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Dev Prakash Subramaniam is assigned the task of apprehending a bandit, Veeraiya, and accordingly re-locates with his wife, Ragini. Shortly thereafter, while investigating another matter, he will be notified that his wife has been abducted by Veeraiya. He, in the company of several well-armed policemen, and guided by a forest guard, will relentlessly pursue this elusive bandit who is both revered and feared by the local residents; while Ragini will find out the real reason behind her abduction.Written by
Interesting, well made and subversive in a genuinely engaging manner; Raavanan tells a gripping tale, raw in energy, that is deeply involving to the end.
There is a terrifying sequence during Mani Ratnam's Raavanan, or 'Villain' out of the Tamil language and into the English one, that sees two hard-bodied men, both specialists in what it is they do either side of the line of the law, duking it out on board a delicate rope bridge hovering above a drop, which will bring about certain death, as its gradual falling apart syncs up with how much the two men's hating of one another escalates during this fight – such are the lengths you'd probably go for Aishwarya Rai. The sequence carries with it a great deal of both horror and trepidation, principally because it is as a fight to the death and we genuinely feel someone is going to get seriously hurt, but additionally because we are inclined naturally to get behind one man and yet are simultaneously invited to root for the other. This recent Indian film, about the good guy not necessarily being all that nice and the titular villain not necessarily being as evil nor as one dimensional as one would assume, is a sweeping and deeply involving piece; a film it is difficult not to get as involved in as I did; a film with a concise and interesting idea at its core, before efficiently going on to explore such items in an exciting and cinematic manner.
We begin with a series of sequences highlighting a real disregard to police officers, or those of whom stand for law and authority; the merciless execution of several Indian police officials and the rampaging through their offices carried out with brutal precision. Those perpetrating the chaos are followers loyal to that of Veeraiya (Vikram), an influential and physically toned individual whom occupies lonely forestry up in the rural nowheres of India with his minions; a man whom the police so desperately desire to catch and someone who shares some back-story with that of local police chief named Dev Subramaniam (Prithviraj), against whom this war on the machine of law and order is effectively raged. Dev is equally inclined towards his job, carrying with him respective characteristics of influence and physicality only dedicated to fighting for the polar opposites to that of what Veeraiya strives towards. The existence between the two becomes particularly heightened when Veeraiya takes it on himself to kidnap Dev's wife, a Sita named Ragini played by the aforementioned Rai; thus kicking into action all sorts of strife and hard-edged plights which formulates the bulk of the film as Dev and a crack team of commandos plus one eccentric forest expert take it upon themselves to find her.
Dragged through the jungles, Ragini's appearance as a smart, photogenic and outspoken woman amidst an array of disparate Veeraiya-led troops consisting of various unshaven; overweight and cross dressing individuals, is stark. She manages to hold her corner; to philosophise and later comes to instill some sort of thinking or order into the wild society of fear and gangsterism she finds herself enraptured in, a society encapsulated by Veeraiya's own uncontrollable characteristic of having several disconnected, sporadic voices inside of his head at once which is challenged. Principally, it is a film exploring the duality Ragini has with her captor; Mani Ratnam's piece a text rife with varying elements of Stockholm Syndrome pausing for thought and refraining form merely relegating Ragini to that of the damsel requiring rescuing. The film does so in providing her with scenes and exchanges that she shares with her captors that are full of life and energy; something that runs in deliberate contrast to that of the police and their searchings, which gradually become more and more anonymous as motions are gone through and sequences that we've all seen before of them hunting through wildlife, or whatever, are provided.
Running with the same theme, the idea is captured by way of a terrific dance number at the bandit's jungle-set abode; a number which celebrates, despite their ways, individualism and a living of their own way of life with their own infrastructures and foundations - something placed into contrast to that of the officials and their blank nature and preordained demeanour, gradually becoming more and more anonymous in comparison to Veeraiya and his clan's exaggerated and spontaneous existence. A further instance of this subverting of the respective male leads and their personas is in Veeraiya's raiding of a local police camp; the uncovering of his file mugshot seeing him verbally identify the brooding, threatening anonymity of the hulking terrorist criminal in comparison to what he feels is truthfully there in relation to him.
The scenes between Ragini and Veeraiya carry with them a real sense of shift and change in that, as she fights him and he subdues her attacks, his face brushes through her hair during a physical evading; something executed in such a manner that when Ragini has some linen brushed across her own face when another attack is foiled on another occasion involving Veeraiya, their sharing of the the same physical sensations born out of similar catalysts suggest an echoing of respective internal responses. In spite of my comment made in jest about what one would do to get Aishwarya Rai back, there is this burning question hanging over proceedings, even highlighted by those within, as to whether Dev chases the villain out of personal motivation due to his wife's taking, or professional levels born out of the fact he has hated Veeraiya for a lot longer than he has loved Ragini. The drama born out of this ambiguity, of which, works well. The film is a really involving; well made and taut thriller whose undercurrent of forbidden romance as the idyllic Indian wife is allured by that of the bandit, and he himself by a human he cannot push around nor merely tame, is set up and explored wonderfully well; a rousing and involving film one cannot help but recommend.
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