Mani Ratnam returns to spread magic (or a blunder, as this review progresses) with his 'Raavanan' after a splendid show in the form of 'Guru'. Well lets be positive to some extent now, his team is world class, with Santosh Sivan behind the lens, Srikar Prasad on the editor's table and A R Rahman handling the music and besides that the stellar star cast! The movie looked like a bouquet of flowers but only the fragrance seemed to fade!
Now moral of the story ' Never go by hype! Wondering why we started with the moral so soon, well that is what 'Raavanan' is all about! It is a celluloid adaptation of 'Ramayana' written by sage Valmiki (and interestingly, no name is displayed for 'the story' when the titles are showed.) with modern publicity techniques that will attract the audience. Let's get to the analysis part and wrap this review up as soon as possible, because the movie is just above 2 hours. And about wrapping it soon, anyone among the audience will tell you to get out of the hall as soon as possible once the movie is over!
Mani Ratnam, the master of creating art on celluloid has possibly over worked to make a disappointment! He is class apart no doubt but his class on screen is visible only in parts. He has delicately portrayed bits and pieces of modern day Ramayana. Well nothing offending here but Ramayana is a story that is imbibed in to our lives from childhood, seems like this movie was shot to associate every scene with the happenings in the holy epic.
Characterisation and Performances
Suhasini Maniratnam pens the dialogues of the movie. Her dialogues are intelligent, credible and most importantly, conveying information. Characters and their strengths are informed through these wonderful dialogues. The homework seems to have been done well. Mani Ratnam has sketched his characters amazingly. Every character has a purpose and every actor behind the character has been rightly cast. . Leave alone the fact he was inspired from Ramayana but here in this, the Raavanan is the hero. The title role is played by Vikram (like you didn't know). He is Veera alias Veeraiah. A tribal leader who's fighting for their rights. He is strong, genuine and loyal to his tribe. Even other characteristics of his are mentioned through an enquiry scene where the police talk to the tribals to find out what kind of a person this Veera is. Vikram's performance is simply electric.
The next in line is Prithvi Raj, who's the dynamic Superintendent of Police. He is oozing with confidence as an actor and his chemistry with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is good enough on screen. He makes it quite obvious as being the Rama in this story. So you know the strings attached.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's characterization is simple. She is a loving wife who has been abducted (did we leak the story now?) and her expressions from thereon are simply amazing. She is beautiful on screen (sure is) and has come out with a noticeably extraordinary performance. Only a certain part of the credit goes to her, the rest goes to Mani for getting the best out of her.
The other supporting characters like Karthik( apparently Hanuman) as a forest officer, Prabhu as Vikram's older brother, Munna as Vikram's younger brother and others are impressively handled characters. The director has made sure all the characters receive the deserved importance. Mani Ratnam is the master unarguably; he has made sure the actors have their presence felt on screen.
At this predicament of the review, Priya Mani as Vikram's step sister has done a commendable job. Her character as a bold sister to the strong brother is much appreciable. Her performance will definitely be applauded and as she's playing the same role in the Hindi version, she has made an excellent start in her Bollywood journey.
Technically speaking, Editor Srikar Prasad has sharp scissors. The screenplay in the first half, though nothing has been conveyed and is an utter waste of film reels, his editing is near precision. Stunts and bomb work by Peter Heines and Shyam Kaushal deserve appreciation and so is art director Sameer's work, given the fact that most of the movie was shot in and around water. The tribal village, the police camp, a bridge and a marriage set were simply amazing and he would be one technician to make note of. The fight on the bridge just before the climax is an edge-of-the-seat scene that has been well shot and well directed.
But there is one man who will be applauded for his work (perhaps the only respite in the movie) is Santosh Sivan and his camera work! Mani's movies always have natural lighting and Santosh has used it to good effect. Green pastures, water falls, rivers, trees, and all that nature can offer in a forest are radiantly shown. Hats of Santosh, you've done a splendid job!
Winding up this section, A R Rahman's music is classy. His tribal beats merge with the movie's theme. His rerecording could have been better but nevertheless, a great show! Hard work from cast and crew is evident in the movie, given that the movie was shot under incessant rain, blood sucking leeches etc, but what does it count for?
The list of minuses is being reduced with a lot of deliberation. Mani Ratnam has pictured beautiful movies in the past. 'Raavanan' was termed his magnum opus, etc but sorry it didn't seem like one. The screenplay was a let down with only few scenes showing his directing supremacy. He has done another 'Roja' with only Aishwarya replacing Arvind Swamy and a few minor alterations. The movie was lost somewhere. May be because the first half was a major let down and the second half carried a lot to show (or burden) the audience.
'Raavanan' is for those who appreciate quality cinema ingredients. Director's touch, camera, art, etc are prominent yet something is missing. Don't look for the plot; it is quite obvious (from the trailers). Watch it for Mani Ratnam's direction expertise, Vikram's performance, Aishwarya's beauty and the beautiful locations! This was branded Mani's best movie by a few but on second thought, the master's best is yet to come.