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  • 12A
  • Bollywood
  • 2010

Raavan

Raavan

Synopsis

A modern day adaptation of India's greatest epic, 'The Ramayana', starring Bollywood royalty and box office gold Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan.

About

Only director Mani Ratnam could have the dexterity to ascribe the story of The Ramayana to a raw, modernist setting and yet remain faithful to the original story. In Ratnam's version the mythological characters of yore are supplanted with a Police Inspector 'Dev' (Vikram) and his wife Ragini' (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) who become the prey of the ruthless Beera (Abhishek Bachchan). Injured and enraged, Beera drags both Dev and Ragini into battle through the deepest ravines of the jungle as their wage a war for survival.

Ratnam puts his actors through the mill in a rigorous shoot which sees them braving the elements. Their most physically challenging roles yet, both Aishwarya and Abhishek give their all, delivering passionate performances, albeit at times appearing to run through a stock catalogue of well practiced expressions. The mud ravaged Aishwaryia alternates between deathly mortification, chin wobbling desperation and coy helplessness, all of which work to great effect in rendering the rain soaked damsel ever lovelier as she is sent plummeting down a cliff side and left to claw her way out of any number of pits and ravines. All this and her beauty is never once dimmed.

As the fearful Beera, Abhishek spends a large part of the film snarling at Aishwarya and while he captures the insanity of a vengeful man, his maniacal musings begin to grate, until we realise that his demeanour is symptomatic of the damaged psyche of a man, wounded at his core.

Synonymous with Ratnam's inimitable style, this is filmmaking of the highest order, bearing all the hallmarks of The Terrorist cinematographer Santosh Sivan, the erratic hand held camera capturing the chaos and the grim reality of the dank jungle. Rahman's hypnotic background score further bolsters the simmering tensions, replicating the protagonists struggle to survive. But halfway through and the camerawork becomes jarring, Abhishek's lunacy is wearing and the incessant pulsating of Rahman's music is necessarily maddening. The poetic effect becomes laboured and the characters journey into oblivion is like a roller coaster through hell that you really want to get off. Clearly this was the desired effect, reflecting the very insanity of the moment, but it is draining. A respite occurs in the film's final twenty minutes when we are lulled into a false sense of calm and sanity until Ratnam turns the screw once more in an altogether unexpected and captivating conclusion.

The film is a Shakespearian tragedy worthy of the Bard himself, replete with villainous protagonists, a feisty object of desire, a lumbering fool and a self serving nobleman, cloaked in the garb of respectability yet revealing himself to be devoid of all integrity.

It's a classic beauty and the beast tale as Ragini looks beyond Beera's hideous rage and uncovers his humanity. The lines between love and hate, good and evil, between Ram and Raavan become blurred, leading to a dramatic and fully edifying denouement that compensates for the mental trauma of the preceding events.

What is absent is the traditional Bollywood ending where good triumphs over evil. Here, evil persists in all its forms and ultimately it is the innocent that is vanquished. It is in this telling conclusion that Ratnam conveys the unpalatable truth of modern life.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan
  • Director: Mani Ratnam
  • Screen Writer: Mani Ratnam

In a nutshell

Raavan is a treacherous exploration of the human condition that will leave you slightly scarred for the experience. But it is gripping cinema nevertheless and a personal milestone for Indias golden couple.

by Poonam Joshi

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