Film Review: Drona
Directed by: Goldie Behl
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Kay Kay Menon and Jaya Bachchan
Whenever two films release at the same time, it can be hard making the decision of which film to see first or even whether to see both films. Sometimes circumstances make the call for you as was the case with Drona which was showing near me and at a suitable time whilst Kidnap would have involved quite organisation akin to a organising a, er, kidnap. In any case, I made my way into the cold, empty cinema with optimism. (note to cinema owners: Summer in London is now OVER -switch off the air conditioning!)
I was hoping to see a trailer of Sameer Karnik’s Heroes which is releasing on Diwali but had to make to do with Dostana and hilariously, the trailer for Drona which was the film I had come to see. Attention spans really are getting shorter these days – see the trailer, then watch the actual film straight after! I’m trying hard not to moan (no, really) but this is the second time trailers have been added as an afterthought rather than a carefully placed promotion of an upcoming film. Whether this is the cinema’s fault or the distributor – we would never see the trailers being messed up in a Hollywood film so why for a Bollywood? Anyway, rant over – as the credits rolled, Drona began…
Drona starts just a little after Time began, in an unstable time, where the Gods are forced to hide amrit (nectar which brings immortality) from the demons who seek it (choosing Earth,despite having the pick of the solar system). The Gods picked a warrior called Drona to protect the nectar from the demons, with Drona handing down this responsibility through the generations. Fast forward to modern day where we have Aditya (Bachchan) living in Eastern Europe with a cruel aunt and cousin who make his life a misery. His only comfort is a petal from a blue rose that reminds him he is loved(sounds silly, is silly but works – somehow). Meanwhile, an evil magician cum demon called Riz Raizada (Menon) is hunting for the amrit and comes to Eastern Europe, and through amazing coincidence, recognises Aditya as Drona’s descendant, the man who will lead him to the amrit. Trouble is Aditya does not know who Riz is nor of his own real identity and when he is rescued by a beautiful bodyguard named Sonia (Chopra), he learns about the legend of Drona and the truth about himself…
With the superhero genre in Bollywood, the special effects have to be top notch to make sure the premise of the film is realised and since the super success of Krrish in 2006, it has become even more important to blend the technical aspects with the more creative.In this respect, Drona succeeds. The cinematography is good, with a nice clean look for the first half and then a more grainy feel for the second reflecting the change in action. The editing is crisp, though a tad over zealous at time (particularly in the climax and some of the action sequences – one is left wondering what just happened). The special effects at times can look a little amateur but this is more a design flaw than execution error – when the film does get it right, (again, the climax and action scenes showcase this best) the film is very enjoyable and silences those critics who say Bollywood cannot do SFX. The set design also deserves a mention, though I wasn’t too keen on the Riz Rizada’s lair which seemed quite dated (that design flaw coming into effect here). The animation sequences are excellent and in fact, one wonders whether Drona could find new life as an animated feature. The songs are ok, but disrupt the rhythm of the film. Despite this, the background score is quite good and buils the required atmosphere.
However, I found I couldn’t connect with Drona for some reason. At the interval, I tried to think why the film wasn’t happening for me as the central cast were doing a good job, the technical aspects were there too and the back story was there. It was in the second half I realised that somewhere between the scripting and executing the film, there was a missing link. Despite the obvious Harry Potter/Matrix hangover (and hilariously at one point, a direct rip off of Lord Of The Rings) the story and idea were there and occasionally manifested itself into a watchable film. But at other times there was far more style than substance and the plot seemed to go wayward. Drona/Aditya seems to accept his newfound power within the blink of an eye, the challenges presented resolve themselves quickly and the final face off is done by numbers with a very misjudged edit killing the momentum.
Because of this, the performances suffer. Abhishek is well cast in the title role and manages to portray the enormity of Aditya/Drona’s predicament in spite of the script. He is also quite intense at times (a side that is not tapped into too often by filmmakers) and also manages the action sequences well despite all the (unfair) flak he gets about his physique. it’s a shame that Drona has not proved the platform it could have been for Abi’s talent. Similarly, Priyanka Chopra is wasted in what could have been a stand out role. Despite an awesome introductory scene and looking ravishing, Priyanka’s characterisation is inconsistent and though she is clearly capable of more, the story simply does not allow for it. The same goes for the usually dependable Kay Kay Menon, whose portrayal of the villain hovers between insane genius and caricature but overall puts in the best performanceand raises the film a notch above a mess (once he and the audience get into the skin of his character). Jaya Bachchan is good in her cameo but she has done the crying mother so many times (Fiza, Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche) it is a shame that such a talented artiste is being offered the same role over and over.
One cannot help but compare Drona to Krrish, which was executed much more slickly. Krrish’s ascent from simple village boy to superhero comes about gradually and is marked clearly – Drona’s seems to come from nowhere and we also don’t care for Drona in the way we cared for Krrish. Furthermore, Krrish was an entertainer as well as an action film whilst Drona stays a little too focused – not a bad thing but it means the audience cannot connect to the film as easily. It is a real shame the concept was not realised as fully as it could have been and that Drona, though possessing a totally separate identity and feel to Krrish, still falters in comparison.
I’m not sure who I would recommend this film to. Older kids and Abhishek/Priyanka fans would definitely enjoy it but I don’t think the film has that cross market appeal. The film left me feeling the same way I felt when I saw Goldie Behl’s other film Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai back in the early noughties – a great concept that never actually realises its potential despite all the elements being in place to do so. I do hope this does not become a trademark for Behl because when he does get it right, the film is good.
The ending leaves the story open for a sequel and I actually do hope there is one if only to give the idea of Drona the showcase it deserves and to allow the concept to develop further. But until then, this is one to wait for on DVD. If only I had gone to see Kidnap instead! Hmmm…..