Friday, June 18, 2010

Raavan review

Ten-tative epic!

Director: Mani Ratnam
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Vikram, Govinda, Ravi Kissen
Rating: **1/2

The Stockholm syndrome, where the captive develops feelings for her captor, is always a fascinating one to explore, and not often seen in Hindi cinema. To employ this element in the Sita haran episode from the Ramayana, and ultimately make a larger point about human complexity and frailty, is undeniably a wonderful concept. But as it happens often with ambitious ventures, quite a few things go wrong with Raavan reducing what could have been an explosive drama to a flickering beauty.

Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) is an outlaw, a Robin Hood figure who is loved by the poor people of his village (no idea where this place is, there's no reference to any Naxilite movement as one believed earlier). In the course his violent skirmishes with the police, he one day abducts Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), the wife of police inspector, Dev (Vikram). Initially, Beera plans on killing her within 14 hours of bringing her to a secluded forest. But captivated by her beauty and courage, he no longer has the heart to kill her. In fact, he passionately harbours hope of possessing her, but realises that she's way above his league. Meanwhile, Dev launches a massive search operation to retrieve his wife. He is aided by a forest guard, Sanjeevani ( Govinda), who helps him find Ragini.
Govinda is meant to be Hanuman, but Mani makes it too literal, by having him clumsily jump from one tree branch to another. And with all that bulk the actor has, it ends up looking extremely funny.

The film is a visual masterpiece no doubt. Rarely has one seen an Indian film so beautifully shot. But the downside is that Ratnam is so preoccupied with getting the perfect frames, that the drama ends up taking a backseat. There's no conflict or even a definite plot in the first half. Ratnam is happy to just give you one great looking shot after another. The camera seems especially focussed on Aishwarya Rai, capturing every contour and expression, as she struggles for her dear life. The actress is marvelous in her no-make up look, her translucent green eyes being her sole adornment on a face constantly filled with bruises and mud.

Ratnam lingers on forever on the visuals and perhaps this may not have been a major grouse if Beera's character had been more revetting. Call it either a major mis-reading of the character by Abhishek or an inability to pitch it correctly, but the actor makes a caricature of his role, doing a poor imitation of Heath Ledger's Joker. He grunts, makes faces, mutters incoherent stuff to himself, and keeps widening his eyes in what is an altogether unpleasant sight. Ratnam, for a considerable length of time, is enamoured with Ragini alone. As for Beera, the director tries to build a legend around his character, trying hard to sell him as something of a devil-child. But none of the gimmickry works, and Beera never rises beyond appearing anything more than a petty criminal. The character - in spite of his villainy - needed to appear more majestic. But Abhishek plays Beera as if he were a maniac, with no shades or layers. Obviously Ratnam must take some blame for this. This not only affects one's interest in the drama, it also has a bearing on the Veera-Ragini relationship which appears entirely passionless and placid, in spite of the narrative trying to suggest otherwise. This is partly because the leads don't share any chemistry on screen here. And perhaps because Ash and Abhi are real-life husband and wife, there is no chord struck when Veera says in the film,
' I'm jealous of your husband'
Again, when Beera touches Ragini on her cheeks in one scene, it's supposed to be a moment of simmering sexual tension, and justifies Veera professing his liking to her in the next scene. But that feeling doesn't come across at all.

While the film is slow till the very end, it gallops in the last 20 minutes. This part contains the crux of the story, and though the sequence where Dev demands an 'agni pariksha' from Ragini in the form of a polygraph test appears too literal, Ratnam understands the complexity of the Ram-Raavan ie good-evil equation. How can a good man remain one, when the evil man shows so much goodness?

Vikram is formidable, perhaps a bit too strong in a film where the role of Raavan does not make an impression. All in all, a film that had enormous potential to be great, but falls quite short.

- Sandhya Iyer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice review...will catch it soon from jayshah

June 18, 2010 at 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked the movie more than you. I would say I disagree with your point about Ragini and Beera. Sure it does seem as though her feelings for him turn out of no where but I thought their scenes together were quite captivating.

June 18, 2010 at 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sandy - sorry but your first mistake is in reviewing the wrong movie. You should have reviewed Raavanan instead of the Hindi one. It is a disgrace that mani cast someone like Abhishek and I think its a bigger stupidity that Mani made this movie in Hindi.

Raavanan is a good movie that could have/should have been great. I thought the casting was perfect - the storyline great upto the last half hour. I believe the comparisons to Ramayana are superflous and insults one's intelligence. This is just another one of those pot boilers where a guy tries to avenge a wrong done to his family. Its funny that Vikram as raavanan is supposedly a rakshasa but all the bad acts in the movie are done by prithviraj who is supposedly the good cop. I think Mani lost the plot towards the end and made a total mish mash of what was going well!

All the same - definitely one of mani's better movies - far far better than Guru or Azhudha eyuthu

finally a word on the music - gosh this is ARR's top 5. What a rip roaring album this is. Seldom have i come out of a movie on such a high becoz of the songs - with raavanan i did. Shame on you for not putting up a music review either of the Tamil movie. You are losing your touch by reviewing the wrong stuff girl..!

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