Raavanan – Muscle , wrestle and the spectacle!
Vikram once said that, as an aspiring actor he pledged to quit acting if once happened to be in a Maniratnam film. His dream has come true. Vikram plays the lead Veera in Raavanan, the most anticipated Maniratnam movie of this season. Aesthetic technicians and star performers deliver us a typical adventure action film with a lot of Indian sensibilities and a bag full of Rahmanic tunes. To bring in the plot of the movie would be a mere waste of time since Raavanan is Maniratnam’s reinterpretation of the Great Indian classic Ramayana. For those who haven’t seen the movie yet and curious about it, Raavanan is a post-modern retelling of the classic Ramayana with a twist.
Raavanan’s plot unfurls around Vikram who plays Veera aka Raavanan the Robin hood of the Tirunelveli forest with a bunch of villagers including Prabhu. Aishwarya Rai Bacchan plays Ragini, the reincarnation of Sita and Prithviraj plays the tough cop Dev, who is the duty oriented Ram of this version of Ramayana. A simple online search would tell you the no mystery story line of Raavanan. More than anything else, the locations and the ace cinematography make Raavanan a most important film in the history of Indian films. Kudos to the technical team of Raavanan. The exotic set designs in a misty forest surrounded by waterfalls allow the Director to convert even his most ordinary shots into bizarre and unblemished ones. Raavanan is an eye candy with a good story and a mediocre screenplay.
The narrative technique used by Maniratnam is an age-old way of telling a story, except for the few areas where he adapts the Martin Scorsese like non-linear intercuts in adjacent scenes. But at the end of the day, the screenplay stands out as something cliched but well told. The next hurdle for Raavanan comes in the form of Suhasini‘s dialogues, which miserably fail to travel along the film’s sexy texture and tone. Too much of information and artificiality mar even the otherwise good exchanges. Though Veera’s multi-faceted characterisation is an advantage to the plot, it stops at an intellectual level failing to connect with the audience.
Vikram stands out in the film with his killer looks and the dandanakka refrain. Hats off to his million dollar performance. Since the film falls back heavily on feminism for its interpretation, Mrs.Rai Bacchan occupies most of the screen space and time and does justice to her almost perfect character as the beautiful hostage. Prithviraj’s merciless and menacing demeanor flawlessly suits Dev, the Superintendent of police. Other than these three, no character makes an impact on screen. Karthik who plays a pointless forest guard equated to Hanuman, Prabhu, the Kumbakarnan like Singarasu and Munna as Vibeeshnan come and go like passing clouds. Priyamani in Surpanakai‘s shoes, just treads the same path as Paruthi veeran’s Muthazhagu and fails to leave a mark. Also there are no strong scenes to develop the unusual relationship that blossoms between Ragini and Veera. Ill-developed characters and lack of innovative storytelling spoil an otherwise lovely film. Maniratnam who dazzled us with great storytelling in Ayutha Ezhuthu, disappoints us in Raavanan’s narrative.
If watched without a critical eye, Raavanan provides more than two hours of solid, quality entertainment(But not for the lay men). The early shots which show us the boat crash from below, the camera swing when Veera speaks to Ragini standing in a parisal, Dev’s angry cigarette stubbing, the falling down and climbing up shots, the great bridge showdown and the final entry of cops from the misty veil hail Maniratnam as one of the greatest directors of India today. When Maniratnam, Santosh Sivan and A.R.Rahman combine, this is the output: A visual spectacle with breathtaking shots carried to great heights by wings of music. The camera takes us everywhere: Under the water, inside the caves, into the waterfalls, and even above the sky. Further it has eyed the forests of Chalakkudi, Ooty and so many other places of India with high-art seriousness. Sreekar Prasad effectively uses a number of inter-cuts to the end of intensified emotions to keep us entertained in a clichéd screenplay. The combination of colors have been immaculate in any Maniratnam movie and in this one as well. The final moments of battle is a perfect mix of instinctual mystery and technical mastery.
Though Tamil cinema has been borrowing heavily from the Ram-Raavanan myth ever since characters started to speak onscreen, this is the first time we see a complete reinterpretation of the epic. This attempt by Maniratnam is similar to what Anurag Kashyap did to the story of Devdas. Unlike Dev-d, Raavanan uses ’ deconstruction’ in comparatively smaller amounts. But Raavanan falls short of Dev-d in terms of the narrative. Maniratnam succeeds as a man of good taste and as a director but fails as a writer in Raavanan. Raavanan is not a classic but at the same time it is not a bad movie to be missed. Maniratnam’s Raavanan says I may go down, but I’ll walk tall in the memory of not my lady love, but the lady who loved me.