Meet Sad Sack. He looks like Abhishek Bachchan but nobody loves him. He thinks this is bad until one day he goes to some hokey magic show hosted by a low-rent Mephistopheles and every single person he’s ever met in his life suddenly jumps out at him (nuns! chefs! the mob!), trying to save his life, while yellow-suited maniacs blow poison darts at him. Next thing the poor fellow knows, he’s in some kind of serial-killer lair, studying recon photos of himself, while a garage full of crazed auto-mechanics stage the Bollywood version of Stomp on the floor above.
This can’t be good, he thinks.
Well, the good news is: he’s Cinderella and Prince Charming all wrapped into one. The bad news is: that downmarket Mephistopheles wants to squeeze him like an overripe orange.
And so we set out on our tour of a fantasy landscape decorated by what looks to be a frenzied 12 year old girl left alone in an arts and crafts store with an unlimited supply of Stick Em Stones and funky shades of acrylic paint, following a plot that’s equal parts Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, with a generous dollop of Bolly-conventions (uske paas Maa hai!) and a pretty garnish of manga. That it doesn’t all come together like a delicious Bolly-goulash is something that should make every single person connected to this film hang their heads in shame.
I wasn’t really expecting much from Drona. I expected hackery. I thought I’d laugh. I did both those things. What I didn’t expect, was for it to have all the ingredients to be so much more. If I were judging this movie based on vision, I’d recommend it to anybody and everybody. As it stands, however, I’d hesitate taking children to it because there’s nothing worse than a bored little kid in a theater, pumped full of candy and caffeine.
Which is a shame because this is a movie about children. The three main characters – Drona, Riz Raizada and Sonia – are all psychologically stunted little kids, desperately trying to function as adults and pretty much sucking at it hardcore.
There’s Drona, the little boy lost, who keeps trying to reach out and connect to the world but the only thing that even comes close to him are a series of blue rose petals. He’s so shielded from life (or else he’s never so much as seen an episode of Tom and Jerry), he doesn’t know that bad guys don’t play by the rules. Nor does he care about the bigger picture, given he’s never had any picture thus far.
Riz Raizada is perhaps the most interesting character in this movie primarily because he’s smart, doesn’t waste time striking thoughtful attitudes while the world merrily burns down about his ears, and understands he is who he is, which is basically that animal-murdering seven-year-old from Australia. Remember that thing you say to little kids who keep pestering you for things - “Want must be your master”? Well, Riz is the kid whose nanny never said it enough. He’s also a mean puppetmaster, kidnaps Rajasthani munchkins in spite of their Goth guards, and can carry out a plan to its fruition which is more than can be said for the rest of the people in this movie who’re all pretty much brick stupid. Boy, it’s a good thing they’re all so Good because it’s the only thing they’ve got going for them.
Except for Sonia who is pretty great on the surface but once had this weird dad whose parenting skills were apparently so awesome, she now pathologically craves approval. Every time she brings him up, she says “My father told me just one thing” and then tells us a completely new thing, by which we can be pretty certain that the one thing he never did teach her was Math. When Drona tries to be nice to her (and, incidentally, make up for being a total dick whose idiocy got her knifed in the kidney), she’s so crestfallen that nothing short of a sexually charged Moment will cheer her up. And her delight in being handed the shiny purple conch is ludicrous – she, like, matters y’all!
Given that Drona’s “superpowers” are basically what we know as “Bollywood hero powers” i.e. what Amitabh Bachchan did in every single action movie of his (kickass animals! the strength of a dozen men! seething emotions! sudden and advanced fighting skills with ancient weaponry!), you’d think the above characters would pretty much arrange themselves into a plot and act it out.
Instead, all the best (and darker) bits of the story take part in the animated bits while Drona and Sonia glumly trudge around the screen, a humorless duo out Saving the World and it’s all so boring, you wonder why they bother. In fact, I’m bored just remembering it long enough to write this post.
The best thing about Drona is that it turns Jaya Bachchan into stone. Literally. I might have forgiven them everything if Drona had carted her off and placed her in his garden, but they didn’t. Which is why Riz Raizada (and the wonderful Kay Kay Menon who actually pulled off the faux-hawk and the satin capes) gets a thumbs up from me. He’s the only one in this benighted movie with a sense of humor. And what did he get for his pains? A big sword in his belly.