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The Stolen Princess, Review: Ukrainian animation comes of age, comes to India

The Stolen Princess, Review: Ukrainian animation comes of age, comes to India

Indian media-house major Ultra, a diversified company, brings four language versions of the Ukrainian animation feature, The Stolen Princess, to India. You can watch it in English, Hindi, Tamil or Telugu. We saw the English version today, and since the content remains unchanged in the dubbed versions, I would recommend it to children who understand any of these languages. Parents, this is good holiday fare, with animation that can almost equal the best in the business, so take your kids to watch clean, wholesome entertainment.

This story happened in the age of valiant knights, beautiful princesses, and battling sorcerers. Ruslan, a wandering stage artiste, dreaming to become a knight, rescued beautiful Mila from goons, and fell in love with her; he couldn’t have imagined that she was the Kievan King Vlodymyr’s daughter. However, the lovers’ happiness wasn’t meant to last too long. Chоrnomor (not to be confused with chor and mor), the evil sorcerer, appeared in a magic tornado-like vortex, engulfed Mila and ‘stole’ her right before Ruslan’s eyes. His purpose was to use the lady’s forced love, that served as fuel for his spells, and one that he had used every 100 years. After he had drained their love, all his past victims were turned into stone and adorned his lair. The love replenished his magic power, and lengthened his longevity. Ruslan set out on a rescue mission after the ‘stolen’ princess, to overcome all obstacles, and to prove that real love is stronger than even magic.

He had for company an owl (Titmouse Una) and a hamster. The hamster was hilariously chased around by Titmouse Una, but he had vital clues of the trail, and was duly prevailed upon to volunteer. Along the way, he also recruited Nestor, who was the surrogate author of the fairy-tale, having plagiarised it from the Cat’s book collection. Nestor was initially hesitant to help, but finally agreed to go all the way. The cat had the amazing gift of swelling into a giant, but was persuaded by the dedication and ‘blind love’ of Ruslan to show them the way to Chornomor’s castle. There were several obstacles and obstinate beings that the foursome encountered in their search for Mila. Among them were a huge Head and a Transformer-like being. It all lead to the final battle with Chornomor and his guiles and spells on one side, and the combined strengths and minds of the funny four on the other.

Besides the Transformers referencing, it can be argued that Mila is modelled after the girl in Shrek or Ice Age. The take-offs on French and British accents and quirks go down well, as does the reverse phenomenon, wherein a frog kisses a prince, who turns into a frog! Fighting encounters are always funny, well choreographed, and never gory. Romance is suitable underplayed, considering the audience will include more children than adults, the latter doing escort duty. Oh no! I am not suggesting that adults will not have fun. I did, and I am an adult many times over. Watching this film scores above fiddling with the mobile phone, and taking selfies, any day.

The Stolen Princess is the first animated feature film for Ukrainian and international release, in the production line of Animagrad Studio. Scriptwriter Yaroslav Voytseshek has made a commendable adaptation, based on the Russian fairy-tale, Ruslan and Lyudmyla.

The film received state financing of about 20 percent of the total budget of 95 million UAH=INR 23.9 crore, and it must be categorised as money well spent.

Director Oleg Malamuzh deserves encomiums for sustaining interest and pace. Malamuzh came to the project five years ago, after meeting the producer, Egor Olesov, while the movie was still in script stage. Before that, he had worked in animation for 18 years, in French and Ukrainian studios.

Before colouring

Art-director Kristian Koskinen’s name must feature in the commendations. The basic software for The Stolen Princess was Maya, with inputs from Shotgun, Katana and Nuke. Besides state-of-the-art animation—a result of the efforts of over 300 men and women, including many Indians—the voices too have been well matched. When Lyudmila says Freedom, the lip-sync can be distinctly read as ‘freedom’. Two stand out songs adorn the sound-track: ‘To the Stars’, the theme song, and ‘You are my love’ (end credits).

Cast

Nadezhda Dorofeeva: Lyudmyla/Mila

Aleksey Zavgorodniy:   Ruslan

Yevhen Malukha: Chornomor

Serhiy Prytula: Nestor   Pechersky

Yuriy H/Gorbunov: Kit Vchenyy (the cat)

Oleg Mikhaylyuta: Fin (the wizard)

Nikolay Boklan: Volodymyr

Mariya Efrosinina: Nayina

Egor Krutogolov: Rohday

Oleksandr Berezhok: Ratmir

Yevhen Hashenko: Farlaf

Oleksandr Usyk: Sholom

Vasyl Virastyuk: Zuban

Dmytro Monatik: The Head

Animagrad plans to release one animated feature per year, both for local Ukrainian and international distribution. Based on this first outing, we can expect some more goodies.

Rating: *** ½

Trailer: https://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi3103111193

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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