November 22, 2002 
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Intelligent and different, but, alas! no masterpiece
With Makdee, composer Vishal Bharadwaj makes a competent directorial debut

Priya Ganapati

Unless you have no access to television, newspapers or the Internet, or you belong to that breed of people with zero interest in Hindi cinema, it must have been hard to escape hearing about Makdee.

Composer Vishal Bharadwaj's directorial debut is a rare children's film to stray out of the Bollywood movie factory.

Here's the good news: Makdee has a novel plot, some polished cinematography, excellent makeup and is good fun to watch.

Now for the bad news: Makdee falls short of the finishing line which turns a film that dares to be different into a masterpiece. It has a lame ending and some boring songs.

Makdee is the story of a witch who supposedly turns children into animals if they stray into her villa. The village is abuzz with stories about children who walked into the witch's lair and never returned.

The evil lurking in the hamlet established, the film shifts to the antics of local brat Chunni (Shwetaa Prasad). Along with the adopted son of the village butcher (Makarand Deshpande), Chunni impersonates her twin Munni to escape from trouble. Chunni’s partner in fun and crime, the hilariously named Mughal-e-Azam (Alaap Majgavkar) is the butcher's adopted son.

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The light moments pass quickly when Chunni's pranks lead to Munni being chased into the witch's villa, only for her to reappear as a hen. A stricken Chunni confronts the witch who lays down a set of demands in exchange for her sister's return to human form.

As you have probably heard a zillion times, Shabana Azmi plays the witch. Her makeup, which took four hours every day to put on, pays off. It is realistic and the camera captures the shrivelled hands, the giant lips and matted hair with ample emphasis to instill fear in the audience.

But Shabana does not have too much of a role, and the makeup eventually distracts from her performance. The other adult with a reasonably long role, Makarand Deshpande, enacts his role with such enthusiasm that you burst into laughter each time he appears on screen.

The child actors are endearing. As Chunni and Munni, Shwetaa is a treat to watch. She is bubbly without grating on the nerves; innocent without seeming contrived. The adorable Alaap is the scene-stealer. A still from Makdee

Makdee has an intriguing plot, matched by good production values. The camera angles and polished direction bring a veneer of sophistication to the film.

A warning: The film gets a tad terrifying at times, and some scenes may be unsuitable for young children.

But Makdee, which takes off with a wonderful burst of the imagination, splutters after the intermission and ends tamely.

Strangely, in a film directed by a talented composer, the score is a letdown. There are too many songs, most of them tuneless, which make you impatient to have the movie move on.

Despite these flaws, Makdee comes across as Vishal Bharadwaj's labour of love. It is written, produced, directed and has music scored by him. Bharadwaj, better known for his musical success in Maachis, Satya and Godmother (the Shabana starrer on the sets of which he convinced her to play the witch), has done a competent job as director. The shot execution and storytelling reveal he has the potential to be a good storyteller.

If only the film had pushed itself a little more, it could have entered masterpiece territory.

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