Raavan: Breathtakingly Tame!
By MovieTalkies.com, 18 June 2010
Well, 'Raavan' is one of the most anticipated films of the year. It is a Mani Ratnam film for one, and that should say it all. There is also the fact that real life couple Abhishek and Aishwairya Rai Bachchan are working together for the second time with the ace director. The other names associated with the film are equally illustrious— there is A.R. Rahman composing the music, Gulzar with the lyrics and Santosh Sivan behind the camera. The result should have been sheer magic, right?
But things don't always work out the way one expects or wants them to. And, however, badly one may have wished for Mani to unleash his magical touch, somewhere he is unable to invest the movie with that unforgettable quality which defines some of his best work.
'Raavan' begins on a very promising note, has those dashes of brilliance in places and is surprisingly quite ordinary at others. But even then, despite all of the above, the movie dazzles with the brilliance with which it has been shot. Most of the movie takes place in a rain soaked, slippery terrain, with the colour palette mostly restricting itself to different shades of dreary greys, blues and drenched greens. The manner in which the shots have been conceived, the languorous chemistry between Ash and Vikram and the song picturisations, are a sheer delight.
But they can't hide the ordinary screenplay and dialogues. One is tempted to think that Mani got a little carried away with the thrill of shooting in the wild with the movie. While he seems to get the atmospherics right, he bungles on the content part of the movie.
As for the movie and its allusions to the 'Ramayana', they are merely superficial in the end. The similarities begin and end with the character of Beera (Abhishek), an outlaw, kidnapping Ragini, the beautiful wife of the SP, Dev (Vikram), in retaliation for the rape of his sister by the cops at the police 'chowky'.
Sure, there is a Hanuman like character as well, played by Govinda, who helps the very un Ram like Dev navigate the jungle in his attempt to capture Beera and rescue his wife. There is no sense of honour among the so called good men, or the lawmakers. Honour seems to be the creed of the outlaw Beera and not Dev, as the epic would have had it.
The character of Beera is built up brilliantly by the director even before he makes his first appearance on screen. However, the character seems to lack the edge that one would have expected him to have. From what one sees of him on screen, he seems more like a country bumpkin, nowhere as menacing or threatening as he is built up to be.
As for the 'kalyug ka Ram', Dev, he comes across as a ruthless cop, who will try every trick in the book to get what he wants. In the context of the movie, one feels that the director has done most justice to Ragini's character. Her despair, dilemma and sense of betrayal are real and one feels her loathing and shock at the end.
Beera's character as conceived by Mani and played by Abhi lacks the stature or magnetism that one would expect him to have. While on one hand, Mani attempts this twist thereby belying audience expectations, on the other, he reduces the impact of his story as the tale only moves on a predictable trajectory.
Beera, the dreaded, is actually, a simpleton, who falls victim to his own trap. He kidnaps Ragini with the intention of killing her but instead ends up falling in love with her. Unfortunately, he has been given the most inane dialogues to utter. Also, there seems to very little chemistry between him and Ragini, so that bit about being smitten by her does not come across strong enough. In contrast, Vikram's scenes with Ash have a lot more going for them.
As an actor, this is a major role for Abhishek and he has definitely worked hard on it. But a weak screenplay and dialogues go a long way in reducing his impact. Also, he is unable to invest the character with the same conviction and intensity as was evident in his roles in 'Guru' and 'Yuva'. That ease and naturalness are missing here. But his towering personality makes up for a lot. Vikram, who plays Dev, is quite impressive and makes the most of his scenes. True, he has an easier character to essay.
Govinda, who plays a modern day Hanuman, is actually the most entertaining actor on screen in the movie. Mani's casting is impeccable. He uses the actor's inborn sense of liveliness very well and Govinda's short and sweet performance stands out. Ravi Kissen as Beera's buddy is his usual affable self in the movie.
Finally, the one character, who seems to hold everything together and makes it all worthwhile. And that is Ash. The actress essays her role quite brilliantly. She literally rises above the script and manages to bring so much more to her performance. Her scenes with Vikram, towards the end are very well done. She looks even more beautiful than she has ever done and delivers a great performance, as well.
Just like the jungle terrain, the cliffs and rocks, the water and the rain, music too seems to form a very integral part of the movie. With Rahman at the helm of affairs, it could hardly be less. The songs as well as the background score enhance the atmospherics in this movie.
There is nothing more that one can add about the cinematography. It is nothing short of brilliant. The manner in which the camera has captured Ash and her fragile beauty, set against the wild landscape is quite magical. There are certain shots in this movie which are quite unforgettable, like the moment Ragini first spots Beera, the manner in which she jumps off the cliff and… lands on a tree! The camera works like a poem, and Sivan is the great poet.
One can see the toil and sweat that has gone into the shooting of this movie and kudos to the cast and crew for that. Mani may have shot in actual jungles, all for the sake of authenticity, but one only wishes that he had also incorporated some of that wild unpredictability into his soggy screenplay as well. And upped the throttle on this tame bite.