(2010) Raavan Reviews
Variety Reviews Raavan
A cop and self-styled Robin Hood face off in a wild and brawny contest in Mani Ratnam’s bullets-and-dance spectacle “Raavan.” Consistently one of India’s most versatile and exciting directors, Ratnam angles for one of his bigger commercial vehicles by mixing knockout action sequences, primal dramatic elements and superstar Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who stays ravishing even as she’s sent through the physical wringer opposite husband and co-star Abhishek Bachchan. Stellar cast and good word of mouth look to draw strong B.O. worldwide.
The delirious pre-credits sequence resembles not the start of an action drama-musical so much as a fever dream, climaxing with crook and working-class hero Beera (Bachchan) orchestrating the daring kidnapping of Ragini (Rai Bachchan), wife of Dev (mono-monikered Vikram), the top cop in a northern Indian town. Boiling mad and out for blood, Dev rounds up the local militia to hunt down Beera, tracking him through a dense forest.
Dev recruits forest ranger Sanjeevani (Govinda), whose portly demeanor and near-magical gifts for moving through the trees make him a kind of lumpen proletariat wuxia-style action man. Sanjeevani’s comic relief appears much less than might be expected from his striking entrance, suggesting that some of his scenes were sacrificed to the goal of getting the film under 2 1/2 hours.
Beera soon realizes he has more than he anticipated in Ragini, who attempts a reckless escape by jumping over a high cliff next to a waterfall. This launches a slowly growing attraction between the manic, borderline-mad captor and strong-willed victim, and the fiery interplay between the husband-and-wife stars serves as a counterweight to a charming musical sequence — Dev’s rose-colored memory of better domestic times — between Rai Bachchan and Vikram.
Ratnam’s screenplay takes a more complex turn near the midpoint, using exposition to fill in Beera’s backstory as a fearsome but respected man of the people, forever besieged by police, as depicted in an extensive flashback. Rai Bachchan proves much more than a gorgeous face as her Ragini shows hints of sympathy and understanding for Beera’s wrath.
Being a Ratnam production, “Raavan” was never going to be anything like a typical Bollywood movie, displaying the director’s long-developed abilities to juggle several disparate elements within a vividly entertaining if occasionally over-the-top action-adventure. His collaboration with action directors Shyam Kaushal and Peter Hein reaps stirring sequences, including a breathtaking Dev-vs.-Beera fist fight on a wooden bridge spanning a massive ravine. A trio of musical dance sequences, in true Ratnam fashion, are utterly different from one another (handled by a variety of choreographers), including one wedding setpiece that builds like a great Broadway number.
Bachchan, though wonderful when playing opposite Rai Bachchan, is allowed to ham it up more than is necessary, perhaps taking a bit too literally the locally circulated myth about Beera possessing supernatural powers. Vikram takes the more effective route of straight-ahead macho intensity.
Fabulous locales and lush surroundings provide a great backdrop, with Ratnam carefully matching the work of two cinematographers, Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan. A.R. Rahman’s bold score and songs rise to the occasion. A simultaneously shot Tamil-language version features Prithviraj as Dev and, most remarkably, Vikram (a major Tamil star) as Beera.
LONDON — Filled with rich colors and lively action, Mani Ratnam’s classically themed epic “Raavan” brings together the mythology of Indian culture and the flair and fun of Bollywood with tremendous flourish.
Cinematographers Manikandan and Santosh Sivan with production designer Samir Chanda and editor A. Sreekar Prasad serve Ratnam superbly with images, settings and vitality that take one’s breath away.
Success is inevitable throughout India and with expat audiences. Such is the flare of the filmmaking that international audiences also can be expected to respond positively.
The story is drawn from the legend of Ramayana, Raavan, a 10-headed demon-god who kidnaps Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. He must hack off all those heads in order to recover his beloved.
Top Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai plays Ragini, the ravishing wife of a police inspector she calls Dev. He is played by the actor Vikram, who has moved to take over policing a remote part of Northern India filled with jungles, ravines, imposing cliffs and waterfalls. Abhishek Bachchan (Rai’s real-life husband) plays Beera Munda, a multifaceted character whom some regard as a criminal but others revere as a benefactor.
When Beera’s family is brutally victimized by the police during a wedding, he retaliates by kidnapping Ragini and taking her deep into the mountainous outback. Dev sets out with his men to bring her back.
Shot in two versions in the Hindi and Tamil languages — the Hindi version will play in most international territories — the film mixes styles with great invention so that the drama is filled with intensity. There also are dynamic musical sequences enhanced by the irresistible music of A. R. Rahman, Oscar-winning composer of the “Slumdog Millionaire” score.
These musical sequences include a splashing war dance at a jungle temple, a romantic portrait of domestic bliss and a celebration of impending nuptials; the choreography is as bold and striking as the music.
Vikram cuts a strong figure as the police officer, though in his dark glasses, he often resembles a sinister hard man from a film about a South American dictator. Bachchan has fun with a character who is fierce, passionate and dangerous but also comic in his self-doubt over whether to kill his captive or make love to her.
As for Rai, the camera adores her just as it loves the mist on the river, the rainfall in the jungle and the white water surging over rocky cliffs. She, too, is a force of nature. The film makes the most of it.
NY Times Reviews Raavan
This film has been designated as a Critics’ Pick. An Indian Epic With Bollywood Glamour
The low-caste Beera rules the forest in “Raavan,” Mani Ratnam’s richly atmospheric adaptation of the Indian epic “The Ramayana.” Though the film takes place in the present, Mr. Ratnam’s forest remains an appropriately primeval place for mythic doings, full of fog and mists and rain and Beera’s mud-painted followers (shades of “Apocalypse Now”).
Raavan (Ravana in Sanskrit), as every Indian knows, is the demon in “The Ramayana” who kidnaps Sita, the wife of Rama: king, deity and model husband (as Sita is the model wife). Early on in Mr. Ratnam’s film the question is asked: Is Beera (a gleefully hammy Abhishek Bachchan) Robin Hood or Raavan? He’s both — and more a hero in this telling, set on his turf, than is the Rama character, a cop called Dev (Vikram), who matches Beera in brutality and cunning, but not in heart.
“Raavan” has Bollywood glamour aplenty, with the lovely if occasionally dramatically challenged Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Mr. Bachchan’s wife, playing the Sita stand-in. The real star, though, is Mr. Ratnam, a talented visual storyteller who directs action crisply and fills the screen with striking images. (One, of Ms. Bachchan’s falling body landing gracefully on a tree branch, is so good he uses it three times.)
Artful but not arty, Mr. Ratnam, whose films include “Dil Se” and “Guru,” delivers the goods: There are songs and dances (A. R. Rahman of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame did the excellent score), and an eye-popping climactic battle, between the bad-good Beera and the good-bad Dev, on a teetering suspension bridge. And that, folks, is entertainment.
Mani Ratnam has directed a piece of cinema that is a contender for the best film of 2010
Following the critically acclaimed Guru Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan reunite to star alongside Tamil superstar Vikram, in this cinematic reworking of the Ramayana epic. The cinematic tour de force that is director Mani Ratnam is back with undoubtedly his most ambitious project ever, and with Raavan he triumphs.
Unorthodox police inspector Dev (Vikram) and classical dancer Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) relocate to Lal Maati, a region firmly in the control of ruthless tribal Beera (Abhishek Bachchan). Like real life legendary dacoit Veerappan, villagers view Beera as part Robin Hood social bandit, and part figure of fear. Dev realizes the only way to restore order is by vanquishing Beera, but in a failed attempt at shifting the power equation, sets off a deadly chain of events. A wounded and volatile Beera kidnaps Ragini, dragging her through the deepest ravines of the jungle, pursued by Dev and an army of police officers.
As befits a Mani Ratnam project, Raavan boasts high production values and a harmonized color palette. The texture of the film is drenched in atmosphere, with scene after scene visually stimulating. Cinematographers Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan capture the jungle landscape of Beera’s terrain, intertwined with repeated water motifs, in one of the most hydro-centric films to come out of India. What Ratnam undoubtedly excels at, is delivering the staples of Hindi cinema through such hypnotic imagery. From the romantic love song of the couple, the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge inspired yellow mustard field, to a vibrant wedding sequence, Ratnam delivers the familiar tropes of Indian film, yet at every occasion inverts them a hundred and eighty degrees. In this way, the developing attraction between Ragini and Beera emerges out of brutality and hate. He creates an undercurrent of longing from an atmosphere of malevolence and maltreatment.
While Abhishek and Vikram’s roles switch and swop through shades of grey to ink like black, it is Aishwarya’s Ragini that is the good of the story and without question, is the real hero of the movie. In a nuanced, quite brilliant performance, Aishwarya delivers perhaps her finest work to date and Raavan is her film. Ratnam allows his heroine to perform in a role where the full range of the character’s emotional graph can be explored, beyond the usual restricted scope of most Bollywood film heroines. An achievement all the more commendable by the fact that Aishwarya spends vast portions of the film submerged in water, clambering through jungle terrain, and in states of being bound, beaten and blindfolded. Yet remarkably, despite performing in a role that extends beyond the spectrum of deglam, the bruised, battered, and broken presentation of the former Miss World actually sees her looking more radiant than ever.
From Yuva to Guru, Abhishek Bachchan has created some of his most critically acclaimed and complex characters working with Madras Talkies. In his latest outing for the banner, Abhishek equally excels. In his interpretation of the ten headed demon that is Beera, the actor is almost unrecognizable in a performance that combines aggressive brutality with psychotic rambling, and a villainous stuttering, that may well find currency as a twisted catchphrase for Hindi film fans. The individual facets of ten distinct personalities are achieved through a combination of snapshot camera work and quick change facial expressions, as well as the use of turmeric and white paint, black eye make up, photographs and newspaper images to present Beera’s schizophrenic personalities. The acting is so perfectly executed that as Beera snarls at Ragini, ‘Killing you was written in my fate’, you forget the real life star persona of the couple.
In his first foray into Hindi cinema, Vikram holds his own beside two of Bollywood’s biggest stars. His role requires him to play the policeman-with-a-pistol action star, and other than a few short scenes and one song sequence, we do not get the opportunity to see Vikram deliver the romantic lover role we would normally equate with Hindi film heroes. In Raavan Vikram delivers a stellar, solid performance, even if some of his heroics are strictly of the south Indian film variety.
In an astute stroke of casting, Ratnam includes popular north Indian actors amongst a principally south Indian cast, a surefire way of ensuring pan Indian audience appeal. Poster boy of the aam admi Govinda is magnificent as a clambering, comic Hanuman. Similarly, the reigning King of Bhojpuri cinema Ravi Kissen, is magnetic as lead henchman to Beera.
Academy Award Winner A R Rahman delivers a haunting soundtrack, with lyrics penned by five times National Award Winner Gulzar. The picturisation of ‘Beera Beera’ combines Bollywood funk and boy band moves with tribal dance and demonic images. Also look out for choreographer Ganesh Acharya in a seamlessly inserted cameo in the melodious ‘Kata Kata’ track.
The climatic scenes of the film are located on the same vertigo inducing bridge that has been seen in the promos. The battle between Dev and Beera, between Ram and Raavan blurs our perceptions of good and evil. As everyone familiar with the tale of the Ramayana knows, the imprisoned wife comes under suspicion when she is finally reunited with her husband, and Ratnam’s treatment of this is subtle but heart rendering. The final encounter between Beera and Ragini replays their original meeting, quoting the same dialogues, but again utilizing Ratnam’s brilliant technique of inversion. Regardless of the state of play at the outset of the film, Hindi audiences would not be satisfied without Bollywood’s most celebrated real life acting couple united on celluloid.
With a running time of just 130 minutes, the film is significantly shorter than most Indian cinema. The interval arrives before you know it, although certain scenes in the final reels fail to maintain the earlier momentum. Since the advent of Indian cinema, the mythological genre has been seen on screen. In Raavan, Ratnam gives us a mythological but at the same time delivers an epic for the MTV generation, an oxymoron of the rural and traditional with a floor vibrating score, and a virtual overload on the cinema of attractions.
As you are drawn into the innermost depths of the human psyche, the film is at times harrowing, and this is something to be prepared for as you sit down at the theater. Mani Ratnam has directed a piece of cinema that is a contender for the best film of 2010. I strongly recommend that you watch Raavan.
Ratnam’s ‘Raavan’ Is Like Nothing You Have Ever Seen Before!
Undeniably, we live in times where things are seen as black and white, no grey areas allowed. Take the case of the gushing oil in our Gulf: BP is bad, President Obama is good – unless he’s also bad and that’s depending on the day – the environmentalists are good, the people who are trying to fix the problem bad, since they have yet to succeed. It is increasingly more rare to find a film, a TV series or a book which does not depict the battle of good vs. evil while leaning grotesquely on the side of good, making evil appear… well, evil. The Hero is always pure and good – and incredibly attractive – while the Villain is hideous, mean and plain hard to root for.
In this world of black and white, Mani Ratnam’s ‘Raavan’ is an exhilarating breath of fresh grey air. I found myself rooting for the bad guy time after time, and the last occasion I remember doing any such thing was during a Hitchcock film… Which wasn’t nearly as much fun visually as Ratnam’s film is!
‘Raavan’ is one of the few, rare films out of India that actually gets better after Intermission. While most Indian filmmakers only see the second half of their films as a prolonged segue to their ending, ‘Raavan’ actually gains momentum, and nuances, in its last hour. It is in its second act that ‘Raavan’ becomes a riveting story – with strong social and gender messages – beyond its visually stunning cinematography and great performances. When people say that no one showcases Aishwarya Rai like Mani Ratnam, they are right! She is superbly beautiful and absolutely perfect in his films.
After a sepia-colored title sequence, the film begins, immediately blending basic elements of the Sita and Rama story, with class and caste issues – the haves vs. the have nots – and the idea of ownership. Is love truly about what we feel or what we can possess? Are good and evil really that easy to tell apart? What happens when the villain isn’t who we think he should be and the god/hero isn’t perfect after all? Right in that fabulously provocative grey area lies the story of ‘Raavan’.
The main characters are Dev – played by Vikram – the police commander, who’s described in the director’s notes as an “encounter specialist”; Beera – played by Abhishek Bachchan – the voice of the underdog, a man described at once as good and evil; Ragini – played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – Dev’s wife, a feisty, strong woman who is at once fearless and vulnerable; and Sanjeevani – played by Govinda – an alcoholic Forest Guard who knows both Beera and Dev for the men they truly are, basically two sides of the same coin. In the Tamil version ‘Raavanan’, Vikram – the actor who plays Dev in the Hindi version – actually plays the Beera (Veeraiya) character and indeed, the two actors are even meant to look similar in body type, hairdos, facial hair and demeanor. It makes the lines even more blurry for the viewer…
At the very beginning of the film, the question is asked whether Beera is a ten-headed demon or a Robin Hood. It’s an answer you’ll have to work out for yourself. Although, most of the story does takes place in an apocalyptic Sherwood Forest of sorts, damp, muddy and soaked with water through ninety-five percent of the film. It’s a spectacle of wonderful cinematography – courtesy of Santosh Sivan – and keeps the viewer entertained through those moments when the action may move a bit too slowly. I did find myself getting lost in the beauty of the photography for the better part of the first half, since the guts of the story – with its themes of courage, true honor and objectification – really do start after Intermission. If I could offer a negative comment in my otherwise gushing review, it’s that the story takes a while to take off. And it tries to deal with too many themes at once, in the first half of the film.
A friend made me privy to some insider’s info, which is that those who worked on ‘Raavan’ spent most of their time filming in waist-deep water. All this under the super-disciplined watchful eye of Mr. Ratnam, who is known to be quite a perfectionist, hence a bit of a despot on the set. That combination is true filmi commitment right there. Whatever it took, the effort was well worth it in the end.
The dramatic effect of the film is accented by the stunning costumes courtesy of Sabyasachi – at his best in this South Indian setting of vegetable-dyed cottons and gold brocade borders – as well as the haunting soundtrack by A. R. Rahman. Could there ever be a Ratnam film without Maestro Rahman’s sound taking it to new heights? I think we all know the answer to that question. And the lyrics by Gulzar are divinely poetic, even to a not-so-good Hindi speaker like me.
Mani Ratnam will be awarded the Jaeger- LeCoultre, Glory to the Filmmaker award at the 67th Venice Film Festival this year. It is an honor that sums up the international appeal of a man who has never really cared that much about it. While most other filmmakers are scrambling to put together the next crossover hit, Ratnam’s been contently and extraordinarily making films for the Indian market, albeit in a variety of Indian languages, for the past 25 years. And yet, while I watched ‘Raavan’ I realized that within its human message, star performances and impeccable cinematography lies the most worldly of films I have seen in a long time.
In the words of Mani Ratnam himself: “Raavan is not a story, it is a world.” Indeed, a world we want to explore, learn more about and live, deep inside our hearts.
Raavan is Mani, Abhi, Ash’s best work
Mani Ratnam’s Raavan is an overwhelming film. At times a tad bit overproduced, the film is an onslaught of brilliant use of technology on the viewer’s senses — stunning cinematography, the fluidity of the camera, quick edits, loud soaring music, with the actors thrown into wild nature.
Ratnam working with his regular cinematographer Santosh Sivan and also V Manikandan, and editor A Sreekar Prasad, gives us a hellish vision — an innocent woman Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), kidnapped by a Veerappan-like outlaw, Beera (Abhishek Bachchan).
Much of the film is the cat and mouse game — Beera and his gang, in harmony with the forests, rain, rivers, cliffs, mountains and a lot of mud, always a few steps ahead of the police force led by an officer Dev Sharma (Vikram), who also happens to be Ragini’s husband.
Ratnam is one of the most remarkable filmmakers in India, taking unique story ideas — although some with muddled political messages, working within the framework of popular cinema, and yet creating memorable films in Tamil, Hindi and other languages.
From the days when he used to shoot his films in one language (Roja, Bombay and Dil Se) and then dub them for other markets, he has now moved to working simultaneously on two parallel productions.
This time he shot Raavan in Hindi and Raavanan in Tamil — shooting each scene back-to-back, with at least one actor interchanging roles. Vikram plays Dev in Raavan and then Veeraiya (Beera) in Raavanan, while Ash appears as Ragini in both films. He also has a third version — Villain dubbed in Telugu.
That is a lot of ambition for a soft-spoken 54-year-old man, who first attended business school before becoming a filmmaker. There is ambition written all over Raavan and at most times it succeeds.
But it all happens at such speed that it takes a while to absorb the pace of Raavan. The film needs to be digested, absorbed and mulled over. The visual images are often so powerful and strong, each shot packed with so much activity — rain, mud, trees, cliffs, and, of course, the actors, that many filmgoers will miss out on all that they see on the screen.
I tried to get ahead of Ratnam and started counting the number of edit cuts during the grand dance performance to the song Thok di Killi, but soon I felt I was on a roller coaster ride, and had to stop to breathe.
Raavan is Ratnam’s interpretation of the Ramayana [ Images ] (yes, the rumours and speculations are true), with Bachchan, Ash and Vikram playing the roles of Ravana, Sita and Rama, respectively. And in one of the most brilliant strokes of casting, a delightful Govinda [ Images ] plays Sanjeevani — a modern day Hanuman [ Images ], playfully hopping from one spot to another as he joins Dev’s mission to search for his wife.
The film is replete with references to the Ramayana — from the 14 days it takes Dev to rescue his wife, to a disturbing take on the Soorpanaka story, which becomes the justification to the kidnapping of Ragini.
But Ratnam takes Raavan beyond the Ramayana. I am not giving away the ending, but I wonder what the purists and Hindu fundamentalists will think about the departures of the film from the religious text.
Ratnam gives us all shades of the three main characters. Beera is not always as evil as Ravana is often portrayed; Ragini’s Sita has a strong inner core, and while she starts with hating Beera, she is sometimes in awe of his sudden spouts of gentleness; and Dev turns out to be the not so perfect Rama.
I wish the script and the film in general, had not spent so much time in its technological grandeur, because the real crucial conversation around the Ramayana starts to happen near the end of the film. By this time Beera, Ragini and Dev have stopped being the traditional Ravana, Sita and Rama.
That transition makes Raavan a significant milestone for modern India to move beyond the Ramayana as just a religious text. And so Raavan is perhaps Ratnam’s most definite political film.
Bachchan’s best work to date has been with Ratnam in Yuva and Guru. But here the actor goes beyond anything he could have imagined he was capable of doing. Through the film he stands tall, observing his landscape, his face twitching with myriads of thoughts and his menacing smile unnerving all those who come in contact with him. Bachchan has never worked this hard in a film and it shows in his performance.
Like him, his wife Ash also gives one of the strongest performances of her career. Few directors have succeeded in making us look beyond her beauty and see the actor in her. Rituparno Ghosh worked wonders with her in the under-appreciated Raincoat and Ratnam did that in Guru and now here in Raavan.
Vikram, a star in Tamil films, is a real find for the Bollywood industry.
The fate of Raavan and its Tamil and Telugu versions will be judged in the next few days by audiences across India and abroad. But this much is clear — Ratnam, the quiet master, is in top form here. It will be a challenge for him to outdo himself.
Raavan offers you a breathtaking panorama of the multiple facets of us. Humans.
Mani Ratnam, as a film maker has taken a huge risk with Raavan. He has sort of (mind you, sort of not entirely) tried to recreate the historic and deeply revered story of Ramayan. And he just doesn’t stop right there, he has dared the audience to think new, wider the horizons of their usual thinking and accept a very contemporary angle to this ancient story.
Whether the film maker has been successful in actually making the people accept this new thought, is something I leave to each individual to judge. But one thing’s definitive – You undeniably can’t help not feel the pressure to think unconventionally. You may give in to the pressure partially, wholly, repulse it instantly altogether or after accepting his point of view.
The plot is simple enough. Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) has become the undoubted ruler and protector of Laalmaati thanks to his reputation to meet any end to keep his people and their lands from harm’s way. However, since his ways are illegal, he naturally becomes the enemy of the state. Hearing his story the zealous Superintendent of Police Dev (Vikram) comes to this remote town with the sole ambition of bringing Beera down.
As Dev crosses one limit after the other in the search for Beera, Beera makes his move by kidnapping Dev’s wife Ragini (Aishwarya Rai). However, little does he know that he would fall for Ragini and she in turn would bring his fall. Beera, a devil of a guy, whose favorite playtime is to tease death, is surprised to find himself at the mercy of a fragile thing with a bold heart. For him, the summon of death is so gorgeous, he is blinded by it.
The film easily lifts us into this magical world where everything is fresh, green and straight out of the heart of the earth. The vivid colors of nature have been clearly captured thanks to the smooth hands of the DoP Santosh Sivan. Those who are into pink and neon eye-candy may not be able to appreciate the raw beauty of tribal life captured by this director-cinematographer duo but for those who can it’s a treat!
The slow start may be boring to a few but the pace develops in the second. We get to see the gradual lifting of each layer in each character. As the many facets of a single person is revealed we realize there is indeed a Raavan in every one. It all comes to a thrilling climax which makes the snail-paced start worth it.
A. R. Rahman’s music is aptly enchanting and its best to just get carried away by its undertones. They’re haunting, chilling, thrilling and exhilarating.
The actors have done an amazing job. Aishwarya as the wife, the abducted and the baffled middle-person in a war that she doesn’t understand or want is good. Abhishek is convincing as the uncivilized barbaric Beera. And of course, as the good person behind that faade too. Vikram as the good looking, calculating cop is smooth. The obvious chemistry between Ash – Vikram and the subtle sexual tension between Ash- Abhishek is tangible.
The comic relief by Ravi Kishan and Govinda is measured yet effective.
Raavan takes us on a mystical trip into the rainforest, something Mani uses as a perfect metaphor for the unknown realms of human minds. As he takes you deeper into the forest, the multiple persona of the characters are revealed one by one.
The best part of the whole movie is that it offers scope for a lot of varied interpretations. No one will have the same perspective of the film and that is itself a goal of filmmaking achieved. This meaningful cinema may not appeal to the mass audience but it’s a trip worth taking.
There’s drama in every frame!
That this film adapts from one of India’s favourite mythologies, The Ramayan, we know. That it would be so subtly subversive in challenging that mythology, even adding a surprise development, was the unexpected dessert after the hearty meal.
You can read the premise from the promos. Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) is introduced through a song reminding you of the one in Omkara (both penned by Gulzar). Like Omkara, Raavan too is set in the rustic badlands of the North.
Beera is a grassroots leader with his own army (hinting at Maoism), and his word is as good as the law. With half the local people fearing him, and the other half revering him, it’s only understood when SP Dev’s wife, Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), wonders whether he is “Robin Hood or Raavan”.
We’re yet to figure that out as well.
This is a film unafraid of jumping into the plot immediately. The story starts from the word go. Super Cop Dev (South star Chiyaan Vikram) is on a mission to finish Beera, whose team recently killed several cops.
Out to settle a score, Beera kidnaps Ragini. She shows no fear, throwing her kidnappers off track. Beera, meanwhile, refuses to kill her. “She shows no fear of dying, how can we kill her,” he reasons. Meanwhile, Dev is on the hunt, snaking through the thick jungles with his force.
While tracking and chasing Beera, Dev befriends a local guard (Govinda, utterly underutilised) who makes for a very disappointing Hanuman in this Ramayan adaptation.
While we know where our characters stand, the fun begins when the lines start blurring. The film takes a subversive note when it comes to making the black-and-white characters a little more interesting.
And then the film manages to confuse the viewer about whose side they’re on; and that’s the film’s foremost triumph.
In humanising Raavan and demonising the perceived good guy, the film lets us hang in delicious ambiguity for the most part. ‘The War’, when it finally happens, is short-lived but quite spectacular, with one scuffle choreographed on an insubstantial bridge.
There is too much repetition in establishing characterisation. We are shown Ragini’s gumption in her various attempts at escape. We are shown Beera’s unusual tenderness time and again. And his group’s general respect towards women, even if they are their captive, is often established.
Another thing worth considering is that nothing much really happens through the film. The plotline is really simple, and that’s stretched through the film’s running length.
Santosh Sivan’s photography brings alive the raw beauty of the jungle, the mountains, and the ruthless waters. But it also runs the danger of being exhibitionist, where even a character’s jump from a mountain and getting entangled in branches, is captured with soft lyricism.
The shot compositions are masterful, and Sivan’s work remains one of the core highlights of the film. Sound design is crackling. For a layered film, the dialogue (Vijay Krishna Acharya) is paradoxically simple, yet effective.
The background score is great fun. Songs by AR Rahman are fabulous, though not his most mind-blowing work.
Abhishek Bachchan plays Beera/Raavan with an innocence he brings in effortlessly. Despite an excess of the growls and the ‘I am a crazy genius’ act, Abhishek manages to humanise his character effectively.
Aishwarya Rai is just delightful – she’s marvellous as the dance teacher oozing grace, the firebrand captive, and the woman caught in a perplexing situation.
Chiyaan Vikram plays the modern-day Ram interestingly, with an arrogant swagger and hardheartedness. His is undoubtedly the most interesting character through the film, full of unexpected layers.
Producer-director Mani Ratnam maintains his trademark focus on emotions, while adding a flamboyant flair. Everything from the costume, to the hair, to the location, to the cinematography: there’s drama in every frame.
Enjoy this very different take on the story everyone knows. After all, if not offering a special perspective, what use is an adaptation? Don’t miss it.
Brilliant Shots, Excellent Acts
What is it all about?
Master helmer Mani Ratnam again proves his technical brilliance in this modern take of ‘Ramayana’ and dares to be different.
No make up for Aishwarya; Abhishek in different colour shades on his face, the movie is shot in difficult and different locations and is a visual treat.
With this film, Mani with Big Pictures ventures into the entire Indian screen with its Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions.
Unlike most mainstream filmmakers, Mani Ratnam doesn’t try to include something for everyone, ‘Raavan’ is for those who wants to see something ‘hatke’ and it has no similarities to Subhash Ghai’s ‘Khalnayak’ or ‘Hero’ as rumored earlier.
This modern take of ‘Ramayana’ is more of debate on the evil in you, held on stage made in a jungle and it deliver handsome things over here and also polishes the Bachchan couple as powerhouse performers.
The Story…of course
The take on Ramayana has Dev (Vikram) as Ram an encounter specialist happily married to with Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) as Sita a spunky classical dancer who is as unconventional as him. Vikram gets transferred to Lal Maati, a small town in India (which part a question mark). A town where the world of law is not the police, but Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) as Ravan a tribal who has, over the years, shifted the power equation of the place from the ruling to the have-nots of the area.
Dev knows that the key to bringing order to any place is not to vanquish the big fish; in this case – Beera. In one stroke Dev manages to rip open Beera’s world and set in motion a change of event which will claim lives. Beera, injured but enraged, hits back, starting a battle that draws Dev, Beera and Ragini into the jungle. The forest becomes the battleground. The battle between good and evil, between Dev and Beera, between Ram and Raavan.
What to look out for?
The movie starts with Beera taking a dive in the river, policeman getting killed burnt and Beera playing drums and kidnapping Ragini within seconds, cinematographer Santosh Sivan gets in to the mode and delivers what Mani ordered.
This first half Mani wants to show us the madness of this character Beera which may sound weird to some as he laughs, makes faces and smoothly tries in building the negative, hating shades of his character where the southern edge to the picture is clearly evident.
The movie tries to balance character with visual spectacle.
Visually the movie is a treat. Shooting the film at tough locales was not easy and Santosh Sivan with V. Manikandan had done an exceptional job in ‘Raavan.’.
Rahman’s music is more rhythmic then melodious but adds tempo to the proceedings.
The dialogues between Aish and Abhishek especially during the climax speak love and nothing else and are well written.
Abhishek’s role in ‘Raavan’ is more of madness then the intellect of Guru or the innocence of Lallan Singh in ‘Yuva’ but his performance is powerful as it relies mainly on the madness.
Aishwarya is top class in her role and she delivers it with panache. Vikram as Ram is excellent in whatever scope he gets. Nikhil Dwivedi impresses a lot. Ravi Kishen is superb, Negi adds valuable support and Priyamani is top rate.
The second half manages to create sympathy towards Raavan and that’s Mani and Renzil’s biggest achievement as the writer and the helmer wanted this to be.
Post interval portions triggers the debate on good and evil where the women is torn between and that’s where the movie rises from common intellect.
Smartly edited by Sreekar Prasad, the action sequence are awesome choreographed by Shyam Kaushal especially the bridge fight between Abhishek and Vikram.
Production values are mind-blowing
Govinda is filthy; the comparison to characters from Ramayana may not be digestible to some as Govinda is shown as an alcoholic and his character is inspired from Hanuman.
The movie may become enemy of its own intelligence in the Hindi speaking belt as here Raavan is considered to be evil.
The story moves only in the second half, though a lot is heard about Beera’s unlawful practices but the viewer is hardly made privy to them otherwise the emotional impact would have been much better.
Conclusion: ‘Raavan’ is for those who wanna different taste of Bollywood, this visual treat may not be at par with Mani’s previous flicks but it certainly has its stamp marked over it backed by excellent performance and technicalities the movie is recommended for a big screen watch.
A romantic poetry comes alive on screen!
Introduction-After Rajneeti, it is Raavan which takes its skeletal structure from one of the greatest epics of India-Ramayana and gives it shocking twists and turns to give it a modern look.
Raavan tries to portray the message that there is nothing called good or bad in this world. Everything depends on the perspective of a person and there could be times when evil turns good and vice-versa.
Story-Dev (Vikram) and Ragini (Aishwarya) play a happily married couple who shift to a small town where Dev is posted as a police officer.
Beera (Abhishek) plays a ruthless leader living in the dense forest and having his own set of rules.Dev is determined to capture Beera at any cost and in the meanwhile he wastes no time in abducting his wife Ragini.
The twist in the tale comes when Ragini starts understanding Beera’s point of view and realizes that she has started falling for him.
Thus begins a war between heart and mind as her mind tells her to be loyal to her husband while heart tells her to savor the experience of true love.
General Reviews-Raavan is truly a feast for the eyes. The visuals are so breathtaking that you can’t take eyes off from them. The film has got a terrific pace and the scene shifts from wet lands to rough mountains.
Aishwarya Rai tries hard to look ugly and it can be easily said that Raavan is one of her career best performances. You get lost in those big, beautiful eyes as we get to see her pouring one emotion after another in them, be it love, fear, mistrust, anger.
She seems to be a human form of a beautiful romantic poetry.
Even though her screaming and shouting gets on our nerves at times, nevertheless she has given an outstanding performance in Raavan.
Abhishek Bachchan has done an extremely good job and shines brilliantly in this glorified anti-hero role.
Vikram’s acting prowess comes across a revelation even though we feel that he has been somewhat sidelined.
AR Rahman’s touches the soul and the camerawork is excellent too.
Conclusion-Watching the movie has been an overwhelming experience and you can keep on thinking about the characters long after you have come out from the movie hall.
This movie is a perfect example of creativity at its best.
Milestone for Indias golden couple
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.
Verdict: 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.
Mani’s Vision and Sivan’s ‘Viewfinder’!
We should say thanks to Mani Ratnam for making Raavan! After Rajneeti, we are served with another movie which is based on our cultural marvel, i.e. Ramayana. If other movie makers are watching then they should learn how to contemporize an ancient story. Its not like we don’t have good stories in here, it takes a cinematic vision and brilliance to make a good movie like Raavan.
Today, if you name 5 top directors in India, then Mani’s name will certainly be there. Unfortunately, south movies don’t get that kind of market in rest of the India, otherwise, Mani has the potential to throw every Bollywood director out of the race.
We have seen what he has done with Abhishek Bachchan in Yuva. Though Guru had its set of drawbacks, but still the movie scored high in direction category. And now, here is Raavan. But this time he is with Aish, and with Santosh Sivan, he has been able to show her in such an ethereal way that no other director has ever done. This movie actually belongs to her.
Beera Munda is an antisocial outlaw who lives in the thick forests of Karnataka. He has been given a Robin Hood kind of characterization, but he is actually a goon, and he is giving sleepless nights to the authority. A robust police officer, Vikram has been given the job of taming the beast. So he goes out on hunt, and enters deep into Beera’s kingdom. In retaliation, Beera abducts his wife Aishwarya.
Well, I don’t need to tell you the Ramayana again, but I should say that Mani has incorporated his interpretation in the movie. It has lost of sudden twists. Since, the movie is based on Tulsidas’s Ramayana, and not Rishi Valmiki’s version, so we see the ‘Agnipariksha’ and latter life of Lord Rama and Sita.
Frankly speaking, Aish has outshone Abhishek. Not only Abhishek, but the whole star cast. Though Abhishek has got a well etched out character, but at times, he hasn’t been able to do judgment to Beera aka Raavan! He is funny at many places, but he is loud too.
South superstar Vikram doesn’t have much to do, neither Govinda as Hanuman and Nikhil as Lakshman has, but they supported the lead really well.
This movie actually belongs to Director and it cinematographer. Sivan has been able to capture Mani’s vision. Most of the forest scenes make you feel that the camera is romancing with nature…its completely breathtaking. And all those people, who criticize Aish, just have look. She is looking supremely gorgeous in her makeup less look, and she has acted brilliantly as well. Nevertheless, no comment of Rahman’s music, because it speaks for itself!
Subhash K. Jha speaks on Raavan
Raavan A frail wounded bird snarled viciously in the dry branches of a tree. A cold-blooded vulture who looks leery-eyed and loopy-grinned at his prey.
Pray, is this world for real?! A film by Mani Ratnam is an experience of a lifetime. His politics might be a little wobbly at times. And those recurrent shots of old ladies and little girls dancing at colourful weddings have become annoying in their familiarity in Mani’s world.
But by Jove, Mani knows how to tell a story! In Raavan he transports, no traps , us into a forest of strange untamed sights sounds emotions and feelings that tumble out with rapid-fire urgency creating a spiral of rich vibrant sensuous images. Not quite textured in their tumble these images linger like the aroma of redolent spices in a kitchen that’s cooking up a storm of a meal.
Raavan is a feast for the senses. Not much more needs to be said about Mani’s images. They flow out of Santosh Sivan and Manikandan’s cameras with the desperate urgency a symphony written on the night before apocalypse.
Raavan with its elemental images located in the deepest recesses of the forests is apocalyptic in its movement and suggestions. The image of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan plunging from the heights into a waterfall and getting trapped in a dry tree remains the one visual that surpasses all other recent and remote celluloid wise en scene suggesting a link between Nature and vulnerability.
No actress but the divine Aishwarya could have played the beauteous and virtuous modern-day Sita who’s kidnapped by a Maoist Raavan and taken through 14-day experience echoing Lord Rama’s 14-year banwas.
The mythological references gets lost on some of the characters (notably Vikram as a khaki Rama creating quite a devastating drama) .And the background music and songs by A R Rahman (barring the haunting Behne de which comes much too soon in the narrative) leave no impression.
Raavan Aishwarya gets a firm grip on her pristine neo-Sita’s ordeal by fire in the most trying of circumstances. At time her scale of emoting goes a little too high, as though she had forgotten this was the Hindi and not the Tamil version of the neo-mythological saga. But she’s a perfect portrait of a trapped bird flapping her wings against the cage.
The superbly styled though at times overly accentuated and often rushed, screenplay is crammed with ironic references to mythology and history. Think Ramayan. Think Sita. Think… Hanuman! Govinda puts in a delightful cameo as a forest ranger up to his monkey trick as he transports Inspector Dev (Vikram) through the complicated forest terrain in search of his kidnapped wife.
A lot of the action and drama unfold in the region of the cryptic. We never come close to cracking the jungle creature Beera’s mind. Partly a Moist, partly an outcast and an outlaw and outwardly a Robin Hood(don’t miss images of rural kids frolicking with the Santa Claus of the jungles), Abhishek Bachchan plays the character with much relish trying to find a centre to a character the defies gravity. But the glint in the eye and that artless grin cannot be missed. They give the character away.
You know this seemingly ruthless guy will fall so hard in love with his mesmerizing hostage that it will destroy him
Yup, this Sita will be the death of Raavan. By the time the two develop a feral fatal attraction the narrative loses grip over the unlikely lovers. In the last half-hour Sita and Raavan are on their own.
How you wish Mani would have given the narrative ample breathing space for the Abhishek-Aishwarya relationship to grow naturally in the stunning non-judgemental forests. Tragically the feelings that they share never quite jump out of the screen to cloak and choke us. Mani’s narrative style, a synthesis of smothered passions and half-finished emotions preclude any deeply thought-out plan for the modern-day Sita and Raavan.
So what lies beyond the forbidden passion between Hindu mythology’s most enigmatic villain and most revered and pristine heroine? Parts of the narrative are uneven, not being able to create a coherent connection between the principal characters and the politics underlining the film’s flamboyant mythological underbelly.
Raavan It’s a heady ambitious venture about characters trapped in situations from which they cannot escape. Mani Ratnam’s keeps the pace frantic and urgent. His actor have to create their own spaces in the tightly-packed drama of the doomed and the damned. The action and the drama are shot in an ensnaring rush of adrenaline. Abhishek and Vikram’s pre-climactic hand-to-hand combat on a wooden bridge is pure hand-to-mouth stuff, no two ways about it.
The cinematography captures the rain-drenched characters and terrain in slippery splendour. Never have we seen the protagonists on screen rough it out so vigorously.
Abhishek and Aishwarya play beautifully against one another. When at the end he tells her, “If I had died how would I have met you?” you know his eyes are telling the truth.
Raavan is a film that constantly seeks out the dark recesses in its characters’ heart which are then manifested in a montage of beautifully designed images. The film does fall short in some of its emotional moments. But who said that a film about such fatally flawed people had to be picture-perfect both outside and from inside?
The imperfections in the storytelling somehow add to the film’s vital primeval quality. The forest is shot with a devastating passion. It becomes a place where the human heart can race against convention without the clock ticking away accusingly.
Aishwarya’s heart-stopping beauty reverberates across the natural sights and sounds in the jungles. Abhishek uses his voice, physicality eyes and smile to create a twisted troubled world of inescapable doom for his character.Govinda, Ravi Kissan and Nikhil Diwedi also put in credible performances that seem to grasp the workings of Mani Ratnam’s primeval world in all its uplifting glory.
But Vikram as the modern-day Rama is a near-disaster.
He is apparently a superstar in the South. And there he shall remain.
Manirathnam creates yet another masterpiece
How far can a filmmaker proceed with his rhetorically creative ideas, expressing his farthest possible of delineating love? Manirathnam’s yesteryear films have had such intensely emotional criteria of either a lad or woman crossing the speculations for the sake of nothing but ‘LOVE’.
‘Roja’, ‘Alaipayudhe’, ‘Mouna Raagam’ and don’t forget his debut directorial ‘Pallavi Anu Pallavi’.
Well, the modernized tale of ‘Raavan’ established a radically distinctive dimension of a relationship that prevails between HUNTER and HUNTED. Crossing across the existing patterns of storytelling, Manirathnam completes shifts himself to the highest degree.
Beera (Abhishek Bachchan), an untamed outlaw is grieved over the loss of his half-sister (Priyamani) due to the roughshod treatment of cops. Unbearably infuriated, he dunks out into personal life of police inspector Dev (Vikram) by abducting his wife Raghini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). The following chain reaction of events plunges an extremely emotional drama with conflicts between these three characters as forests become their battle ground.
What makes Hindi ‘Raavan’ completely elevated than the other versions is its nativity. Of course, the existing realms of Maoists and their shocking acts seem to have impressed Manirathnam vigorously. Well, you can experience them right on the first shot of cops mercilessly mowed down. But remember this! ‘Raavanan’ doesn’t completely deal in with such starkly realistic terms as the auteur blunts into the dramatic proceedings between these characters.
For Abhishek Bachchan, Manirathnam has been his savior for years. Just when his career has been stepping down the graph, the filmmaker has spelled outstanding showpieces Jaisa – ‘Yuva’ and ‘Guru’. And again the Junior Bachchan has proved of his estimable act with Manirathnam. Be the sequences, in which he throws an extreme anger on Aishwarya Rai, which changes into a special affection: he’s outstanding. Just watch out for the sequence, where he proposes Aishwarya Rai Bachchan over the waters at an instant. Just like her spouse, Aishwarya deserves special mention for her challenging show. Let’s not point out the same other instances, but it’s a remarkable facial expression prior to the song ‘Thok De Killi’. You will be wondering if she’s smiling or starring at Abhishek. Its a billion dollar expression and her final touch with him over the cliff are again amazing. South Indian actor Vikram is simply fantastic as he completely gets over with role reversals with finesse. His emotional anxieties about missing his wife in forest and collecting her torn dress are the best gestures. Govinda and Ravi Kissan score the best throughout their careers while newcomer Priyamani does justice to her role with shorter flashback.
On the flip side, Manirathnam misses out his logical aspects at few points. Especially the climax of Aishwarya Rai’s position and the police forces’ act impinges a sort of confusion over Manirathnam’s ludicrous trait. But he is a strict follower of Alfred Hitchcock’s formula – LOGIC ENDS WHEN DRAMA BEGINS.
Musical analysis of A.R. Rahman would take pages to complete and we love to keep it short. The background score is fantabulous as he overshadows even the visuals and wins the attention of audiences. He has taken special care for creating more music for background and his rendition of a bit song appears throughout the second half unlike other versions, in which you’ll find them only during climax. The visuals shots by Santhosh Sivan and Manikandan will keep you engaged, even when you have walked out of theatres. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is sleek for the complete 130mins.
As on whole, Manirathnam creates yet another masterpiece with this star-spangled show with technical excellence. This film is strictly for those who have found themselves tired watching the same old Bollywood formulas.
Striking images, shades of gray in ‘Raavan’
In every Bollywood film, there’s a kernel of the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic about Lord Rama and his wife Sita, who was kidnapped by Raavan, a 10-headed demon king. It’s a sacred text and also a great story—a sprawling, action-packed tale of good and evil, love and hate, heroism and suffering. The influence of this foundational narrative on Indian cinema cannot be underestimated. Director Mani Ratnam’s latest, Raavan, is a full-blown adaptation of the Ramayana. The story has been modernized—including different names for the characters—and stripped down to its skeleton with powerful effect.
The art direction and cinematography are visually stunning, and the music, by A.R. Rahman (the Oscar-winning composer for Slumdog Millionaire), is spectacular. And who better to put at the center of this feast for the senses than actress Aishwarya Rai? Even muddy and bloody, she is breathtaking. As the film’s antagonist puts it, gold tested in fire glows brighter.
Those tests reveal the actress and her character to be more than a pretty face, though—giving depth and dimension to the archetypal figure of the good wife Sita.
Rai plays Ragini, a dance teacher married to a policeman, Dev (played by Vikram, a star in India’s Tamil-language film industry). They move to a small town in northern India controlled by a criminal tribal leader, Beera (played by Rai’s real-life husband Abhishek Bachchan), and Dev is charged with taking Beera down. Beera kidnaps Ragini and holds her prisoner in a cold forest—mythic in atmosphere—full of mountains, mist, and waterfalls. Dev doggedly tries to rescue her, while she relentlessly fights back and tries to escape. During her captivity, she and Beera become furiously intimate—although not physically. (In one key, sexually-charged scene, Beera explicitly refrains from touching her.)
Beera and Dev are not the black-and-white characters of the Ramayana. Bachchan gives an over-the-top performance befitting the crazed Beera, who can’t bring himself to kill Ragini—although he doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone else—and it’s not because of her beauty or her fiery inner strength. It’s because the same pain that makes him a demon also makes him human. Vikram’s Dev is strong and remote—as a god should be—but far from righteous. Neither man changes much during the course of the story; it’s our perception of them that does.
Among the supporting actors, Govinda stands out as a forest guard who helps Dev find Ragini. His is a Puck-like character and a stand-in for Rama’s monkey sidekick, Hanuman.
Like the Ramayana, Raavan is no fairy tale, and both the epic and the adaptation are in parts challenging and surprising.
Raavan is rated Must See.