All of us love to build castles in the air. Very few actually get to do it. And director Sujoy Ghosh, is one lucky guy who builds not just a palatial building, but an entire city, Khwaish Nagar, peopled with eccentric restaurateurs, classroom bullies, adventure-loving parents and magical shops round the corner. And it also happens to have a very special boy, by the name of Aladin Chatterjee, who has a genie at his service, waiting to grant him his three wishes.

Riteish Deshmukh is the orphaned, sensitive, lovable loser Aladin, who is the butt of ridicule because of his name. His loneliness in a house full of intriguing gadgets, gizmos and memories comes across as well as his crush on the gorgeous Jasmine, an American student on an exchange program.

Amitabh Bachchan is the Genie or Genius as he calls himself, a spunky, fun-loving father figure, who comes out of Aladin’s lamp and convinces him to seek his three wishes so that he can go on with his retirement plans. Sanjay Dutt is the evil Ring Master, who is desperate to get hold of the magic lamp so that he can fulfil his dreams of taking over the world. And he is aided by a fantastic team of a fire-breathing siren, a somersaulting clown, a giant and a guy with a crackling whip.

What makes Aladin so immensely watchable is the smart humor. It does not insult the audience’s intelligence by trying to explain every little thing. There are plenty of tricks and witty touches. Aladin’s guitar turning into a frog that makes clanging sounds instead of croaking, his laughable attempts at impressing Jasmine, the names given to the various places (eg. The Ancient Thing Shop which sells antiques, a café called Chaipiyoji that only recently adds tea to its menu)  Amitabh the genie’s misguided attempts at helping him out, make for engaging viewing.

The special effects are good, and the cinematography is neat too. But there are way too many songs and romantic breaks, making the film lose pace and drag towards the end.

Aladin boasts of a superb performance by Riteish Deshmukh and a spirited one by Bachchan. Dutt as the villain is good too, while Jacqueline is a delight to watch in the fairytale setting. But the film, inspite of all the magical ingredients, somehow fails to sparkle as much as you would have wanted it to.

Maybe the long song and dance sequences and the anticlimax had something to do with it. Nevertheless, we desperately needed a special-effect powered fantasy film like Aladin, with an intelligent screenplay, solid performances, competent direction and well-executed special effects. Something that appeals to the smart new breed of cinephiles- who want more than magicians pulling rabbits out of their hats.

By Chandrima Pal

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