Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#242: Raavan

Raavan is one of those rare films in Hindi cinema that's named after the antagonist. The movie stars Abhishek Bachchan, called Beera in the movie, playing the title role based on the legend of Valmiki's Ramayana. However, if your impression of Raavana as a character from the TV serial of the 90s was that of cruel, lustful king, Mani Ratnam's is anything but. Released in 2010, Raavan tells us the story of Beera set in contemporary India.

Here Beera is a nice guy staying somewhere in the forests with his own following. He is just and if he's cruel, it is because someone else isn't letting him rest in peace. That someone else is Inspector Dev Pratap Sharma (Vikram), who is on Beera's hot trail because of a looting spree that Beera undertakes. That Beera distributes what he collects from the rich to the poor is immaterial for Dev. Knowing that Dev loves his wife dearly, Beera sees the kidnapping of Dev's wife Ragini (Aishwarya Rai) as one way to thwart Dev's advances. The plan backfires, enrages Dev even more and now with the intention of killing Beera, he unleashes his entire police force in Beera's pursuit. The story moves rapidly thereafter and brings us to the climax.

There are two clear areas that the films nails as far as cinematic delivery is concerned. First, the cinematography and art direction. The former spearheaded by none other than Ratnam loyalist Santosh Sivan and Manikandan. The visual appeal of the movie is enhanced by some utterly breathtaking locations and has many shots that could be framed for posterity. The second exceptional thing about film is its music - whether it is the wonderfully layered background score or the songs- the music adds an extra dimension to the proceedings. What ails Raavan is a a shoddy screenplay that meanders with quite a few unnecessary characters thrown in from time to time. It loosens the grip that it so badly required in a story that's well known to the average Indian audience. While Aishwarya Rai impresses, Abhishek Bachchan is blow hot blow cold in the all-important role of Raavan. The third key character Vikram barely does anything important apart from being loud. The best moment of the film however is with Priyamani who is Beera's sister. The one scene with her after a police carnage is the closest the film comes to pinching the viewer with emotional impact.

Raavan is a fairly passable attempt by Mani Ratnam. It is shot with a lot of care and the aesthetic benchmarks are set quite high by the director. It doesn't quite click yet because of a screenplay that wasn't watertight. Eventually it becomes a film that's as middle-of-the-road as it can get. Can't enjoy. Can't walk out.

Rating: 5.9/10

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