The Lion King (Tamil): Everything looks great, but still something is missing

S Subhakeerthana
Simba can make the hardest of hearts melt, yet something about the lion is unsettling.

The Lion King (Tamil) voice cast: Siddharth (Simba), Arvind Swami (Scar), Aishwarya Rajesh (Nala), P Ravishankar (Mufasa), Manobala (Zazu), Singam Puli (Timon), Robo Shankar (Pumba)
The Lion King director: Jon Favreau

In 1994, when the Lion King was released, Arvind Swami was the voice of Simba, but this time, it s Siddharth. In case, you haven t watched the original, this visually-enhanced remake of the Disney classic could be your cup of tea. But, to me, unfortunately not. When an animation drama works, they can be joyful and worth-watching as there are not many films whose visuals entice a four-year-old and a forty-year-old equally. When they don t work, they can be tiresome.

The story of Lion King revolves around little Simba who leaves home after his father Mufasa falls prey to the manipulative Scar s conspiracy. One day, Mufasa teaches Simba that everything the light touches is their kingdom. He takes those words seriously and ventures into a space controlled by hyenas. Though Mufasa saves Simba, Mufasa couldn t save himself. As he climbs a cliff, Scar pushes him off. The pack of hyenas, further, conspire to kill Simba, but he escapes. Due to circumstances, Simba moves further away from home. A tragic episode ends. Jon Favreau cleverly shifts the tone of the film to comedy as Simba meets his new friends Pumba and Timon. "Life is meaningless", they tell Simba and makes him embrace the Hakuna Matata (no worries) philosophy. Meanwhile, Nala meets Simba and convinces him he can t avoid responsibilities. Simba returns to his home after years, realising he can t escape destiny. Thanks to old mandrill that puts sense into Simba s mind. How he avenge his father s death forms rest of the storyline.

Roughly, for the first half-hour, we are introduced to the characters and things pick up when Simba arrives . Simba is in live-wire mode with his large, expressive eyes that moisten a lot and watch out for those scenes when he loses his father. Scar is a stereotypical villain with a wolfish smile and Zazu is more memorable than anyone here.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional characters, so to see Simba transform from a cute cub into a wild warrior is fun. One place where The Lion King feels truly energised is the visuals, including the creation of Simba and it is hard to tell where the live-action ends and the CGI work begins. I feel Siddharth s voice lacks the command of a king and I couldn t relate with it. But that doesn t bother you much and I mutter ‘Hakuna Matata’ to myself.

Can you visualise how a lion would look if it was wordlessly gesturing? For Disney s animators, this is possible, and the result becomes the film s biggest asset. Those eerie eyes of hyenas, pixel-perfect hair strands of Mufasa; the list is endless. It s the small details that give life to the animated characters. The star cast s voices have been interwoven with animal sounds, so when Arvind Swami begins to speak, there s a growling depth to the sound.

The Lion King is close to the original version, but I still miss the plainness and intensity that was evident in the hand-drawn 1994 animated film that won two Oscars. Of course, the effort put by the team is evident in making the audience believe the digitally-built environment and computer-generated animals. The characters seem real and lifelike and we are drawn to them. Disney s classics are nothing short of phenomenal technical achievement, so the excitement is justified.

But overall, when you leave the cinema hall, a sense of incompleteness lingers. It s like everything is there, but still, something is missing. Simba can make the hardest of hearts melt, yet something about the lion is unsettling. Maybe, the voice, I don t know. Amid all the technical wizardry, maybe, the soul is missing a bit. Anyways, Hakuna Matata!