How does this happen? How does a film with majestic tigers, beautiful wildlife and tons of VFX (mostly CGI) get it so wrong? How does a film with a title like Roar turn out to be such a bore?
The story is weak to begin with. If Happy New Year’s story revolving around revenge struck you as over-the-top, this one is actually a man’s revenge against a tigress.
The man named Pandit (Abhinav Shukla) is trailing the tigress to kill her. The story tells us that the tigress misunderstood his wildlife photographer brother’s intentions when he rescued her cub, and killed him. Now, Pandit gets together a team to finish off the animal, and they all arrive in the Sundarban jungles.
Pandit’s team comprises muscles and cleavages, with extremely natural-sounding names like Sufi, Kashmiri, Hero and CJ. This team is made up of rookie actors who never look like they’re in any kind of trouble. Even when they’re stranded in a river which is the tigress’s territory.
That’s ’cause they have the mini-skirted Jhumpa, a local tracker dressed like Xena the warrior princess, on their side. She’s an odd number, this character, as she keeps warning them that killing tigers is bad, but still sticks around to help them anyway.
That’s not the bizarre thing out here. Why Pandit’s friends agree to support him, putting their lives in danger (one of them is a dad-to-be) to slay the tigress, is never explained. It’s difficult to imagine that no one tried convincing Pandit against the idea of killing an animal for revenge, as if it had human-like reasoning abilities. It’s unbelievable that no one doubts this illogical and unethical plan!
The first time we see the tigress is a spectacular shot, as she emerges from the water. It’s an intro any actor would envy! Indeed, one of the film’s most chilling scenes is the tigress with blood around its mouth, having just eaten one of their team members, staring at the others, separated as they are, just by a few feet.
It’s alarming to see the characters open-fire at the tigers whenever they spot them. At all times, our sympathy rests with the tigers and we’re unmoved when one of Pandit’s team members dies. In fact it’s almost cruel that such larger-than-life animals, with more screen presence than most actors we know, are reduced to such piddling characters.
Jungle exotica is served in the form of a ritualistic wedding ceremony involving bees and a bonfire dance with co-ordinated clothes and steps. Then you are introduced to the “girgiti kaum”, which we are told is a jungle tribe that is the jungle’s protectors and are constantly covered in mud.
Michael Watson’s camerawork gives us snatches of lovely shots that you’d probably see on Animal Planet or National Geographic. You know where the characters are in the background and we see a snake slither in the foreground. Then, you have shots of various fauna – a lovely spider, an alligator underwater, and so on.
The underwater portions are also well-done, and are some of the most arresting portions in the film. But towards the end, the camera zooms in and out of the character’s face randomly, wondering if it’s the same person in charge of the camerawork. The editing is unforgivable with random shots inserted in the middle of a scene.
Throughout the journey, men in skin-tight tees say dialogue with words like “aapati” and “saavdhani” as if it were part of their natural lingo.
The film becomes unintentionally hilarious when a character mouths an incongruous dialogue (which happens often), or in portions like the snake scene that one has to see to believe.
You’ll see how, as per the film, snakes will gang up and take revenge if you kill one of them during mating. It’s even more preposterous than what you’ve seen in Nagina. The hand-to–hand combat of a couple of tigers with a muscleman is also amusing. But perhaps the sequence towards the end (showing off the CGI) where they show how a regular brown tiger was converted to a white one with blue eyes, is the most outrageous. It truly takes our obsession with white skin and blue eyes to another level!
In the end, director Kamal Sadanah perhaps intended a well-meaning film but got the grammar of filmmaking all wrong. With a subject such as this, it’s truly an opportunity missed.