In a religious country like India, where people have ended up fighting over Rama and Allah, it needs some courage to take up one of the two greatest epics written and show our worshipped Lord Rama having a grey side to him. It takes even more courage to start telling the story from the villain Raavan’s point of view and justify his actions. Mani Ratnam is his latest film does exactly that when he gives the mythological story a realistic setting in today’s world and twists the story a bit to make people sympathize for the villain of the epic.
Abhishek Bachchan plays an outlaw called Beera(Raavan) in the film. Though he goes against the law, the villagers believe in him, his actions, and his ideology which makes him a character like Don Vito Corleone or the Sarkar. The only difference is he is wilder than those. The wildness, ofcourse is to draw parallelism to Raavan’s character in Ramayana. He kidnaps Raagini(Sita) played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to kill her for reasons told later in the film. But instead of killing her, he starts falling for her beauty, her bravery. This is where we see the film getting similar to RGV’s Jungle where the lead bandit started falling for Urmilla Matondkar and starts taking wrong decisions.
Mani Ratnam goes back to what he is most known for and does the best, depicting violence and terrorism on screen. Though Raavan isn’t exactly a film about terrorism, its style is very similar to those. He might not have come back to his real best, but it seems like he is on his right way now after Guru where I thought he completely lost his way and like other directors got pulled and attracted by commercial brand of cinema. With Raavan, he seems to be coming back to his own.
The most pleasing thing in this film is the visuals, the cinematography. Santosh Sivan is really a master of camerawork. He has never disappointed me with his camera work. While Terrorist is his best piece of work for me, Raavan isn’t very far behind. Though shooting infront of the waterfalls, and naturally beautiful scenes makes it easier for him to make the picture look beautiful, he is equally good in indoor scenes and close-up shots. He and Manikandan make the film a visual treat and worth watching just for the visuals alone.
The acting is the most disappointing thing in the film. Both our leads look like they didn’t go into the skin of the character. While Aishwarya was busy screeching, Abhishek was overacting in most of the part. He was supposed to go over-the-top but he ended up overacting in most of the scenes. It was really tough to play that monster-ous character which Abhishek Bachchan was portraying and only two people come in my mind who could have done justice to that role – Toshiro Mifune – he would have made the perfect Raavan IMO and the other is Min-sik Choi (after seeing his performance in Oldboy). Vikram played his role very well but his role was simpler than the other two. Govinda was miscast in this film. He was doing comedy in this film, jumping like a monkey form one tree to another (OFC, as a reference to the character of Hanuman in Ramayana) but it did not suit the film at all. I would have preferred a more serious character. Ratnam for once looked like he was compromising with the film just to give some comic relief to an otherwise dark thriller kind of a film. Even Ravi Kissen was there to provide some comic relief in the film. Priyamani was impressive in a very short but yet very important role.
A.R. Rahman gives a very different, aggressive and dark, wild music to this film. It suited the film’s atmosphere very well. Beera obviously was a bit like the title track of Omkara. Thok De Killi was wild. The soft songs, Behne De and Khlli Re, too were good. But I liked Ranjha Ranjha the most.
I think people won’t be able to accept this film for it challenges their religious beliefs and seeing Rama having a grey shade while justifying Raavan’s action will be hard to get the nod of general public of India. Ratnam indeed took a big challenge with this film. But I for one enjoyed watching the film and I bow to Ratnam for taking up the challenege and giving the story his own interpretation.