Saturday, August 07, 2010

"Raavanan" (Language - Tamil) (2010) - Movie Review

Mani Ratnam’s “Iruvar” is the one of the few films of his which tears up the skin a little on its characters. They carry the suave and sophistication of the director’s style and they obey to their senses and give out the people rather than a glossy outlook for a poster. “Raavanan” is the opposite of that where the nature in the background has more flesh and bones to it than the characters. This is director’s second venture into adapting an Indian ancient epic in to his version and modernizing. The first one was “Thalapathi” taking Mahabharatha as its core which fairly does justice to the cast and audience. “Raavanan” takes hints from Ramayana which in the end draws sympathy from us towards the capable actors.

The film begins with bangs and brutal murders. As police men are drawn into the traps of this ferocious unforgiving man Veeraiyya (Vikram), he collects his final prize Raagini (Aishwarya Rai) in the middle of nowhere who is having a leisurely boating trip. There begins the setups for the director’s illusion of poetic imagination to have cinematography of high technical skills but with inconsideration on the job he took of presenting a film. Raagini’s husband Dev (Prithiviraj) is the soft looking but terrorizing police officer obsessed in catching Veeraiyya than rescuing his wife. That should have been flesh to chew for proper entry into this proclaimed hero as this devious personality who has utter disrespect for the way his job is done. Instead we get into this remote camps he stays and Veeraiyya changing locations as and when he pleases.

After a long time you get to see yesteryear actors Prabhu and Karthik in thankless roles. Especially Karthik who made his entertaining presence in the director’s earlier film “Mounda Ragam” as this comical yet commanding personality. Karthik plays Forest Officer Gnaanaprakasam supposed to be Hanuman, the faithful monkey god in the epic. Mani Ratnam ventures into this abysmal loud reference of it by making Karthik jump from trees to buildings and unfunnily mimicking the police officers. Neither Dev or us are impressed by it but Dev has to as the story needs to be continue with Gnaanaprakasam. The officer is the maze solver in this luscious jungle and his capabilities are never exemplified.

If Karthik is for Dev then there is Prabhu for Veeraiyya as the titular character’s elder brother Singarasu. Prabhu as an actor can make any onscreen characters comfortable by his presence. Even in his ferocious character he can make an offbeat friend to Raagini and he does in a way. Then again Mani Ratnam is too interested in the falls and greenery. Prabhu along with Vikram’s Veeraiyya wanders around in the jungle while providing food and zero characterization.

Films which does not carry much sense in story are made into this masterpiece by poetic images. Such is where I would consider Mani Ratnam is at least capable of providing his works. His characters are too polished and become a mannequin than an unfinished yearning line in a poetry. Veeraiyya in his appearance and mannerisms is a man to be feared of and in this film’s case bored of. He rhymes unpopular rhythms to annoyance than scare Raagini. And let me start talking about Aishwarya Rai as Raagini yelling, screaming and wondering what the heck she is doing in a film like this. Here Raagini becomes this judgment towards this two characters. Thee is a pivotal scene wherein the director shows how feared she is in inside by her screaming in a land with blackness but beauty in it. That should have been a daring moment in this film industry to portray something like that yet it lacks the oomph to it. I could appreciate the effort but the execution is quarter baked.

Vikram got to reevaluate his choices at this point. His success in critically acclaimed films are supposed to encourage for similar roles than as a mass hero. While couple of them I would welcome to please those senses of senselessness, but it appears to be his mantra in the past years. Taking up this film would have been an obvious choice but to be left there as Veeraiya is the worst thing he could have asked for.

Characters come by for no reason and disappear as they wish. They serve no purpose other than to fill the screen of beauty in the unseen and untouched southern India. Prithivraj is the only actor who makes much of the little bone he got offered. He is calm, well groomed and carries a menace which we can believe. He is the perfect cast for the Rama’s character because in the way he appears and presents as the accepted hero. He is spotless in attire and action but there lies a creepy cunningness and doubt that the film should have been made surrounding him.

People hail Mani Ratnam for how he takes these ancient stories and applies it to the modern scenario. I would accept that for “Thalapathi” which made a psedo faithful adaptation. It worked because Mahabharatha has complex characters and situations wherein there is this swinging balance of right and wrong. Every one is a culprit in that story and hence when it got over to the director’s adaptation, it easily fit in. In “Ramayana”, the right and wrong are so clearly set from the way the story has been told. Rama is immaculate even when he is cruel in suspecting Sita. He is good looking, charming and supposed to obey parent’s command regardless of how ill conceived and stupid it would be. He is the example Indian men were asked to be. Raavanan is the embodiment of evil although he became the kind of man most of us are, tempted by the beauty and driven by emotions of his sister being humiliated. The indirect and convoluted point Mani Ratnam ineffectively makes is the analogy between these two and say that it is not as black and white as the epic puts forth. Or to be fair and precise on how the epic has been spread out to people. The director’s adaptation is a step by step grueling slow approach of how to waste time and talent of good actors and the technical expertise of his cinematographers.


Anitha Samraj said...

Hi Ashok,

I agree with you! the film wasted the excellence of cinemotographee/a good hero and also rahman's good music. i love mani ratnam's "kannathil Muthammital" Still now, i consider that as his masterpiece. His characters has soul in that movie. Raavanan is a mere attempt to prmote abhishek,aish, vikram for getting them back into industry, as their market are dull.

Ashok said...

Hey Anitha, Thanks for dropping a comment. Mani Ratnam has always been a good but not a great director for me except for his "Iruvar". Even "Kannathil Muthamittal" is well made but lacks the core of ripping apart a character. But then again, its me :-).

Howard Roark said...

The 'Kamba Ramayanam' (From what I have heard) does not project Rama as 'God'. Also, it is supposed to show Ravanan as a God-fearing (He is a staunch worshiper of Shiva) and a very pious person. What you and me have seen & heard are the ones where Rama & Ravana are poles apart. The epics (When read in its full entirety) do not take sides and are more of a narrative.

That said, we got a bad headache after watching this movie. It became all the more painful for us for the reason that this was the first movie we went together after marriage...!!! :-(

Ashok said...

I suspected it Nagesh. And that is one of the reasons I added the line though not aloud "The indirect and convoluted point Mani Ratnam ineffectively makes is the analogy between these two and say that it is not as black and white as the epic puts forth. Or to be fair and precise on how the epic has been spread out to people. " But still it is not as complicated as Mahabharatha or do you think both lies on the same lines?

Howard Roark said...

Mahabharatha is indeed huge & complex as well... With its myriad tales & sub-tales, it will obviously make for a wonderful read.

However, the lack of complexity of Ramayana should only help Mani to come up with an even more wonderful film where he can dwell into the main characters in-depth. Sadly, this was missing and the characters were cardboard caricatures having no personality of their own.