July Issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 14 years ago

If you’ve watched Dil Se, Bombay and Guru, you must already be familiar with the quality production of a Mani Ratnam film. So when this acclaimed movie producer/director took on the ambitious task of reproducing the modern-day adaptation of the mega epic Ramayana, nothing short of spectacular could be expected. But while Raavan displayed some great cinematography and impressive acting by most actors, it didn’t quite offer the experience or dexterity that was expected from it.

For those who are even remotely familiar with the original mythological epic, the story will be fairly boring as the plot remains, by and large, the same (except for a brief twist at the end). Ratnam tries to tinker with the plot by making Raavan the good guy and Ram the villain, but the lack of character-building doesn’t do justice to the multi-layered personalities of the mythological enemies.

Beera is a notorious criminal who lives in a dense forest called Lal Maati, where he is hailed a hero by his fellow forest residents. Dev is introduced as the town’s chief policeman, who sets off a chain of events that result in the death of Beera’s sister, Serena. To avenge her death, Beera abducts Dev’s wife Ragini and drags her into the forest with him. Dev immediately gets hot on the trail and with the help of the forest guard Sanjeevani, he vows to put Beera to justice. Meanwhile, Ragini’s initial repulsion of the eccentric criminal slowly subsides as he confides in her about his sister’s painful suicide. As Ragini learns that her husband was responsible for Serena’s gang rape and her consequential suicide, she finds herself weakening to Beera’s unapparent tenderness, and is left to decipher between good and evil.

The first 90 minutes of the movie are used as careless foreplay to build up to the actual climax of the movie, which by then is predictable anyway. Not only does Ratnam make terrible use of the time in developing the plot, but the characters also suffer from shallow portrayal. This movie is the perfect example of how an all-star cast doesn’t necessarily translate into an ideal one. Abhishek Bachchan could not have been more wrongly cast for the role of Beera. His facial expressions are ridiculously comical and totally void of the menacing image he is meant to deliver. It almost seems as though he is hiding a perpetual smile behind the mud and turmeric that is smeared on his face throughout the movie. Aishwarya Rai makes for an effective Ragini, although her performance is a varied cliché of what we have already come to expect from her over the years. She easily pulls off the damsel-in-distress role, but that probably didn’t require too many hours of character introspection for her. Chiyaan Vikram’s character, Dev, is a man of few words and more action. He effortlessly convinces the audience of the evil that prevails in him, which is probably not a good thing since the whole point is to blur the good and evil that lies inside his Ram-based character.

The lacklustre plot is probably to blame for the flat characters. In all fairness, there is only so much an actor can do with a plot and script that have no dimension. Too many things were left unexplained, and it is very unclear where the sudden attraction between Beera and Ragini emerges from.

On a more positive note, there are still two things in the film worth raving about. Oscar winner A. R. Rehman’s haunting tracks leave a lasting impression and perfectly match the mood of the movie. The action shots amidst the lush landscapes are also beautifully executed. The final showdown between Beera and Dev is shot on a narrow bridge in the steep valleys of Kerala, making for some mind-blowing stunts and scenic imagery. No doubt this movie ranks high in Bollywood’s audio and visual productions, but that probably won’t be enough to score it a ticket into Bollywood’s classic archives. The movie is a slow watch, but it is, nonetheless, still worth watching.