golden Compass” and TV shows including “Jakers: The Adventures of Piggly Winks.” “Roadside Romeo” features computer animation that was done entirely in India by the Tata conglomerate’s Elxsi-Visual Computing Labs unit. But the animation is unremarkable here; the animals’ movements are unrealistically smooth and fluid, with little distinction between characters’ body language.

The film’s script is propped up by cliched references from old Bollywood films, and its pacing lags, an unforgivable mistake when aiming for a young audience. But this is reportedly just the first of several animated films on the slate for the Yash Raj-Disney alliance, and given the successful track record of each, better films may be on the horizon.

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Jaaved Jaaferi, Vrajesh Hirjee, Tannaz Irani,Suresh N. Menon, Kiku Sharda, Sanjai Mishra.
Director: Jugal Hansraj.
Screenwriter: Jugal Hansraj.
Executive producer: Swaratmika Mishra.
Director of photography: Anshul Chobey.
Music: Salim-Sulaiman.
Lyrics: Jaideep Sahni.
Editor: Arif Ahmed.
Animation: Tata Elxsi-VCL.