Mani Ratnam‘s highly anticipated take on the epic story of the Ramayana, aptly named, Raavanan (in it’s Tamil incarnation), was satisfying and has many points to ponder.
For me, Chiyaan Vikram‘s acting stole the show. He’s been known to do unconventional roles (such as in "Pithamagan", for example), but after disappointing me (and a lot of others) with "Kandaswamy", I was keen to see if he could redeem himself in this role, and he certainly did. His characterisation of “Veera”, a tribal leader who takes justice into his own hands, is inimitable. His transition from proud leader to a distraught brother to a lovestruck but respectful man is subtle but lovely to see.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan‘s portrayal of Ragini is an amazing balance of grace, beauty and a little hot-headedness. Her eyes seemed to be her most-focused-on feature, but they conveyed her emotions most effectively; be it anger, anguish or confusion. Despite wearing minimal makeup, she still looked gorgeous!
Prithviraj also acted well in the role of Dev, Ragini’s husband – but his character – a policeman who seemed more interested in capturing Veera than in recovering his kidnapped wife – got little sympathy from the viewers. For once, it was interesting to see Rama’s character to be multi faceted, as opposed to the supremely good human that is usually portrayed as being.
Priyamani’s appearance as Vennilla, Veera’s sister, was brief but poignant, and Karthik’s boozy portrayal of a forest guard who accompanies Dev was entertaining. Prabhu Ganesan proves he’s a chip off the old block (he’s the son of the late veteran actor Sivaji Ganean) and you may spot Ranjitha Menon (Nadodi Thendral) in a few fleeting scenes.
After listening to (and falling in love with) the soundtrack for the film, I was a little worried about whether the picturisation would do the beautiful songs justice. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. Aishwarya’s execution of Shobana‘s exquisite choreography for the song "Kalvare" was absolutely beautiful, and though the choreography for "Kodu Poatta" seemed a little brash, it suited the song well. The other songs were also very well-taken – fortunately, the team hadn’t gone down the route of having overly-flashy song videos, and thus they didn’t ruin the flow of the film.
A special mention has to go to none other than AR Rahman. His work for previous Mani Ratnam films also won him a great deal of praise, and his music for Raavanan is no different. The background score for the film is incredible – especially the song in the very final scene of the film, which didn’t feature in the main soundtrack. He has honestly done wonders with both the songs and the background music for this blockbuster.
Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s Tamil dialogues are highly invigorating, and the references to Hindu mythology, though not always subtle, do not seem out of place in the midst of the conversation. The cinematography by Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan was fantastic, and the locations were also beautiful. They’ve done a phenomenal job in capturing the essence of the jungles and the tribal villages in largely unseen parts of India.
Sreekar Prasad‘s editing was slick and so there was no abundance of unnecessary scenes that would have otherwise reduced the tension that was maintained throughout. It was nice that the scenes portraying Dev and Ragini’s love, and Veera and Vennila’s relationship were kept short and sweet, and were interspersed into the drama of the film rather than being standalone scenes that detracted from the primary plot.
I personally wasn’t too keen on the plethora of Ramayana references in the film – in some parts it seemed like they were a little desperate to form links between the two. For example, Karthik’s role was akin to Hanuman, but having him eating bananas and hanging off trees seemed a tad over-the-top. Similarly, when Priyamani (who was playing Raavana’s sister, Surpanakha) had her nose grabbed by a policeman, I couldn’t help but cringe a little!
Overall, Raavanan is well-taken and well-edited, and is a truly refreshing type of movie to hit the screens after the recent spate of car-chase-and-scantily-clad-girls filled, masala flicks that have been released. Vikram’s superb acting, Rahman’s beautiful music, Sivan’s outstanding cinematography and of course, Mani Ratnam’s impeccable direction is what has culminated in this new take on the Ramayana – and in this one, Raavana is the one who appears to be the hero.
Words: Kavya Rajagopalan (c) Thamarai.com