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''The Lord Of The Rings...''

IT IS never easy to adapt a literary text, especially a popular one, to the screen. Many have failed here. Many have succeeded. Margaret Mitchell's ``Gone With The Wind,'' Thomas Hardy's ``Tess... ,'' Daphne Du Maurier's ``Rebecca'' and more recently J. K. Rowling's ``Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone'' are some examples of successful adaptions.

Tolkien's first of a three-part trilogy, ``The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring'' -- first read in 1954 with much enthusiasm -- is now a motion picture, brought to cinematic life by Peter Jackson. Nearly three-and-a-half hours long, this is almost an epic like ``Ben-hur'' or ``The Ten Commandments''. But unlike these, ``The Lord Of The Rings'' is a tale of sheer fantasy, with liberal doses of mythology, folklore and tradition, whose readers were once caught in the dilemma of the archetypal struggle between good and bad.

Which begins when the shy and young hobbit, Frodo Baggins, inherits a ring, whose awesome power could allow Sauron, a wicked lord, to rule middle earth and enslave its people. It rests upon Frodo to take the trinket across the middle earth to the Crack of Doom, where it was first created, and destroy it. Frodo cannot do this alone: he needs help from fellow hobbits, a wizard, a dwarf, an elf and men. And as he sets forth on his adventure, he has to fight not only Sauron's evil army of orcs, but also the corrupting influence of the ring that turns some of his friends into foes.

There is some great piece of acting by Ian McKellen, who as wizard Gandalf, conveys the pain and pleasure of being a part of the destruction ceremony.

His performance, which has won him an Oscar nomination for the Best Supporting Actor, is the genial high point of the movie.

Of course, Elijah Wood as little Frodo is equally inspiring in a role which is no less challenging than Gandalf's. Yet, Wood is out of the Oscar race.

``The Lord Of The Rings,'' with 13 nods -- Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and so on -- finds itself in the company of some cinematic jewels which won many Academy nominations each in the course of the Oscar history.

But ``The Lord Of The Rings'' was disappointing. One wondered why the comparatively more impressive Harry Potter could manage merely minor nods. For one, Potter is far more endearing to a viewer than The Lord. Potter is so very plausible, based as it is in a perfectly recognisable ambience. Yes, given the subject, The Lord could not have been so: yet, Jackson slips, even falls, in his attempt to convert his tale into a magic of delight and wonder.

What follows is a cinema of utter banality, and a cinema of devilish violence ornamented with torture, mutilation, decapitation and death. This is not to speak of the most hideous looking monsters, which keep appearing every quarter of an hour in a movie that is boringly repetitive and visually nauseating.

However, Jackson's casting is excellent. Most of the actors and actresses fit into their parts effortlessly. What is more, the whole contrivance of the world of men and the mythical creatures actually works, at least at some level, thanks to the evolving technological wizardry.

Jackson may not be alone in trying to put together stuff which most people once felt should remain unseen. It was best left to the imaginative crevices of the mind, they thought. But what Jackson has brought to the celluloid is unfortunately not terribly exciting. On the contrary, it is positively repulsive, and ``The Lord Of The Rings...'' seems to have been a trifle too careless about striking the right balance between the ugly and the beautiful, Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett, who appear briefly, notwithstanding.


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