The concept of wildlife and forest conservation is a subject that has not gone untouched by Bollywood. Haathi Mere Saathi aka Kaadan in Tamil and Aranya in Telugu attempts to play on similar lines. While the plot and the characters try to bring out the emotion of empathy towards the elephants and the jungle, it's the shabby execution of this one that acts as a bummer.
What's Yay: The cinematography by AR Ashok Kumar and the action sequences
What's Nay: Shoddy screenplay, chaotic subplots and non-convincing character development
The plot of Haathi Mere Saathi revolves around Bandev (Rana Daggubati)'s quest to protect and restore the rights of the elephants in the forest wherein a crucial part of their land is usurped by a government minister for a housing project. On the other hand, a gang of alleged Maoists led by Arvi (Zoya Hussain) are fighting for their rights from the government. A Mahaut (Pulkit Samrat) is initially hired by the housing project officials to drive the protesting elephants away from the site but a personal mishap gives him a much-needed introspection. Then there is a journalist Arundhati (Shriya Pilgaonkar) who's dedicated to only cater to the truth and stay true to her work.
Director Prabhu Soloman has tried to weave out a compelling message on the lines of elephant and wildlife conservation but the direction and screenplay of this one become one huge convoluted mess. There are several sub-plots like the plotting of the Maoists to infiltrate the wall made by the housing project officials or the love story between Pulkit and Zoya's character that does not have a significant build-up or does not take the plot convincingly ahead. Rather than focusing on Bandev's fight for the justice of the elephants, the plot deviates from the main story and threatens to become a snooze fest.
Be it a corrupt police officer's fake encounter of innocent villagers or the bizarre chain of events that include Pulkit's character randomly falling in love with a stranger, one finds it difficult to connect with the plotline or the underdeveloped characters. One struggles to also understand the God-like features of Rana Daggubati's Bandev. It should've been established how he developed a superhuman animal-like strength or characteristics as the entire thing looks caricaturish in some scenes. These irrelevant factors increase the pace of the movie laboriously.
Rana Daggubati is the main guiding anchor of this one. He is at his fiery best and is simply a visual delight as Bandev. The actor never fails to break the sync of his character's raw and rough persona be it through his walk or his mannerisms. Even though his character possesses some caricaturish traits on some occasions but his convincing act makes up for it. Pulkit Samrat tries to do justice to his character but some of his scenes appear overly melodramatic and loud. One of his high points in the movie is when he grieves the loss of his elephant Chotu.
Zoya Hussain and Shriya Pilgaonkar are convincing in their acts but do not have much room to perform. Anant Mahadevan as the main antagonist could have been utilised more. A shoutout to the best cast members of the film- the elephants.
The highlight of Haathi Mere Saathi has to be the captivating cinematography by A R Ashok Kumar. The dense, riveting and blissful aura of the forests of Chhatisgarh and their wildlife is beautifully showcased. The action sequences of the film have been well choreographed. However, the movie lacks polished editing that adds to the weary pace.
The music by Shantanu Moitra acts as a catchy background score. However, the soundtracks could have created a greater impact. The song 'Ae Hawa' by Javed Ali stands out.
Watch this one for the honest message of wildlife and environment conservation. Another reason is inevitably Rana Daggubati's larger than life act. We give Haathi Mere Saathi 2.5 out of 5 stars.