Mani Ratnam’s movies have always generated substantial interest much before the release on account of two factors: one, the track record of off-beat themes and two, the musical tracks. His latest venture had also made news during the making stages as well on account of a mishap involving an elephant which had run amuck. After watching the movie, I get a feeling that perhaps the elephant was expressing its annoyance at the way the movie was coming up and had therefore decided to give a strong signal to Mani. Mani, apparently misinterpreted this and went ahead as planned. And this is what resulted….
It has been repeatedly stressed in the promos that this movie has its roots in Ramayan and that this movie is supposed to let the audience decide as to whether the character Raavan does have a good side. In the movie, the police inspector (played by Vikram, the Tamil star) is supposed to be identified as Ram, but there is nothing at all in his character which makes him out to be a Ram like personality. On the contrary, Beera (played by Abhishek Bachchan) comes across like a normal tribal who is seeking to avenge a wrong doing by the police and in the process kidnaps the police inspector’s wife (played by Aiswarya Rai Bachchan). Beera, thus bears no resemblance to the Raavan in the epic.
It was then that I realised that Mani had perhaps gone wrong in trying to associate this movie with the epic and I proceeded to watch the movie assuming that it had nothing to do with the epic and treating it like any other new story.
The disappointment, however, continued to be heaped on the audience as frame after frame revealed little effort to sharply etch the characters (quite in contrast to what we saw in Praksh Jha’s Raajneeti), a very weak story line and no dramatic moments whatsoever.
There are a few reddeming features about Raavan and these are the results of the efforts of photographers Manikandan and Santosh Sivan (I have not seen nature being so beautifully photographed in recent times and will be most surprised if they do not bag the award for the best photography) and the music director Rahman, who once again comes out with very different and extremely listenable compositions.
More than three-fourths of the movie seems to be shot in the rains and Aishwarya does look gorgeous and Mani scores in succeeding to give the pristine and pure feeling to the heroine despite liberal displays of female form in rain drenched sequences. Contrast this with what Raj Kapoor would have done: each of his rain soaked heroines have oozed nothing but oomph. Mani’s magic fails to work in Raavan simply because he has substituted form for content and has got carried away with the beauty of the places where he has chosen to film. Even, his songs which are filmed normally with great aplomb, seem to be fitted rather loosely, with the exception of the gusto packed sequence for Thok De Killi. Mani saar, why did you allow Beera to sport footwear in this song when the rest of the tribals are bare footed?
One only hopes that this is just an aberration for Mani in the otherwise excellently crafted list of his movies!