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Cartoon characters come alive


Asterix and Obelisk ... now a full-fledged feature film.

ALL OF Gaul is conquered. All? No! One small Gaulish village holds out against the Roman invaders made invincible by the magic potion the village druid makes every day! And there is this warrior Asterix, the greatest in the village and his buddy Obelix who fell into the cauldron of magic potion as a baby. They are bad news for the Romans who shiver and shudder at the mere thought of being beaten to pulp by just these two. Sounds familiar?

Well it should because these are the famous, lovable cartoon characters created by the pair Goscinny and Uderzo and who have been delighting children and adults alike for years now. It was only a matter of time before they were made into animated films to bring the characters and this quaint, unique Gaulish village alive. But now going a step further these same characters have been recreated through actors primarily from France and made into a full-length feature film directed by Claude Zidi.

After a very successful run in France and other European countries this film which has Robert Benigni, probably the only recognisable face for the rest of the world is being brought to India at the instance of Innovision Communications, in association with the embassy of France in India, which has released other French films in India earlier. Due for release this month, it is being dubbed in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu in order to reach a wide audience. This particular film takes its inspiration from the comic book, ``Asterix and Obelix v/s Caesar." While most of the plot adheres to the original comic book or perhaps the animated version, many more cinematic elements are added which make the film even more dramatic.

It is the only village in the whole of Gaul that is not controlled by Rome. When tax collector Claudius Incorruptus does not get his money from this village, Caesar himself comes to the place to see what is so special about their resistance. And when he sees why he is for once struck speechless. While Caesar himself is an honourable man the men around him are not so. So when one of them (played by Robert) with an agenda of his own tries to get the druid who makes the magic potion, Obelix (played by one of Europes well known actors, Gerard Depardieu) and Asterix (Christian Clavier) get into action. The rest is what everybody knows right up to the last scene under the stars, with roasting boars, wine flowing and the victors rejoicing their success, but not before the bard Cacofonix is tied to a tree with his mouth gagged.

While Asterix, Obelix, Vitalstatistix, Geriatrix and the lot at this village are rather adorable as cartoon characters, it comes across as gross when they are played by grown up men with beards and those costumes. It takes a lot to go beyond the players and remember that these are the very characters that we all love so much! Bashing up the Romans, eating roast boar and carrying menhirs, which undoubtedly seem like papier-mache models — it is a bit difficult to digest. What, however, works in favour of this film are the costumes, which are painstakingly done just as the authors must have visualised them. Of course the dubbing is evident, with lip sync in most places not quite perfect but then it is not intended to be a perfect movie. Also the production values are not quite what one would see, for instance in a Hollywood venture but then this could probably be one of the most commercial films to be brought outside of it. Thanks to the appeal children may have for these much loved characters!

CHITRA MAHESH

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