Theatre: Fame Shankar Nag Chitra Mandira, MG Road, Bangalore
Date and Time: June 20, 2010, 10.15 am
Ticket Price: Rs 80/per head
I am sure most readers would have either seen the movie or read multiple reviews from different websites by now. I have nothing new in my first paragraph in terms of content, just like the insipid first half of the movie – insipid in terms of script content. It is only the second half where the epic we so well know figures.
Dev Sharma (Ram/Vikram) is a top cop posted in Laal Mathi forest region, living happily with his dancer wife, Raaghini (Sita/Aishwarya Rai) till one day when Beera, the local outlaw, (Raavan/Abhishek Bachchan) abducts her. Hemant (Lakshman/Nikhil), another cop shares the tragic news of Raaghini’s abduction with Dev who sets out to settle scores with Beera, taking assistance from Sanjeevani (Hanuman/Govinda). Beera is all set to avenge the death of his dear sister played by Priya Mani fitting the role of Shoorpanaga but meekly submits to the beautiful, fearless lass – Raaghini during the course of 14 days hostage. Though he initially intends to kill Raaghini in 14 hours to teach Dev a tough lesson, his unbridled affection for her weakens him every time, costing him the life of his brother, Hariya, may be Mangal (played by Ravi Kishan, we are not sure what happens to him at the end, so we safely assume he’s dead), even worse, his own life at the end of the movie. Upon rescue, Raaghini is recommended a polygraph test by her husband to come out untainted, an Agni pariksha that sends her fuming.
Now where is Mani’s story in this, there is only Ramayana etched all over it. With such a threadbare script, when we feel Mani is all set to lose out, he roughly compensates by stunning visuals, superb editing, impeccable choice of locations, great music and background score, fantastically brave stunts. I guess no director will have an urge as strong as Mani to tap the beauty of Athirapalli falls, Malshej Ghats, Hogennakal and Orchha from such daring proximity. Without an original script, the film stands decent for a one time viewing majorly because Santosh Sivan, Sreekar Prasad, Peter Heins, AR Rahman and Gulzar, of course Mani Ratnam who brought them all together and extracted the best out of them.
If there is any bit of modernity/difference to the Ramayan we know, it is that Beera does not have evil lust and is superbly in control. He is a shade better than the Raavan we know. Dev is many shades darker than the Ram we know, in that he tells Raaghini things which Beera never said, misconstrues statements, kills Hariya when he is unarmed and out to negotiate peace, kills Beera ruthlessly, forgetting that only he saved him the day before. Raaghini is little more tilted in favor of Beera, must say bit more practical than our Sita, that upon suggestion of a polygraph test by her husband, she has the nerve to stop a chugging train in the middle of the ghats, take a bus and get back to Beera to question him on what he said about her, express her fondness in her eyes for him as he falls deep into the Ghats below. I would have lauded the climax if Raaghini too fell into the deep ghats along with Beera, then this Ramayan would have definitely been modern.
Mani is a tough taskmaster and he alone has the potential to make Abhishek Bachchan act and emote. I think if Abhi ever owed anybody, other than his father, for his presence in Bollywood, it’s definitely got to be Mani. Aishwarya has done her part well, though she messes in the end with her artificial loud laughter upon reunion with Dev. Habits die hard, is what we realize at that moment. Though Aishwarya dances well, thanks to Shobana’s training, God alone knows from where and how she gained a quintal kilogram.
Vikram scores well and definitely dons the role of a tough and not so good cop flawlessly. Mangal and Hariya, brothers of Beera (don’t ask me which of them is Kumbakarna/Vibhishana, there is no explicit correlation we can make) do their parts well. Govinda is my favorite in the movie. I was wondering how Mani ever imagined a role for him in his movie given the amusing performances he has provided teaming up with David Dhawan. Must say, Govinda is really good. Priya Mani stands tall and beautiful, very striking in the short role she performs. However, guess she has got branded for getting gang raped in movies, thanks to her stint in Tamil movie Paruthiveeran.
Music and background score mould the movie well. The trek up the Athirapalli falls in closest proximity to gushing water, the plunge into Hogennakal that Abhi takes in the prelude, the climax scenes atop the precarious bridge over Malshej ghats, the stunts in dense jungles where Beera’s men choke the cop vans’ petrol tanks with sugar and steal arms from police ground camps are superb, straightening most audience’s backs. Mani always chooses a contemporary political backdrop to weave the script; here he has chosen Maoist activities, their lawlessness, cops' attempts to curb them, acts of gunning down peaceful, unarmed tribals, raping women in custody etc which we read/hear in media. This movie is a must watch for our Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, to understand the extent to which tribals are adept with jungles, how skillfully they move around and some flaws in the Indian police system where most times, policemen turn hooligans.
Verdict: Disappointed in that there is no original script, it is a huge letdown but the painful efforts taken by the team in shooting in such harsh conditions needs to be appreciated by a one-time viewing. Spend no more than 100 Rs and refrain from watching in multiplexes if you reside in Bangalore. Liked Mani’s Raavan, it is not as bad as Dil Se, and definitely not a masterpiece like Nayagan/ Kannathil Muthamittal, that’s all I can say.