Bollywood Harry Potter… in 3-D!
Deja View returns for a special 3-D episode! Dig up your red-blue glasses and join me for a look at “Aabra Ka Daabra,” a Hindi take on the Harry Potter phenomenon!
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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An average kid’s ordinary life becomes extraordinary when he’s accepted to an exclusive and wondrous school of magic. But when he discovers that someone at the school has sinister plans in store, it’s up to him and his two best friends to get to the bottom of the mystery.
However, his name isn’t Harry Potter, and the magic school isn’t anywhere near England. It’s right in the middle of Bollywood.
Are your eyes playing tricks on you? Or is it just another case of Deja View?
Welcome to a very special 3-D episode of Deja View! Since today’s film was released in 3-D, I thought it might be fun to follow suit.
By 2003 Harry Potter Mania had spread around the world. Five books and two film adaptations had already been released which captured the imaginations — and wallets — of millions of would-be wizards. It was a franchise so lucrative that Indian production company Creative Eye Limited decided to make a little movie magic itself by waving a camera and saying… “Aabra Ka Daabra.”
“Aabra Ka Daabra” is India’s first 3-D Plus film, a process developed in conjunction with JVC and similar to the technology used in 2003’s “Spy Kids 3-D”.
The film tells the story of Shanu, who enrolls in the Aabra Ka Daabra School of Magic to follow in the footsteps of his father, who went missing and was presumed dead after an escape act gone wrong.
The influence of “Harry Potter” is apparent at a moment’s glance. There’s the school itself, the groundskeeper, the bully, living portraits, levitation class — even a stand-in for Quidditch — the parallels are unmistakable.
Although as you might imagine, many of these elements were changed ever-so-slightly. Shanu’s flying class for example is taught not with brooms, but with magic carpets — an understandable choice since witches on broomsticks are a European tradition, and magic carpets make for cheaper and easier visual effects.
But it becomes clear that “Aabra Ka Daabra” borrows from more than just “Harry Potter.” When Shanu wins his admittance to the school thanks to a special ticket found in a package of Parle G biscuits, a certain chocolate factory springs to mind.
And visual elements from even less apropos films make appearances, including “Casper: The Friendly Ghost” and “Minority Report.”
But in spite of all these similarities, the story of “Aabra Ka Daabra” is very different from its inspiration, and the overall tone and atmosphere are decidedly brighter. Shanu’s is not a dark and tragic history, and unlike his British counterpart he grows up with a loving and supportive extended family. At the school, the Draco equivalent is downplayed while virtually all of the menace is rolled up into a single antagonist. The movie jettisons the foreboding and dangerous world of “Harry Potter” in favor of bright lights and sugary lessons about tolerance and caring.
Another thing that really “jumps out” about the film is the hilariously conspicuous product placement. Parle G, a real brand of biscuits, makes multiple appearances, not only providing Shanu the opportunity to attend Aabra Ka Daabra but also in one scene giving him Popeye-like strength. And in levitation class the students are asked to draw pictures using exclusively Camel products.
As for the 3-D effect, “Aabra Ka Daabra” employs the red-cyan anaglyph process, making the movie easier to release in a variety of formats without elaborate equipment. The film makes ample use of the gimmick, frequently thrusting objects into the foreground and throwing things at the camera. However, it suffers a little due to some poor color choices that play havoc with the effect, for example the bright blue uniforms.
But where this film really shines is its energetic and opulent musical numbers. The songs are extremely catchy, and the choreography is kinetic and extremely fun. So while there are plenty of reasons to see the film, the dance numbers might just be number one.
“Aabra Ka Daabra” is a total blast, and if you want to experience it for yourself it’s readily available on DVD from numerous online retailers. The disc even comes with four pairs of 3-D glasses so that you can enjoy it with your friends.
If you’re already a fan of Harry Potter, well, this movie just adds a whole new dimension to it.
Thanks so much for watching, I’ll see you next time, and Aabra Ka Daabra!
Know of other foreign remakes of popular American films? Leave a comment and lemme know!