June 18, 2010

Do Western reviwers treat BW patronizingly?

In Bollywood’s ‘Raavan,’ Abhishek Bachchan a ‘Ham’
By Tripti Lahiri

Mani Ratnam’s “Raavan,” whose story and characters are inspired by the epic ‘Ramayan,’ opens worldwide today. It centers around the triangle between policeman Dev (Vikram), outlaw Beera Munda (Abhishek Bachchan) and Dev’s wife Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), whom Beera kidnaps.

Early reviews are in and most praise the film for being beautifully shot but are mixed on the acting, particularly Mr. Bachchan’s. American reviewers seem to like the film much more than Indian ones do. A separate Tamil version “”Raavanan” also opened today in which Vikram plays the role of the outlaw opposite Ms. Rai Bachchan. India Real Time presents a round-up:

U.S. entertainment trade publication Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Bennet describes “Raavan” as a “pan-Indian saga with epic sweep, intense emotion and gorgeous images.”

Cinematographers Manikandan and Santosh Sivan, production designer Samir Chanda and editor A. Sreekar Prasad come in for high praise. THR says they “serve Ratnam superbly with images, settings and vitality that take one’s breath away.”

Both Bachchans do well in their roles, THR says. Mr. Bachchan’s kidnaps the character played by his wife.

“Bachchan has fun with a character who is fierce, passionate and dangerous but also comic in his self-doubt over whether to kill his captive or make love to her,” says Mr. Bennet, describing Ms. Rai Bachchan in this movie as “a force of nature.”

Courtesy of Reliance Big Pictures
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan plays Ragini, a policeman’s wife, in “Raavan” and in “Raavanan.”

In this mini-review, the Guardian’s Cath Clarke, however, finds this a film of “innate sexism” and says Mr. Bachchan hams it up excessively in an “absurdly extravagant melodrama.”

On the web site Mihir Fadnavis says the film is a crushing disappointment and gives it only two thumbs up out of a possible (if anatomically impossible) five thumbs.

“Mani Ratnam’s epic retelling of an ancient tale is amalgamated and cut to create a stylized but characterless piece with some spectacular imagery,” writes Mr. Fadnavis. “The film is too celebratory of Bollywood’s good guy-versus-bad guy, buddy-buddy ethos to rise above the limitations of the genre, and too obsessed with its own seriousness to be a truly ’serious’ film.”

In another mini-review, the Los Angeles Times says “Raavan” belongs to Mr. Bachchan’s “exquisite real-life wife Aishwarya Rai” but laments that “it takes a couple of hours to learn whether Beauty can tame Beast.”

On Indian portal, Raja Sen is unhappy with the way the film draws on the epic, saying Mr. Ratnam is excessively literal in his interpretation at times, and gives the film just two out of five stars.

Mr. Ratnam “takes a big chunk of larger-than-life Indian mythology, sloppily swaps antagonist with protagonist, and ends up giving an earnest Bachchan far too much scenery to chew in far too much spotlight,” says Mr. Sen.

Read more HERE