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Haathi Mere Saathi review: Inordinately Long and Mundane!

My advice is stick to the 1971 film instead of watching this inordinately long and mundane stuff, writes Jyothi Venkatesh



Haathi Mere Saathi


Director: Prabu Solomon

Cast: Rana Daggubati, Pulkrit Samrat, Zoya Hussain, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Sheeba Chaddha, Ravi Kale, Ananth Mahadevan, Vishwajeet Pradhan

Streaming on: Eros Now


By Jyothi Venkatesh

Filmed primarily in Kerala and set in Chhattisgarh, Haathi Mere Saathi is the Hindi version that was shot simultaneously with the Tamil and Telugu ones – Kaadan and Aranya respectively – but it has taken almost yet another six months longer than the other two to land in our midst.

The film is headlined by the unkempt Bandev (Rana Daggubati, a jungle man who single-handedly takes on a battery of people who invade the habitat of his elephant friends, a reserve forest in a no-development zone. Though the film begins on a promising note, on the way it bellows its way to a predictable climax.

The character he plays is inspired in part by the real-life Jadav Payeng, known as the forest man of India because he took upon himself the mission to plant thousands of trees in Majuli and create an entire reserve forest. Our hero Sumitranandan – the name is mentioned only is passing – has earned the sobriquet Bandev (Lord of the Jungle) because his personal tree count is, believe it or not as high as 100,000.Then there is a guy called Shankar (Pulkit Samrat), the mahout of a kumki (trained) elephant deployed to drive away the wild pachyderms on the rampage and in mood to let the construction work progress unhindered.

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A highly corrupt and ambitious politician (Anant Mahadevan) who also happens to be the environment minister, sets out to amass money by selling of a 50-hectare township, complete with residential towers, amphitheaters, gymnasiums, shopping malls and swimming pools and sends his men – a contractor, a lawyer and a battery of construction workers – and orders them to swing into action, by driving away the poor elephants and the inmates from their own forest lands.

As if all these characters weren’t enough, there is a brother-sister Naxal duo, Arav [Bhuvan Arora] and Aarvi [Zoya Hussain], besides a journalist [Shriya Pilgaonkar], who calls her father from the forest to get her laptop (!) and a mahout. Predictably, Shankar proceeds to fall in love with Aarvi though the love affair is thwarted.

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Among the cast, Rana Daggupati deserves credit to tackle a very unglamorous part with all his intensity and lends a different dimension to his character and walks away with all the accolades while carrying the entire burden on his broad shoulders while Pulkit Samrat as Shankar has been wasted. So are Zoya Hussain and Shriya Pilgaonkar wasted in half baked insipid roles, which do not exploit their latent potential to the fullest. Anant Mahadevan is poised as the corrupt Minister does his act very subtly; clad in a white dhoti right from the first frame till the last while Vishwajeet Pradhan is lost in the crowd. Ravi Kale overacts his role as the corrupt rapist cop.

To put it in a nutshell, if you are an avid fan of Sandow M.M. A Chinnappa Thevar’s Haathi Mere Saathi (1971), this one is just a sacrilege. My advice is stick to the 1971 film instead of watching this inordinately long and mundane stuff.