By Sarah Sluis
DreamWorks Animation has shown itself to be a worthy rival of Pixar, gaining accolades for a number of films, including last year's Oscar-nominated How to Train Your Dragon. Their latest project, Monkeys of Mumbai, just acquired a director.
Kevin Lima (Enchanted, Tarzan, 102 Dalmatians) will direct the Bollywood-inspired animated musical. Gurinder Chadha, who IMDB listed as director, is writing the screenplay with Paul Mayeda Berges. Chadha and Berges collaborated on Indian-inflected tales Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. The adaptation of a story in the epic Sanskrit tale The Ramayana will be told from the point of view of monkeys. The primates must prevent demons from taking over the land.
One thing DreamWorks head Jeffrey Katzenberg will make sure of is that the movie won't "suck." During a webcast interview with Fortune, the studio head criticized recent movies, saying "Let me have a show of hands of people that would say the last seven or eight months of movies is the worst lineup of movies you've experienced in the last five years of your life... They suck. It's unbelievable how bad movies have been." It's a rare candid comment, but as someone who's seen her fair share of tepid films lately, I agree.
Projects similar to Monkeys of Mumbai have had mixed success. Disney misfired when it partnered up with Yash Raj Films for the 2008 animated flop Roadside Romeo. Perhaps DreamWorks will be luckier. Like DWA's Kung Fu Panda series, there will be opportunities for the movie to draw inspiration from classic Indian styles of drawing. Movies like Blue Sky Studios' Rio attracted an international audience while focusing on a specific locale, Brazil, including song and dance numbers inspired by the region's music. Done right, Monkeys of Mumbai could easily attract the global audience that's becoming increasingly important to Hollywood's bottom line. American audiences, for their part, will get a cultural lesson from another country's story bank.