Movie Review: Delhi Safari (2012)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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*Note: An English-language version of Delhi Safari will be released on December 7, 2012. This review covers the original Hindi-language version.

Bollywood isn’t known for making films specifically designed to appeal to children, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Delhi Safari, a wretched waste of time that insults moviegoers of all ages.

The most obvious criticism of the film is that it doesn’t look good. The animation quality is slightly above direct-to-video caliber. The character movements are so jerky you can practically see the physics engine that animated them.

Most of the backgrounds of the scenes are blurry and indistinct, presumably because the film released in India in 3D and the animators thought they could get away with it. My local theater only carried the movie in 2D, which emphasized every blurred face and fuzzy tree. Since many families will watch the movie at home on DVD or on cable television, it’s inexcusable to do the job halfway.

Of course, the obvious defense of the cheap-looking animation is that Indian studios operate on a fraction of the budget of a studio like Disney or Pixar, but many of the problems are stylistic choices. The animal lead characters have eerily human features like humanoid eyelids that render them grotesque (while the humans look like beings from The Sims). Combining creepy humanoid features with jerky movements lands the critters in the Uncanny Valley.

Sub-par animation could be forgiven if Delhi Safari‘s story was well told, but it’s not. There’s no sense of flow or pacing to the story. In order to keep costs down, the establishing elements of the story are rushed through. Within the first five minutes, we see a crying leopard cub, a flashback to the cub playing with his dad, and a song. By the end of those five minutes, the dad is dead.

The cub is Yuvi (Swini Khara), a young leopard whose jungle home is threatened by property developers. Yuvi, his mother, a bear, and a monkey make the journey from the greater Mumbai area to Delhi, kidnapping a talking parrot along the way to act as their spokesanimal in front of Parliament. Perhaps the film should’ve been named “The Road to Delhi,” as only the last ten minutes take place in the capital city.

Despite being a baby big cat, Yuvi is no Simba. Yuvi undergoes no character development, nor does he drive the story forward, apart from the occasions when his father’s ghost communicates with him from beyond the grave.

Often, the point of children’s cinema is to give kids a character they can relate to, a fellow young person who takes charge of his or her destiny in a way a real kid can’t. It’s inspirational escapism. In Delhi Safari, Yuvi just gets dragged along by the grown-ups around him. That’s the story of every day of a kid’s life, so why would any child want to sit through a movie where his on-screen avatar experiences more of the same?

The voice acting is okay, though I’m not sure what kind of accent Boman Irani’s rotund bear is meant to have. Govinda and Akshaye Khanna are entertaining as the monkey and parrot, respectively: antagonists who wind up being the main characters of the film. Govinda’s monkey also gets the lone funny moment in the film: when he goes to urinate in a field, there’s a “zip” sound effect, even though the monkey is naked.

Delhi Safari is a missed opportunity. The message of ecological responsibility is an important one that children readily understand and embrace. Much of the message is introduced through songs, but the version I watched didn’t subtitle any of the lyrics in English, even though songs make up about a third of the film’s ninety-minute runtime. A laudable message is no excuse for bad filmmaking.


9 thoughts on “Movie Review: Delhi Safari (2012)

  1. Nicky

    Hi Kathy, just watched the movie ‘Makkhi'(meaning housefly). Trust me it is such a fascinating film with a unique story line and oodles of creativity.I would highly recommend this movie to you and the fellow readers.Catch it if its still playing at a theater near you.I think it went unnoticed because of so many other movies playing at its release time.(Oct 12)

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  3. Nicky

    Couldn’t agree more with Twitch’s review,spot on.My girlfriend who is from Southern India watched it in Telugu and suggested it to me,good that i have listened to her 😉 Since both versions are the same you may pick up the telugu version DVD which is out or a bluray which is scheduled to release by this month end.

  4. Gurcharan

    Juz 1 thng! Itz easy to sit in a chair and give reviews. But if you know so much about film-making, step forward with yours own awesome script and make 1. Nothing personal, but some points should make sense at least. Stop comparing. There are many such hollywood animation movies that are not upto the mark, but we still like it, all coz its been made outside india.

    1. Kathy

      Gurcharan, I believe that Indian audiences deserve to watch great movies, whether they’re made in India or internationally. One of my main criticisms with Delhi Safari is that the story is poorly told. There’s no reason to tolerate that in a country that has a lot of filmmakers who are great storytellers.

      As for the film’s animation quality, Delhi Safari was specifically created to release in India first before being dubbed into English and releasing in America. It’s not up to theatrical standards and is going to get crushed here. There are plenty of good animators out there, but the makers of Delhi Safari chose not to hire them.

      “If you know so much, then make your own film” is a silly criticism. By that line of thought, only master chefs can have an opinion on food, and only professional athletes can complain when a fielder drops a ball.

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  7. cartoons8

    Going to the zoo, watching Animal Planet or reading National Geographic will be more enlightening than this. (Full Content Review for Parents also available)


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