A recent rise in animated films in Pakistan has made one thing clear – filmmakers and producers are finally ready to create craft with the younger audience and the young at heart in mind. However, are such films actually able to grasp the viewer as they claim? The recently-released film, The Donkey King believes so – and it might just have delivered on its claims.
Directed by Aziz Jindani, The Donkey King explores the Kingdom of Azadnagar, where the animal hierarchy is all set; the lions rule the land, the herbivores populate it, and of course, the donkeys exist on the lowest strata of it all. Mangu, the launderer donkey (Jan Rambo) is lower than the lowest on this hierarchy. However, things change when Badshah Khan (Ghulam Mohiuddin) decides to abdicate the throne in favour of his son, Shahzada Khan (Adeel Hashmi) via a ‘democratic election’ courtesy the literally foxy vizier, Miss Fitna’s (Hina Dilpazeer) advice.
Planning to create chaos and galvanize her masterplan of poaching animals for the circus ringmaster, Miss Fitna’s scheme begins to materialize when she uses the idea of democracy to instil hatred against the reigning king, and in turn, gets the population to vote for her own candidate – the ever-simple, Mangu.
Meandering between Mangu’s rags-to-riches story and his subsequent realization of the larger scheme that’s taking a toll on Azadnagar, The Donkey King is a two-hour rollercoaster ride that creates laughable moments in some places and becomes gruellingly slow at others.
Starting off with the film’s shortcomings, the film is clearly not made with children in mind or at least sidelines them by the middle of it. The plot line, albeit simple, largely talks about the loopholes of democracy and hand-picked leaders, which makes it beyond the possible comprehension capacity of children. Adding onto that, the film also looks at the role of media in manipulating the population, which not only stereotypes but also unnecessarily complicates the story.
Having said that, the tagline of the film – ‘Fun for all ages’ may be the culprit there.
Apart from the obvious problems in the plot, the film’s pacing is a massive issue as well. The film does not need to be 2 hours long. A lot could have been cut out. Pakistani filmmakers do need to strongly realize that adding songs into every story is not the need of the hour; a better-edited film is.
However, not all is lost in the film. It’s by far a better-structured film than many other animated features in the past, and that is its biggest strength. One can actually look at the three-act structure being used in the film properly and given that many filmmakers don’t know how to execute that, Aziz Jindani is a winner here.
The humour in the film is also commendable. Be it Hina Dilpazeer as the shrill Miss Fitna, Mani as the venomous chameleon Rangeela or Jan Rambo as Mangu, himself, the characters are affable and will be able to entertain audiences who are willing to sit two hours through it.
Verdict: Watch The Donkey King for its fun moments, and be ready to explain what’s going on to the little ones!
Something Haute rating: 3 out of 5 stars