June 20, 2010

My thoughts on Raavan

At the outset, I would like to make it clear that this piece is NOT a review of the film. Too many of those have already been written and dissected endlessly! However, I would just like to share (more appropriately “vent”) my thoughts on this long awaited film. My overwhelming feeling after watching Raavan was that I had just seen a montage of breathtaking images put together with a wafer-thin plot thrown somewhere in between. The whole experience was extremely choppy and uneven with the non-linear narrative confounding the situation even further. The film at a basic level is deeply flawed, but the biggest disappointment are its lead actors. I have a lot of grievances with the filmmakers, but I’ll restrict myself to just listing a few of my peeves here:

1. I had a gargantuan issue with the vague geography of the film (another film where I had this quandary was Saawariya). Where was this beautiful place where there were huts, caves, waterfalls, and forests, all in the same location? We were being transported back and forth at a frenzied pace from the backwaters of Kerala to the thick forests of Karnataka to Malshej Ghats in Maharashtra to the villages of Madhya Pradesh, almost as if the cinematography was the central character of the film instead of the lead actors! If it’s “real” that Mani wanted, then why give us such designer fare?

2. There was no time to feel the emotional connection with any of the characters because of lack of context/poor editing. Why does Beera fall in love with Raagini so suddenly? Because she wasn’t scared of him? Puhleez...gimme a break! Defiance would be reason enough for instant retribution by the kidnapper under normal circumstances. It’s not as if Beera was demanding a ransom from Dev and had to keep Raagini alive! In fact, the whole point of the kidnapping was to kill Raagini to avenge his sister’s rape and subsequent suicide. There was absolutely no context or background shown for this abrupt falling in love with the abductee.

3. Even more warped is the logic of Raagini’s attraction to Beera! She was a strong woman who was in love with her husband. When and how she develops this strange attraction has not been explored at all. Her entire journey from anger and loathing towards her abductor transforming to sympathy and eventually a reluctant attraction required an actor with far more depth than Aishwarya posesses!

4. There are so many other situations that come to mind where there is no context or explanation given. Like for e.g. how does Sanjeevni find out where Raagini is when the entire police force couldn’t locate her? In the climax scene, how does Raagini manage to find the exact location of Beera?

5. The ending of the film was quite ambiguous which is not a problem per se; however, it did leave me dissatisfied and kind of craving for a closure for Raagini. I was left wondering about her marriage- did it survive the turmoil? Also, the symbolism that Mani wanted to convey through the virginal white costume of Raagini was in my opinion totally wrong. Mani’s Sita was actually not pure, at least not where it really counts- in thoughts!

6. Lastly, a word about the performances! Abhishek totally hammed his way through the entire film. His deranged bak-bak-jhak-jhak act was so over-the-top that the audience was actually laughing instead of feeling the chilling intensity his character should have evoked. Made me wish for a Manoj Bajpai in and as Raavan! As for Aishwarya, her limited range of two to three expressions and constant screeching (all the while looking pretty in her Sabyasachi costumes and full makeup) throughout the movie grated on my nerves. Vikram was quite good as Dev, managing to appear intense and ruthless at the same time without over-acting which was quite a relief after Jr B’s act! Also, Priyamani and Ravi Kissen were quite impressive in their brief roles. Govinda was reduced to a caricature- don’t know why he accepted that humiliating role! Didn’t expect Mani Ratnam to make such a literal adaptation of Ramayana where Hanuman is named Sanjeevni and is actually made to act like a baboon.

This is not to say that the movie did not have its redeeming features. There were flashes of brilliance like the opening credit sequences, the bridge scene, Abhi-Priyamani track (superbly enacted by both actors), and several others. And of course, the cinematography, the background score and music was outstanding. The only problem was the rest of it was an exercise in self-indulgence by India’s most celebrated director!

My verdict- 2.5/5