If you were hoping that animation films would come of age with this purported epic, you are in for a disappointment. Though the characters from the Mahabharat have faces and voices of the biggest stars, the images do not add up to a compelling canvas. Not by a wide margin.
Or, perhaps, it's because those eminently known faces and voices assume the roles of the mythological characters that we are unable to connect, let alone empathize with the astonishing tale of valour, manipulation and war that we've grown up with. Folklore and mythology when done with excessive flamboyance loses its efficacy.
The presentation is epic in intent, yes. Alas, the execution, packaging and projection leave the epic undernourished and over-emphasized.
The magic of animation cinema is to transport the audience into the world of make-believe, but in a way that we forget the characters are not real people. In other words, for animation to be effective, the narration must transcend the technique of animation.
Mahabharat, as told by director Amaan Khan, never goes beyond self-congratulation. The animation characters are so busy posturing they are never humanized. All we see are graphics, not the spectacular characters from the Mahabharat whom we've grown up with. We hear them. But they never attain credible shapes on screen.
To their credit the superstars have lent their voices with great dignity and restraint. And one would have been happy just hearing Mr Bachchan as Bheeshma Pitamah, Sunny Deol as Bheem, Vidya Balan as Draupadi.
Incidentally, Draupadi's vastrahan scene has to be seen for us to know how clumsily inadequate the animation and graphics are. The saree doesn't unfurl. It ties itself up in knots, in a manner of speaking.
There is a laboured attempt here to prove that animation has come to animated life in Indian cinema. Sadly, it ends up proving only the opposite. We've a long way to go. If you want to see a credible dramatically deft adaptation of the Mahabharat, check out B R Chopra's televised version.
As for animation, Indian cinema should leave it alone.