Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Raavan: Very little Mani, and absolutely no magic
The overwhelming feeling as one leaves the theatre after having watched “Raavan” is one of disappointment. Make that huge disappointment. Could it be that one of this generation’s finest filmmakers, is credited as director in this disjointed, mediocre effort?
Nothing in the two-hour film is reminiscent of Mani Ratnam’s class. Instead it is littered with shoddy direction, bad acting and long-winding but nonsensical dialogues. The only saving grace is Santosh Sivan’s magical cinematography, but the truth is even that cannot hide the flaws in this film.
Abhishek Bachchan plays Beera, an outlaw, who we are told is a terror but there is no context given to his action. He inspires fear in the villagers of Lal Maati, but not in Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), the wife of a police officer whom he kidnaps for revenge. Dev (Vikram) sets out in search of his wife, but there is no urgency to the search it seems, because he has all the time in the world to stop at villages and ask for people’s opinions on Beera, to read maps and even to shave. You never get the feeling that he wants to find his wife.
There is really nothing more to the story than that. Perhaps Mani Ratnam wants to build a relationship between Ragini and Beera but we never see that happening. It is as if he came up with these interesting characters, but didn’t have the time to develop them. Even Ragini’s sympathy towards Beera seems half-baked and we never really get a sense of why she is doing what she is.
The actors, it seems are trying to make up for the flaws but end up over-compensating. Abhishek Bachchan does nothing but scowl and growl, Aishwarya Rai does nothing but scream and shriek and Vikram…well, he actually does nothing except perhaps advertise a certain brand of sunglasses in every scene. But special mention here for Priyamani, who in her miniscule role brings more pathos on screen than all the other actors put together.
The references to the Ramayana are interesting but by the time they start to take shape, you are far too exhausted to care.
In every Mani Ratnam film I have seen so far, irrespective of whether I liked it or not, I have taken away one lasting image. There is no lasting image in this one. Also, for a filmmaker who has always managed to use his craft to tell his story, this one has far too many dialogues which weigh the story-telling down. Every theme in the film is too obvious and pushed down your throat.
With a heavy heart, I recommend that you stay far away from this one.