Dir: Mani Ratnam Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Govinda, Vikram, Ravi Kissen, Nikhil Dwivedi
Dir: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Govinda, Vikram, Ravi Kissen, Nikhil Dwivedi
What it's about: There's nothing more disappointing than watching an accomplished filmmaker falter. It's happening a bit too often with Mani Ratnam; the man who redefined cinema with films like Nayakan, Anjali and Roja among others. For the last few years (since he succumbed to the star system), his films have largely been a big let-down. With Raavan, he takes yet another step backwards with his inconsistent storyline and wavering narrative. It's the season of mythology-inspired films (the last being Raajneeti); this one being a take on the Ramayana. The efforts are completely lost in translation. Senior cop Dev's (Vikram) wife Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) is kidnapped by local baddie Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) and taken into his domainu00a0-- the vast forests. Dev sets out to find her in a terrain that Beera treats like his backyard. He is assisted in his mission by forest guard Sanjeevani Kumar (Govinda) and a handful of cops. The hard-core Beera transforms into a man with a heart as he spends time with Raginiu00a0-- eventually falling prey to her charm. While in captivity, Ragini learns why Beera turned into the 'Raavan'. The battle between good and evil begins with each trying to outdo the other, culminating in a climax that's neither clever nor convincing.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0
What's good: The only thing that remains with you much after the film is over is the spectacular cinematography by Santosh Sivan and Vu00a0Manikandan. Mani Ratnam excels in his choice of locations -- it's like nothing you've seen in a Hindi film before. You allow yourself to be lured in to the beautiful Pandora-like forests -- how we only wish the characters were like Avatar's! The initial scenes that depict the growing chemistry between Beera and Ragini are edgy. Mani's shot-taking is expectedly, a class part -- this time, he experiments with multiple cameras offering multiple takes of the same sequence and does it effectively too. He also succeeds in getting some delightful performances by his supporting cast -- Govinda (despite an inconsequential role), Ravi Kissen and Nikhil Dwivedi shine their way through. South superstar Vikram makes a smashing debut in his first mainstream Hindi film -- he's got a striking screen presence and a towering personality.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0
What's bad: Being inspired by the Ramayana is a great thing provided you can do justice to the epic and not make a mess of it. The story just doesn't engage you and the song placements make matters worse. There are just too many loopholes that make the narrative fall flat. Why is Beera such a rebel? Is he a bad guy or is he a modern-day Robin Hood? Mani never bothers to establish his character completely. A non-linear treatment is good only if you don't end up confusing the audience. Mani's back-and- forth method of story-telling fries your senses. He adds a bit of the Veerappan touch to Beera's character but it's totally half-baked. In the end, Beera comes across as nothing more than a cop terminator. Also, someone who is being hunted doesn't live openly in flourishing villages. The director's attempt to draw parallels with the Ramayan makes certain situations laughable. Like Govinda (he's supposed to be the new-age Hanuman) leaping around trees like a monkey; Dev (Ram) asking his wife to take a polygraph test (the agni pariksha angle from the epic) and Beera's sister being held by the nose to establish the Suparnakha link. The grand finale fight between Dev and Beera is ridiculous. Dev has been gunning for Beera all along but when it comes to the crux, he wants to have a physical combat instead? If you want to make your individual adaptation of the Ramayan, have the gumption to go all the way. Whether the audience will accept the tampering with their gods, is another issue altogether but what's unacceptable is the way Mani uses the mythological aspect to 'market' his film. Points to ponder over: the romantic tension between Beera and Ragini in the climax; the depiction of Vikram as two-faced; Beera being shown heroic all along and also Beera pardoning Dev's life in their final combat. The pace is annoyingly slow and some of the crucial dialogues cannot be understood at all. Abhishek Bachchan gives this role everything and his sincerity is commendable. But by asking him to make faces at the camera and mouthing silly lines, Ratnam simply makes his character a caricature. In the same vein, Aishwarya is only made to act and react in a high-pitched mode.
What's That? The butt-naked scene of Nikhil Dwivedi is enough for you to go off jungles forever. And we want to know what exactly Beera's men did to him? Does a man turn into a vegetable after someone has shaved his head off?
What to do: Revisit Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan instead. You might find Arun Govil's saccharine smiles in those tight close-ups far more appealing than this hotch-potch version.