By MovieTalkies.com, 09 December 2011
(Ratings: Poor * Average ** Good *** Very Good**** Excellent *****)
Ravan remains one of the most fascinating characters of Indian mythology and this fact has been churned by filmmakers in two different movies in the past two years viz. Raavan starring Abhishek Bachchan and RA.One where Arjun Rampal played a cool video game baddie. Debut director Maqbool Khan seeks to replay the same magic with his Lanka, though this movie ignores Rama completely and chooses to focus on Ravan and his brother Vibhishana. The last time Manoj Bajpai played a role based on a historical character, his take on a modern Duryodhana in Prakash Jha's political drama Raajneeti earned him praises all around. However, the same cannot be said for Bajpai's take on Ravan in Lanka, which seeks to explore the relationship between the demon king and his noble brother Vibhishana.
The movie starts off showing Dr. Anju (Tia Bajpai) as a doctor in Mumbai who doesn't think twice before assaulting abusive husbands who bring their battered wives to the hospital for treatment. Even the hospital higher-ups are concerned about Anju's radical behaviour, which is then explained in a flashback, which takes the viewer back to the dusty lanes of Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh.
Bijnor is a province ruled with an iron fist by Jaswant Sisodia (Manoj Bajpai) who takes a fancy to Anju and forcibly makes her his mistress, defying the demure dame's parents with an arrogant shrug. Anju is tired of the life she leads but is prevented from committing suicide because of an oath made to her helpless father (Yatin Karyekar).
In this mess enters chota bhai (Arjan Bajwa), a nameless character who Sisodia treats like a younger brother and the studly 'bhai' falls for Anju, slowly disentangling himself from the shackles of gratitude he is trapped in because of Jaswant's kindness and love for him since he was a lanky teen.
Things come to a boiling point when Anju's father commits suicide after Jaswant threatens to sell off Anju to a brothel if the father goes ahead with his plans of taking the help of the Lucknow CID to rescue his daughter.
Bajwa's character decides that enough is enough and volunteers to help Anju escape from the tyrant lover. However, Sisodia is alerted to the plans and shoots his chota bhai in a fit of rage over the latter's alleged treason. A grief-struck Sisodia is then gunned down by Anju who sees no other way of escaping his clutches.
What Lanka suffers from is a lack of gripping script and a loose narrative. Moreover, the performances are quite lacklustre. Tia Bajpai plays the meek, demure doctor quite convincingly but cannot emote enough to strike a chord with the audiences. Bajwa on his part looks too urbane with his designer jeans and aviator glares to play a UP thug, though he shines in some parts where his dilemma between loyalty to his mentor and justice to a helpless woman is portrayed through his eyes.
However, the star of the movie remains Manoj Bajpai, who plays the ruler of Bijnor. Unlike the quintessential villain, Bajpai as Sisodia shows his human side too when dealing with the people he loves. Sisodia almost seems paternal in his affections towards Bajwa and also manages to come across as a lech and an obsessed lover in the same breath. However, Bajpai's character could have certainly used more detailing and depth.
All said and done, apart from die-hard Bajpai fans who can never find faults with his performances, Lanka remains an avoidable affair.