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Friday, Jan 25, 2002

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"Alibaba"


"Alibaba" ... the effort deserves praise.

WHENEVER THE Arabian tale of Alibaba and his encounter with 40 thieves is told, children listen in rapt attention. The riveting, timeless tale of good vs. evil has been popular even with tinseldom and has been translated on to the silver screen many a time with actors such as N. S. Krishnan, MGR and Dharmendra playing the title role.

The animation version in English (to be dubbed in Tamil later), released by Pentamedia Graphics and directed by Usha Ganeshrajah, has the same spellbinding effect on viewers. Even though one may be too familiar with the twists in the plot, watching it on screen after a long time is an entertaining experience, despite a few glitches here and there.

The story of the penniless youth, who accidentally chances upon a treasure in a cave belonging to 40 thieves, is as old as the hills! Thanks to the technique of animatronics, the added features like floating fires, flying rocks, a golden monkey that whispers passwords and a cave that actually talks, add to the magic! However, the characters are quite stylised (remember "Toy Story"?), and there is a certain sameness to all the faces... they all looks like plastic dolls, sans any expression. Perhaps, with the exception of Rafi, the donkey. Children will love that character!

As for the dialogue, written by `Sujatha' Rangarajan, at times it is too contrived, especially the humour. And the voice-overs tend to get unnecessarily loud at points.

Perhaps the highpoint of the 80-minute long film is the music by Pravin Mani. The thumping "Thieves of the Desert", the almost anthemic "Long long time" and the lilting "Ishq Deewana" (Sukhwindra Singh)... all the numbers have a distinct Middle Eastern flavour.

Whatever the quality of the production values may be, what matters most is that here is a group that is trying to fill a large gap... by making movies for children.

SAVITHA GAUTAM

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