Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raavan/Raavanan: Life after expectation

Raavan and Raavanan have released and almost left the theatres. As I have mentioned earlier, I had been waiting and waiting (AND WAITING) for this epic movie to be released for numerous reasons:
1. It's a reinterpretation of the Ramayan, my preferred choice of the great Indian epic.
2. It brings to the forefront the intriguing character of Raavan, the good bad guy
3. It's about the possibility of love between Raavan and Sita (ah, forbidden love! DO NOT mention anything about Stockholm syndrome)
4. Abhishek Bachchan as a half maniacal, half brooding Raavan. Exciting. Oh yeah, and Vikram as Raavanan.
5. A. R.Rahman's music.
6. Santhosh Sivan cinematography of misty Karnataka forests and waterfalls
7. Mani Ratnam: the director

Well, I went and actually bought the audio CD and feverishly absorbed all that my eyes and ears could find of this bilingual film. I jumped at the opportunity when my equally excited cinematographer friend scored us some tickets with a big bunch going to a charity show which was a sort of public but not so public premiere. I was going to see Raavan before anybody else! (the Bachchans don't count)

I settled down in the second row from the screen, corner seat, absolutely silent, wanting to absorb this movie to my bones. I have certain movie-watching quirks. 1. I cannot miss the beginning of any movie, no matter how sad, whether it's 'White Chicks' or a Karan Johar movie. Whether I know what happens or not. If I miss a minute, I feel heartbroken. If I miss it on TV, I can't even watch it. 2. I kinda know whether I'm going to like a movie within the first minute or so.

And that's when my illusions started to dissolve, little by little. The beginning of Raavan is a montage of scenes, my favourite being the one where Abhishek Bachchan plays the dhol. Music and percussion-based folk music speaks strongly to me and I suppose this scene was meant to be indicative of Raavan's multiple facets. It was also supposed to hint at his power. But I didn't feel it, you know what I mean?

Next. 'Beera', the power song, which exalts and extols the great Beera, unique and formidable. Maybe we get to see Beera in action, the saviour of the downtrodden, the enemy to the elite? No. The song is wasted as an accompanying track to the opening credits.
The story begins too soon, too abruptly. The characters are half-sketched and their dialogue so un Mani Ratnam like, neither clever nor touching. The saddest is Govinda's character being reduced to an amusing forest officer whose purpose in the entire movie is nothing more than serving as an allusion to the actual Hanuman.

Anyway, I watched on, a little biased because it's hard to give up something you love so much.

Other sore points:
'Behene De', my former addiction came too soon and flowed away, just like its name.
Chemistry between AB Jr and his wife was hardly anything to qualify this movie for being of the romance genre.
Raavan did not come across as a powerful godfather and neither did there exist any ideological face off between him and Ram.
Ram, played by Vikram is basically a rotten guy without any redeeming features. Raavan is a psychotic, indecisive, torturing angel seeking revenge for a gory outrage but doesn't even carry it out?

Atleast one thing was that AB Jr danced well in 'Thok de Kili'. Maybe he just looks like the right Raavan with scruffy beard and long lean frame. The black shawl becomes him but the character's interpretation unfortunately does not. I feel so bad for the Abhishek of 'Guru'.

So, I was disappointed but not disgusted. My stubborn bias remained. Then, almost a month later, I saw 'Raavanan'. Much as Hindi is mostly my second language and I couldn't really follow the rural slang of the Tamil version, I was absolutely blown away.

Maybe it's because it's Mani Ratnam's first language. Maybe it was the editing that was better. But it definitely was Vikram. The man didn't act, he brought life to the two dimensional paper cutout that Raavan is reduced to at Ramlila and other occasions. Maybe he didn't portray the ten headed aspect that Raavan is meant to have but it was much easier to deal with that AB Jr's split personalities. Raavanan is a man tortured, his emotions evident but understated, his love and attraction clearly coming forth but exquisitely restrained through blunt speech. He is an unbelievable actor, absolutely lovable and cool and rugged and totally messed up in absolutely the perfect way. I'm sorry that I hadn't expected more from Raavanan. The dialogue, particularly to the end, is a lot more beautiful and poetic in Tamil.

The chemistry between Vikram and Mrs. Rai Bachchan is explosive, surprisingly. The love story is simply gorgeous but ridiculously unexplored. Maybe the whole point was to not change the story of Ramayan but to make ourselves question what could have been.

The crux of the film is the dilemna of good verus evil, the question of the grey areas. But it falls flat by describing our so called hero as outright evil and the anti hero as a sort of martyr for emotions. So, I stand, a little disappointed but a lot relieved about the fact that I was pleasantly surprised in atleast some aspects. But nevertheless, I will not cease to expect more from Mani Ratnam.


Vimal said...

so this sita chick was rama's aunt, eh?

Prez of Es said...

Over-ah pannadhae.