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Ragini re-locates to distant Lal Matti along with her Superintendent of Police husband, Dev Pratap Sharma, in order to enable him to apprehend a bandit, Beera Munda. Shortly thereafter her life will be turned upside down when she will be abducted by Beera and held captive. It is during this captivity she will not only find out that her fate will be decided within 14 hours, but also the real reason behind her abduction. Written by
Mani Ratnam, A.R.Rehman, Gulzar, Abhishek and Ashwarya the last time this team got together, they produced Guru which to me was the best work of Abhishek to date.
Mani Ratnam is a brand name for those who know him. For me he is definitely a brand name synonymous of A.R. Rehman. Raavan came out with a huge load of expectations on its shoulders. The idea of modern take on an epic has always fascinated me but that came coupled with bad reviews from general public and mixed response from critics. A box office failure brought it low on my priority. I still ended up watching it just like that.
I'm glad I did.
Before everything, Raavan belongs to Santosh Sivam the man behind the lenses that captured Kerala and Karnataka in a way nobody has ever done. The film is a visual treat. Scene after scene, it gives you a sight you can't forget. Jaw dropping landscapes, beautiful water sequences and mind bewildering greenery. Santosh was pretty good in Dil Se, Meenaxi and Asoka but here he takes cinematography to another level. Without a doubt, such camera work has never been seen in the history of Hindi cinema.
Raavan is not a simple film to watch. It wants you to look closely and hear even more closely. More than that, it wants you understand more than just watch. It is highly recommended to get hold of a brief history of Raavan, Ram, Sita and Hanuman prior to watching Raavan. It will help you pick pieces. It boasts of intelligent story telling of an intelligent filmmaker.
It does have its downfalls too. It starts swiftly with Ashwarya's kidnap in the first five minutes and paces up gently until ninety minutes when it starts dragging. Length of the film could easily be reduced by fifteen minutes. Even the climax was weak and not convincing but the overall experience of watching Raavan, for me, made up for these downfalls. I regret not watching it on big screen because I can't imagine how beautiful it would have looked on theater screens. Absolute pleasure. Did I mention cinematographer? Ashwarya Rai looks beautiful. Yes, I said it and make a note because I will probably never say that again. The only movie in which I found her beautiful was HDDCS but in Raavan she has amazing screen beauty. Coupled with beautiful scenes, the dark theme of the movie becomes easily bearable. She does her part well, although, goes overboard on a few occasions.
Abhishek falls short. I commend his effort as he has put in a lot of hard work behind this role but the character of Beera is so difficult that he is unable to fulfill the requirements. Talking of Beera, which too is probably the most difficult portrayals I have seen in Hindi cinema. He appears very simple and something that has been repeated several times on screen but its essence is much more than what it first looks. The only actor I can think of who could fit into it very easily is Nana Patekar but he was too old for this role. No other mainstream actor could have handled it; it would not even suit Aamir Khan. I can forgive Abhishek for his shortcomings.
Govinda as Hanuman doesn't have much to do but is funny in the little comic sequences. Nikhil Dwivedi is pretty good and a pleasant surprise. Vikram is brilliant. Ravi Kishan also surprises on several occasions. Priyamani was sweet in scenes with Abhishek.
Mani Ratnam chose a very intricate screenplay. His previous films like Dil Se and guru had very simple screenplays and strong stories. But here is a director who has very clear vision and he knows what he is doing. The only problem is that he picked very mainstream actors for a non-mainstream screenplay. Mainstream cinema has different expectations from its actors which Mani deliberately ignored. He left a few holes open for the viewers which left a bit of bad taste I the mouth for a commercial film. In many ways it's an open-ended question. It was his vision that came up with that fight sequence on the bridge in the end; another thing which I have never seen in a Hindi movie or the initial chase between Ash and Abhi. The way he fits in songs in the script is perfect. Mani still comes out clean after Raavan.
Raavan should not be treated as just another film you go to watch. It's an experiment of a genius filmmaker who has tried giving a new landmark to the Indian cinema. He doesn't get perfect result but he should get his due for this effort. If nothing else, watch Raavan for Santosh Sivam. The guy deserves this much for his work. It's not a memorable or ever green film but it's worth a watch. However, please take it as a pre-requisite to read a bit on Ramayana.
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