Raavan: A Disappointment of Epic Proportions

I went to see Mani Ratnam’s much awaited movie Raavan over the weekend.

Raavan was a real disappointment and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a fairly advanced Aishwarya Rai fetish. However, if you do have an Aishwarya Rai fetish you will probably love it. There are lots of interminable shots of Aish variously tethered, goat-like, to trees, falling through the air in an orange salwar kameez, getting covered in mud and busting some Bharatnatyam moves in ill-placed song sequences.

Raavan is loosely based on the abduction of Sita in the Ramayan; a senior police officer’s wife, Ragini (Rai) is kidnapped by Beera (Abishek Bachchan) the leader of a gang of outlaws, and spirited away to the forest. Her husband (Vikram) sets out with his officers to rescue her and get revenge on Beera. However, there is a twist in Mani Ratnam’s version of the epic; once all the characters are in the forest, they come face to face with a darker side of their natures. And his Sita falls in love with her captor, Raavan.

The cinematography is gorgeous, with lots of moody shots of the mountains and jungle, but this is not enough to rescue the film from its total lack of structure and lame script.

One of the people I went on this cinema outing with was a friend of South Indian origin, who said that she thought that the film would be better and more nuanced in Tamil than in Hindi (the film was shot in both languages). When we started watching it became pretty clear that the language would not really have made much of a difference (not that I actually speak Tamil) because most of the interchanges consisted of primordial grunts and high-pitched screams.

A typical scene might go something like this:

Beera: (tying up Ragini) aaaaaaaaaaarf

Ragini: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Beera: grrrrrhmpmhph

(looks deep into Ragini’s eyes. They share what we assume is meant to be a sexually charged moment)

Beera: chakakakakaka! Raaaaaaah!

Ragini: mmmmmmh! mmmmmmh!

(Beera walks away. Dramatic pause)

Beera: yerfle.

Unintentional hilarity ensues.

Now, you would think that a film in which the Indian state comes into conflict with a group of outlaws deep in the forest might be trying to make some comment on a rather serious social/political issue that India is facing at the moment – you know, those Naxalite guys fighting a war against the police/army in the tribal belt? But nah, Mani Ratnam did not want to go there. Not even in the most cursory way. And that was a real disappointment.

Raavan is a waste of a star cast, a fantastic A.R Rahman soundtrack and a stunning location, and is certainly not the triumphant return that I’d been hoping for from Aishwarya after her recent absence from our screens.

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