tv series

Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters’ is for kids and the kids hidden inside the grown-ups

The animated series on Netflix tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who has been chosen by a magical amulet as the first ever human hunter of trolls.

While there is a lot of watch on Netflix, it is the original series such as Orange is the New Black, BoJack Horseman, Narcos, or House of Cards that make a subscription worth your time.

Recently, a series that features children on bikes battling creatures from an underground world made its debut on the streaming platform. We are not talking about Stranger Things. The animated series Trollhunters features a happier and brighter colour scheme and a story that works across all age groups.

Guillermo del Toro’s first animated feature is a 26-episode series based on a book by the same name written by the filmmaker along with Daniel Krauss. It is an epic adventure that features ghosts, trolls, swords, goblins, gnomes – and it is really very good.

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Trollhunters.

Produced by DreamWorks and Netflix, the series tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who has been chosen by a magical amulet as the first ever human hunter of trolls. Jim Lake Jr (voiced by Anton Yelchin) loves his single mother and takes care of her as she overworks herself at the hospital, where she is a doctor. He loves to cook, and his best friend Toby (voiced by Charlie Saxton) loves to eat. Unknown to them, however, there is a whole world of trolls and other magical and mystical beings right beneath their feet.

When the evil troll Bular (Ron Perlman) attacks trollhunter Kanjigar, he perishes in the sun and leaves behind an amulet that calls out to Jim. He is now bound to a shining armour and sword that appear when he needs them. Jim has to protect the good trolls and the humans of his small town from Gunmar and his army of Gum Gums.

Fortunately, Jim has Toby (Charlie Saxton), his high school crush Claire (Lexi Medrano), and two good trolls Blinky (Kelsey Grammer) and AAARRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore), who prepare him for the imminent battle. Along the way, they fight vengeful goblins, gnome infestations, nightmare-inducing pixie epidemics, high-school bullies, and changelings.

Trollhunters was intended to be a film, but the format shift seems to have worked for the best. As a TV series, Trollhunters spends a great deal of time developing storylines and characters by giving the writers the leverage to steer away from preconceived expectations and stereotypes. Jim isn’t a standard good boy turned teen hero, Toby isn’t plain comic relief, and Claire isn’t just a pretty face and voiceless love interest.

All the characters have depth, and the show increasingly builds on the gravity of an army of monsters waiting to attack the good folk. It manages to stay funny and unpredictable. Jim balances school life, drama practice, his mother’s calls and the bullies who are trying to murder him – both above and below ground – while learning to fight the master of evil and getting a passing grade in Spanish.

Trollhunters.
Trollhunters.

At first look, Trollhunters may seem like a throwback to animated fantasy adventures such as Johnny Quest or, more recently, How to Train your Dragon. But the series comes with Del Toro’s distinctive trademark of stunning artwork and incredible detailing. It is a colour fest for kids and a visual delight for grown-ups.

The strong writing, remarkable animation and masterful voice acting aside, the show is also notable as the last performance of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident in 2016. Del Toro decided to continue with the parts recorded with Yelchin, who, according to him, was the perfect voice for Jim. The character will be recast for season 2.

Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro.
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In a first, some of the finest Indian theatre can now be seen on your screen

A new cinematic production brings to life thought-provoking plays as digital video.

Though we are a country besotted with cinema, theatre remains an original source of provocative stories, great actors, and the many deeply rooted traditions of the dramatic arts across India. CinePlay is a new, ambitious experiment to bring the two forms together.

These plays, ‘filmed’ as digital video, span classic drama genre as well as more experimental dark comedy and are available on Hotstar premium, as part of Hotstar’s Originals bouquet. “We love breaking norms. And CinePlay is an example of us serving our consumer’s multi-dimensional personality and trusting them to enjoy better stories, those that not only entertain but also tease the mind”, says Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar.

The first collection of CinePlays feature stories from leading playwrights, like Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani, Badal Sircar amongst others and directed by film directors like Santosh Sivan and Nagesh Kukunoor. They also star some of the most prolific names of the film and theatre world like Nandita Das, Shreyas Talpade, Saurabh Shukla, Mohan Agashe and Lillete Dubey.

The idea was conceptualised by Subodh Maskara and Nandita Das, the actor and director who had early experience with street theatre. “The conversation began with Subodh and me thinking how can we make theatre accessible to a lot more people” says Nandita Das. The philosophy is that ‘filmed’ theatre is a new form, not a replacement, and has the potential to reach millions instead of thousands of people. Hotstar takes the reach of these plays to theatre lovers across the country and also to newer audiences who may never have had access to quality theatre.

“CinePlay is merging the language of theatre and the language of cinema to create a third unique language” says Subodh. The technique for ‘filming’ plays has evolved after many iterations. Each play is shot over several days in a studio with multiple takes, and many angles just like cinema. Cinematic techniques such as light and sound effects are also used to enhance the drama. Since it combines the intimacy of theatre with the format of cinema, actors and directors have also had to adapt. “It was quite intimidating. Suddenly you have to take something that already exists, put some more creativity into it, some more of your own style, your own vision and not lose the essence” says Ritesh Menon who directed ‘Between the Lines’. Written by Nandita Das, the play is set in contemporary urban India with a lawyer couple as its protagonists. The couple ends up arguing on opposite sides of a criminal trial and the play delves into the tension it brings to their personal and professional lives.

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The actors too adapted their performance from the demands of the theatre to the requirements of a studio. While in the theatre, performers have to project their voice to reach a thousand odd members in the live audience, they now had the flexibility of being more understated. Namit Das, a popular television actor, who acts in the CinePlay ‘Bombay Talkies’ says, “It’s actually a film but yet we keep the characteristics of the play alive. For the camera, I can say, I need to tone down a lot.” Vickram Kapadia’s ‘Bombay Talkies’ takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as seven personal stories unravel through powerful monologues, touching poignant themes such as child abuse, ridicule from a spouse, sacrifice, disillusionment and regret.

The new format also brought many new opportunities. In the play “Sometimes”, a dark comedy about three stressful days in a young urban professional’s life, the entire stage was designed to resemble a clock. The director Akarsh Khurana, was able to effectively recreate the same effect with light and sound design, and enhance it for on-screen viewers. In another comedy “The Job”, presented earlier in theatre as “The Interview”, viewers get to intimately observe, as the camera zooms in, the sinister expressions of the interviewers of a young man interviewing for a coveted job.

Besides the advantages of cinematic techniques, many of the artists also believe it will add to the longevity of plays and breathe new life into theatre as a medium. Adhir Bhat, the writer of ‘Sometimes’ says, “You make something and do a certain amount of shows and after that it phases out, but with this it can remain there.”

This should be welcome news, even for traditionalists, because unlike mainstream media, theatre speaks in and for alternative voices. Many of the plays in the collection are by Vijay Tendulkar, the man whose ability to speak truth to power and society is something a whole generation of Indians have not had a chance to experience. That alone should be reason enough to cheer for the whole project.

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Hotstar, India’s largest premium streaming platform, stands out with its Originals bouquet bringing completely new formats and stories, such as these plays, to its viewers. Twenty timeless stories from theatre will be available to its subscribers. Five CinePlays, “Between the lines”, “The Job”, “Sometimes”, “Bombay Talkies” and “Typecast”, are already available and a new one will release every week starting March. To watch these on Hotstar Premium, click here.

This article was produced on behalf of Hotstar by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.