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Raavan : Frustratingly shallow & BEERing!

June 18, 2010

Mani Rathnam, the name itself conjures million images of varied emotions and classics like Nayagan, Iruvar, Roja, Kannathil Mutthamital among several other films. He’s the undoubtedly one of the brightest diamond to have emerged from Chennai and a rare film maker who has managed to transcend all boundaries of language, stars and superstars. People would do anything to be a part of his film, some slash down their remuneration and most others work for free. Such is his popularity, that a random phone call from Madras Talkies to anyone would leave the latter in a cloud nine state. Naturally, when a film maker of such incredible credentials announces that he’s going to do a film titled ‘Raavan’ featuring Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Vikram, you know that the Indian Moviedom has come to a stand still and everyone is waiting with bated breath to see what it’s all about. Few weeks ago, during the curtain raiser, Mani Rathnam revealed that it’s about Raavan (a modern version of Raavan in Ramayana) and his interpretation of this character. The question raised was, “Is there a Raavan in all of us?” and gives rise to another important question, ‘Would you consider Raavan as a villain after reading Ramayan?”. My stand is, NO…Raavan was a good person who has been misunderstood.

Today, after watching Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya and Vikram starrer ‘Raavan’, I came out with a huge disappointment on my face. The maestro who gave us splendid films like Iruvar, Nayagan seems to have tried a bit too hard to narrate a supposedly complex story, yet all he manages is a faithful adaptation of Ramayan sans the stroke of genius. After watching films like Geethanjali, Roja, Bombay, Iruvar, Kannathil Mutthamital and ‘Azhai Payuthey‘ where every scene spoke volumes about the depth in emotions, ‘Raavan’ is like the anti-thesis. It’s a contradiction of what Mani Rathnam is known for; it’s an emotionally shallow film which reaches disturbing proportions. The film narrates the story of a rebel leader Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) who kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), the wife of a police officer Dev Pratap (Vikram). Although the film is woven around Ragini, it also narrates how and why Beera falls in love with Ragini and Dev Pratap’s persistent search for his wife, Ragini. And you don’t have to whack your brains on how and why the film is; ten minutes into the film and you can predict how it will end.

The debate on whether ‘Raavan’ is a good or bad film is rather pointless and could be quite misleading. Why? Because you may have predicted the story and the turn of events, yet the locales, misty mountains, waterfalls, rivers and most importantly the rain always make a gorgeous sight. On top of that it has, Aishwarya Rai in one of her most ethereal appearances on screen. The gorgeous lady shrieks like a caged bird and plays the damsel in distress and delicate woman’s role to near perfection. It’s a different issue that the shrieks get on to your nerves at one point of time.

Raavan-the film, is interesting if you look at it from Ragini’s perspective. She hates Raavan in the first instance and then realizes that he isn’t a bad person after the latter narrates a melodramatic flashback about his sister (Priyamani). She softens up and begins to understand Raavan’s world. Yet, she loves her husband and believes that he will come looking for her even if it takes forever. Is she the typical ‘Sita’ whom we have known and revered all our lifes? You could say that but don’t forget that Ragini acknowledges the fact that Beera is not a bad person at all. Her love for Dev Pratap blinds her from expressing what she feels about Beera to a large extent. Does she believe that her love for her beloved husband is eternal? It’s difficult to say.

The film falls flat when it comes to the characterizations of Dev Pratap and Beera. Dev Pratap, high on testosterone and low on emotional proximity to his estranged wife, has the most one-dimensional role. He’s blinded by his duty as a police officer and doesn’t see the point why Beera had turned out that way. And Beera, phew…Beera has a deranged mind with a good heart. He’s out to avenge his sister’s death and in the process kidnaps a police officer’s wife. There’s close to nothing which would make you hate him. He doesn’t do any crazy stuff; he would torture only those who have deceived him in the past. It’s as if, only Dev Pratap and his band of policemen think Beera is a criminal. And since he’s the anti-hero of the film, we (the audience) too cheer for him and want him to live. Where’s the scope for variation in his characterization? What had happened to Mani Rathnam’s imagination of 10 minds? Lost in translation, perhaps. The funniest part is when he falls in love with Ragini. He confesses to his brother that she didn’t have fear in her eyes and jumped off a cliff. Of all the love stories I have ever come across, this has to be the most bizarre ones to fall in love with someone. Clearly, the rules of attraction are different in forests, especially when it rains.

Water plays an important role in this film; they call this a ‘motif’ in film studies. More than 80% of the film has been shot in or around water and rain. The fluidity perhaps denotes and complements the budding feelings which Beera has for Ragini and at the same time it serves as a good thematic element to shroud the fact that Ragini is always sad or in tears. On the other hand, Dev Pratap is always on the land and the rain-affect in his story is way too less…you see the contrast now, don’t you?

While the film is emotionally shallow, it scores high on technical splendour, especially cinematography and locales. Santosh Sivan and Manikandan’s cinematography soars and rises above this water-logged script and it’s perhaps the only thing you will remember from the film. The extreme close-up shots on Ragini and Beera and wayward camera movements give an eerie feel to the film and it really helps in narrated this we-are-constantly-on-the-run story. I bow to both of them and also art director Samir Chanda along with the entire technical crew especially who found out all those gorgeous locations. A.R.Rahman’s music is not his best work, but then I can neither understand music nor am I capable of appreciating the ragas used in the songs. I will leave it to you to decide whether it works or not. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is amazing. You gotta give a pat on his back for managing to pack in so many scenes for a film which has a run time of 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Mani Rathnam’s films usually boast of heart touching conversations and characters which are right from your neighbourhood. But with films like Yuva, Guru and Raavan, he has tried to enter a new zone which seems to be undermining his greatness. There is a reason why people love Iruvar or Agni Natchathiram. These films were ambitious, yet they were stories from our own backyard and they had some of the best actors delivering their best performances. I still cannot understand Mani Rathnam’s infatuation with Abhishek Bachchan and the latter has been lucky to have acted thrice with Mani Rathnam. He may have evolved as an actor when compared to what he was before his stint with Mani Rathnam, but he still not there in the league of extra-ordinary actors who have acted in Mani Rathnam’s films. Vikram is surprisingly wasted in the Hindi version of the film and it’s a pity! And I wish Mani Rathnam comes back to make Chennai-centric films, he’s best when he comes back to the streets of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.

There’s something wrong about the title of this film if you have seen the film. Perhaps, Ragini would have been a better title or the working title Ashoka Vanam would have been perfect. For now, Raavan is a water-logged film which has so much rain and water that it might spill out of the screen any moment. It’s undoubtedly visually spectacular and poetry in slow motion, but at the same time it’s emotionally shallow and frustratingly BEERing. Predictability kills Raavan and the 11 heads. 10 of Raavan and the 11th one is yours. Despite all this, if you are still curious that you might find that invisible stroke of genius in Raavan, then be my guest. Go, get BEERed!

P.S: “BEERA” is perhaps the most repeated term in the film and I am so pissed off with this film that I am going to call it a BEERing film instead of “Boring”.

By,

Hemanth

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2010 8:15 pm

    you took lot of risk brother,i could not sit for 1hr and i want to go but my ticket cost stopped me,but you are right ,i would say vikram would be a perfect actor to play beera rather than abhishek

  2. June 18, 2010 8:25 pm

    This is one of the best reviews I’ve read today. Not too trashy like the Gr Andh folks or too overtly negative like KM at PFC. You have walked the fine line very well; dwelling more on what works/doesn’t work rather than why the story sucks or rocks. keep up the good work mate.

    P.s. hope you do a review for the tamil version as well; just curious to know if vikram did a better job than Ab.

  3. siva chandan permalink
    June 18, 2010 9:51 pm

    Superb.you are the best reviewer in AP.The guy who took your post in @123telugu is making a mockery of his job as a reviewer.

    and finally….
    You saved me money , time and energy.Thank you very much

  4. June 18, 2010 9:59 pm

    Thank you so much for the in-depth review! I’m going to watch it this weekend. I’d very much like to watch Raavanan instead of Raavan. I think Vikram will portray the character better! But sadly Raavanan is not showing in my city………

    Totally agree w/ you about Abhishek Bachchan. I don’t really think he’s that good. I don’t like Guru that much.I haven’t seen Raavan so I can’t judge. But I’ve been watching the promotional video clips of both Raavan and Raavanan and I definitely think Vikram’s the better Veera! I watched Ayutha Ezhuthu and decided I don’t want to watch Yuva because I’m afraid it may not be as good as AE and it’ll ruin the story………

  5. siva chandan permalink
    June 18, 2010 10:00 pm

    After gems like Geethanjali,Iruvar,Nayagan,Bombay,Roja,Kannathil Muttamittal,Yuva,Alaipayuthey and so on #ManiRatnam now disappoints us.

    Mani is god in South India and will continue to be if he makes south centric films.Bollywood is not ideal for Mani.

    His films are a rage.He inspired hundreds of film makers.But now such films will leave a bad impression on his illustrious career.May he come back to South.

  6. yalkur permalink
    June 19, 2010 8:09 am

    dude..gud1.. waiting 4 de tamil/telugu version’s review.. obviousli vikki wud do better dan chotta B… y de hell is ratnam doing movies wasting scripts wid such a non-actor like AB. take out Bachchan from his name and he is no-where… and never on India’s list of good actors.. probabli AB shud consider changing his surname calling himself abhishek RAI… rader dan de oder way round… she is neva as bad as him.. loll

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