Raavanan – 10 heads, 10 minds, 100 voices, 1000 bullets!
“Raavanan” boasts of a fantastic, awe-inspiring team which includes Mani Ratnam, Santosh Sivan, Chiyaan Vikram, Manikandan, AR Rahman, Aishwarya RB; which sets the expectations soaring. But does it deliver?
Firstly, about Mani Ratnam. Mani Ratnam is one of the respected filmmakers of India and his films are known to be thought provoking. A Mani Ratnam film usually exudes class, magnificence & realism; coming from the stables of Madras Talkies, Raavanan is no different. We have seen him roll out classics like Dalapathi, Nayagan, Roja, Bombay, Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Muthamittal etc. He usually derives inspiration from epics or real events. Dalapathi was based on Karna’s story from the Mahabharatha; Nayagan was based on the life and times of Varadarajan Mudaliar [features on the “Time 100 best movies of all time” list], the Mumbai underworld don; Roja was on Kashmir terrorism; Bombay was on the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Mumbai; Guru was inspired by Dhirubhai Ambani’s life; and now Raavan is based on the Ramayana. Known to have a penchant for discovering talent and bringing the best out of any artiste, Mani Ratnam is credited with finding the likes of AR Rahman, Madhavan, Arvind Swamy, Aishwarya Rai and reinventing Abhishek Bachchan.
Vikram, an actor par excellence, took a long time to gather a foothold in the industry. “Sethu” took him to greater heights and there was no stopping him with hit after hit. What followed was “Dhil”, “Dhool”, “Saamy”, “Pithamagan” and “Anniyan”. Post Anniyan, his juggernaut slowed down due to poor choice of films. “Bheema” and “Kandasamy” were duds in spite of his hallmark performances; these costed him a precious 4 years. Directors seldom tap Vikram’s complete potential as an actor, and as a die-hard Vikram fan; I was grossly disappointed. Then comes Mani Ratnam, as always, with not one, but two roles that has immense scope for performance. An opportunity that was missed when Ratnam did “Bombay” beckons him again. VIkram grabs it with both hands.
Coming to Raavanan, it is quite obvious that it is inspired from the epic Ramayana, made in a contemporary style. Veera [Vikram] is a rustic villager who commands the respect of his people. The movie opens with his many atrocities and his much spoken about jump from a cliff into the gushing water below. He kidnaps Aishwarya [Raagini], a dancer; who is Prithviraj’s [Dev-A police superintendent] wife. What follows is a tale of vengeance, flashback and man-hunts. The whole movie is soaked in rain and yet again showcases Mani’s eternal love affair with rain. It rains during the chases, in the songs and even in the emotional scenes. The cinematography is brilliant; making sure every fine nuance is captured on camera. Never have we seen the jungles of South and central India shown so beautifully on screen.
Vikram effortlessly carries the film on his broad shoulders. His powerhouse performance with his “Dhad Dhad Dhad Dhad” Tirunelveli slang strikes a chord with the mood of the film and is a treat for his fans. He does justice to his role, but a lot more screen presence would have fastened the pace of this otherwise slow moving movie. Even at a run time of about 120 minutes, Raavanan seems to be longer than what it actually is. Aishwarya throws in a good performance in spite of the physical challenges that her character is put through – read rappelling, swimming, jumping off a cliff! Prithviraj does justice to his role and comes across as a committed police officer. Karthik, who does a Hanuman, has chosen a decent comeback vehicle. Prabhu establishes himself as the “big brother” in Tamil cinema. Priyamani makes a mark even though her role is miniscule. AR Rahman’s tunes aren’t that impressive; barring “Veera” and maybe “Usure poguthey”; or maybe they are yet to grow on me. He excels in the background score, as always. It complements the immaculate picturisation and provides a rustic feel to the frame; as intended. The bridge fight scene at the climax is one of the best scenes in Tamil cinema. Watch it to believe it.
All that said, “Raavanan” comes across as a film with no specifics. Ratnam is known for creating solid characters. In Raavanan, each of the three protagonists are shown to have negative shades. Veera kidnaps a police officer’s wife. Dev suspects his wife after she is back from Veera’s village. Raagini’s love wavers between that for Dev and for Veera. Maybe that’s how Mani wanted it to be. But to the viewer, it comes across as a confused plot. Raavanan is a musical and visual treat; but fails to match up to my expectations; especially with stalwarts like Mani Ratnam; we tend to expect something out of the world which Raavanan is not. For sure, it is a movie which is not to be missed. But it lacks that special something which leaves you satisfied in the end. Raavanan is one of those movies which grow on you. . . Just give it some time . . Hoping to see many more and better movies from this combination.