In Drona, director-writer Goldie Behl has attempted to create a modern mythology. He has reworked elements of Amar Chitra Katha comics, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones into an exotic fantasy about an orphan, Aditya, played by Abhishek Bachchan, who grows up not knowing who he really is.
Only beautiful blue rose petals that arrive at regular intervals mark him as special. One day, a petal leads him to an intriguingly glowing bracelet, which is then seen on his wrist by a wicked magician who has enormous powers but apparently no hair stylist. And then all hell breaks loose.
There are things to be admired in Drona. It is a labour of love and the sweat can be seen onscreen. There are several nicely done sequences. I especially enjoyed Priyanka Chopra's entry. She plays Sonia, Drona's bodyguard who kicks butt with the same finesse as she carries off unwieldy brocade coats and boots.
The special effects here aren't organic but they aren't embarrassingly cheesy either and there is some high-octane action, including one sequence in a vast desert that concludes with Drona and Sonia on top of a horse, on top of a train. But, and this is the film's fatal flaw, Drona never lifts off from passable into spectacular.
Goldie Bhel has the ambition but he doesn't have the visual audacity. So the moments of shock and awe are too few and far between. Worse, the writing is painfully inconsistent. The are too many shifts in tone and Bhel is unable to create a fully-realised alternate universe.
There is a standard-issue suffering mother angle, which becomes unwittingly comical when the mother, played by Jaya Bachchan, turns to stone and poor Drona weeps hugging her statue. Abhishek plays the part convincingly but he doesn't look it.
Even when Aditya becomes Drona, he doesn't transform physically into a man of stature. He seems out-of-shape and weighed down by his costume, which looks like a left-over from Amitabh Bachchan's Toofan days.
But the weakest link in the tale is Kay Kay Menon, playing the evil asur descendent Riz Raizada.
The need of the hour was a memorable Machiavellian psychopath. What we have instead is tiresome hamming and not enough clever lines.
Disappointingly then, Drona remains a below average film. Given the scale, scope and effort, this is clearly not enough. But on a holiday weekend, with such slim pickings at the theaters, it will have to do.