'Chota' dose of fun

THE YEAR was 1984. Children and adults flocked to the theatres to watch a spectacle - the country's first 3-D film titled "My Dear Kuttichathan". The escapades of two children and a genie that were told in a riveting style using the technique of creating an illusion of three dimensional vision, conquered the box-office at that time. The film was released in Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi (as "Chota Chetan".)

Subsequently, the veteran Malayalam producer M.C. Punnoose better known as Appachan, decided to re-release the film in Hindi with some new scenes involving Urmila Matondkar, Shakti Kapoor, Ravi Baswani and Harish. It was released in the North last year and it has just hit the Southern screen now.

What made the original version unique and entertaining were the stunning special effects. "Chota Chetan" is a fantasy tale woven round Lakshmi, Raju, Chintu and the friendly spirit, Chetan. The three kids give in to curiosity and enter an abandoned bungalow. They accidentally release the imprisoned spirit, which takes the form of a boy.

What follows are some fun-filled moments for the children (both in the film and in the audience). The three kids and one spirit walk on walls, scare the living daylights out of their cruel teacher, overtake their mean schoolmate's car on the cycle- rickshaw and drench themselves in a rain of chocolates - all thanks to the magical touch of Chetan. He even cures Lakshmi's father of alcoholism.

It is at this point that director Jijo adds a contemporary twist to the old tale. Urmila Matondkar makes her appearance as a magician. She is a tantrik's daughter whose evil-minded assistant steals Chetan, the spirit, to unearth a hidden treasure. With the help of Ravi and Harish, Urmila goes in search of Chetan.

The film, despite being made nearly 15 years ago, still spells magic. The evergreen theme of goods vs. evil with children as the protagonists simply charmed the masses then and continues to do so even now. When a spear heads your way or a frizbee flies at you, it is indeed a chilling and thrilling experience.

Another fresh feature is the soundtrack by Anu Malik with a couple of songs such as "Ek Jaadu Honewala" (Shankar Mahadevan) and "Jo tum kaho kar doon mein" (Anuradha Sriram, picturised on Urmila).

But the 3-D technique itself has not been a favourite with filmmakers both in India and abroad. Appachan feels "this could be because of the labour-intensive process. To begin with, a special lens is required. Also, we need a special screen and glasses. Each pair of specs cost nearly Rs. 25. The whole process is time-consuming."

The technique of 3-D, also known as stereoscopic cinema, became popular in the 1950s when the television boom was threatening the film industry in Hollywood. "Bwana Devil" was released in 1952 and this was followed by a spate of films from most studio majors. Even Alfred Hitchcock shot "Dial M For Murder" in 3-D, but never released it in that form.

Research is still on to perfect this medium and the system of holography that remained unexplored, is now being tapped to produce technically superior 3-D films.

Perhaps, this could lead to more films in that genre. But only time will tell whether the 3-D technique will surface once again to enthrall masses!