About the story: Ever since he was a child, Aladin Chatterjee (Riteish Deshmukh) has been afflicted by his forename; in school he always was teased and forced to rub lamps – and then ridiculed because no genie came out. As a result, Aladin hates lamps. But even now in college the bullying doesn’t stop, especially Kasim (Sahil Khan) and his gang keep making Aladin’s life miserable. At Aladin’s birthday, Kasim makes Jasmine (Jacqueline Fernandez), who is new in college and completely unsuspecting, to gift Aladin a lamp and to ask him to rub it. Aladin, head over heels in love with Jasmine, resigningly obeys – and this time actually a genie appears: Genius (Amitabh Bachchan) who holds out the prospect of three wishes granted to Aladin. After that, he’s looking forward to his retirement. But Genius hasn’t reckoned with the evil and power-greedy ex-genie Ringmaster (Sanjay Dutt)...
Aladin goes Harry Potter. This is what I thought several times while watching this movie. I don't want to set this out as I cannot do that without giving away parts of the story, but maybe I thus manage to make people curious about this Aladin film who otherwise possibly would shy away because of the negative box office results. For in my humble opinion, this Aladin is an exceedingly succeeded fantasy film which is great fun to watch, thanks to stunning special effects and magical tricks, and also thanks to a larksome and cheerful cast.
Producer and director Sujoy Ghosh had made it clear from the very first moment on that he didn't intend to remake the classic Aladdin by Disney – in his opinion this cartoon is far too brilliant for even making a try to repeat this magic. Instead, Ghosh placed the fairy tale from 1001 Nights into modern age and created an own story around the fairy tale's core where Aladin became a college boy and a loveable loser, Jasmine everybody's darling at college seemingly beyond Aladin's reach, and the genie became a pop star with airs and graces aswell as human weaknesses. This role was tailor-made for Amitabh Bachchan who obviously enjoyed it to the fullest; he sings and raps and acts extrovertedly and sometimes even hamming. But who cares as long as this Genius makes you laugh so much? Ghosh's Aladin movie is first of all a cheerful Big B Show.
I hardly can imagine anyone who could have played the shy and awkward and completely loveable Aladin better than Riteish Deshmukh. Jacqueline Fernandez, Miss Sri Lanka 2006, gives her film debut in Aladin and clearly shows that she has more to offer than just beauty and a charming smile; her acting is fresh and self-confident, her dancing full of spirit, and she doesn't shy away from martial arts if necessary. Sahil Khan plays with relish the unlikeable macho and bully and also shows a good portion of self-humour.
And then there is Sanjay Dutt whose villainous role as Ringmaster unfortunately was a bit neglected by Ghosh. Though Ghosh invented an interesting and wonderfully mean figure, it would have done this Ringmaster good if his history and background were formulated a bit more detailed. Also there could have been more of the face-offs and confrontations between Ringmaster and Genius – if you have two actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt who already have shown how they can set the screen on fire together, there should be more than just one battle of words at night, a final hand-to-hand combat and some small scenes in between. Anyway, Sanjay makes the best of his role, is delightfully mean and vicious and obviously had a ball playing this sort of fantasy Mogambo. He resembles a big child being cheerfully happy and gloating over spoiling the others' party. Too bad that the song "Giri Giri" which Sanjay sang himself wasn't included in the film but banished into the end credits; it's just a tiny bit of comfort that the clip was added to the Bonus DVD.
Besides the actors there are many more details which make Aladin a joy to watch, be it the seemingly effortless tricks by EyeQube, the art of Charles Darby, the bunch of scurrile circus performers accompanying Ringmaster or the catchy music and the colourful dances. The audience at the SAIFF in New York where Aladin's world premiere took place on October 28, 2009 definitely had fun with the movie aswell as later especially the children in India. But the critics couldn't get anything out of Sujoy Ghosh's fantasy film, and so Aladin failed. If you ask me: absolutely undeserved.
Produced by Sunil A Lulla, Sujoy Ghosh; Directed by Sujoy Ghosh
132 Min.; DVD: Eros, English Subtitles (including songs); Bonus DVD with Making of Aladin, Making of Songs, Giri Giri Music Video, Theatrical Trailers, Eyeqube Effects Showreel
Boundscript's Aladin Blog (Part 5 "Ringmaster Arrives")