An Animated Disney Bollywood Musical? The Story Of “Roadside Romeo”.


Here’s something you might have never heard of. Did you know that back in 2008 Disney co-produced and distributed an animated film that was made in India? And not just any animated film. It was India’s first 3D animated film. Here’s the strange tale of one of Disney’s darkest kept secrets. This is the story of Roadside Romeo.

The story begins with a man by the name of Jugal Hansraj. An Indian actor, model, writer, director, producer, author and the whole bag of chips. He wanted to try his hands at making an animated movie with his friend Aditya Chopra. He had trouble coming up with an idea until one day:

I was waiting at the traffic signal and saw these dogs playing in the dirt… un-cared for, scruffy looking gang, totally mast in a garbage pile, and I instantly knew the characters of my story.

He was able to convince Aditya’s father, Indian producer Yash Chopra, and then Disney Chairman Dick Cook to come on board the project. The film would be a co-production between Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Pictures India with Tata Elxsi handling the animation.

Despite the name the film’s story has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Instead, the story follows a dog names Romeo, named that because he is a ladies man; Or in this case “ladies dog”. Growing up in a spoiled rich house his world crumbles when his owners move away and he becomes a street dog. One odd thing about Romeo, despite the film being primarily spoken in Hindi, Romeo sometimes switched back and forth between Hindi and English.

Romeo then befriends some other stray dongs and then decides to open up a doggy hair salon. One night he sees a girl dog named Laila dancing in the moonlight. He immediately falls in love. But it turns out another dog named Charlie, who happens to be a dog mob boss, likes her as well. Charlie and his female dog body guards, called his “Angels”, find out about Romeo and will do what they can to take him out of the equation.

The film mostly follows Romeo and Charlie trying to win over Laila. It has a few songs and dance sequences sprinkled throughout. Eventually Romeo decided to save Charlie from being caught by the dog catcher and Charlie changes his mind, deciding to let him and Leila be together. 

The film released on October 23rd, 2008 and was a massive bomb, grossing only $2 Million world wide. It apparently had a limited North American theatrical release but Disney obviously didn’t want to advertise it. The film was criticized for its poor animation, bad acting and predictable story.

Since then Jugal Hansraj hasn’t returned to animation. While countries like Japan, South Korea and even China dominate Asian animation India still falls behind. 

While the film is arguably bad it is still and interesting piece of Disney history. Working with Indian production companies to produce the first 3D animated film to come out of India is quite something. I’d only recommend the film if you were either morbidly curious or want to have a couple drinks and laugh.

Imagine if one day this showed up on your Disney Plus feed. Would you watch it?

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