(2010) Raavanan Reviews

Big, bright & beautiful
First things first. ‘Raavanan’ is not what everyone thought so. It isn’t a contemporary adaptation of Ramayana. Instead, it’s the Valmiki’s epic meeting Shakespeare’s Othello. The master filmmaker Mani Ratnam has apparently taken inspiration from these greatest works to narrate a gripping story in his own inimitable style.

‘Raavanan’, right from the day it went to floors, has been rising a huge hype and hoopla. And expectations soared a never before high before its release. Does the end product lived up to all? To this question, the answer is- With a huge star cast chipping in with their best, mesmerising shots, crisp editing and riveting music, ‘Raavanan’ ends up satisfying the appetite of the masses.

All credits to Mani for rendering a movie that is engrossing and entertaining from the very word go. With Vikram around, his job seems to have simplified. The duo end up giving sheen and shine to every scene, which unfolds at good pace. With the best of best in the business like A R Rahman (music) and Santosh Sivan (cinematography) joining hands with Mani, the battle seems to have been won even before it began.

If Mani can be considered the captain of the team, it’s Vikram who helps make all his dream a reality. As Veera, he comes out with one of his finest performances. He is not just ruthless, but at times emotional, sentimental and humourous. Veera is an epitome of emotions, which Vikram has brought out well.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is not far behind. She catches up with Vikram frame-to-fame. As a bewildered Ragini, who is kidnapped by a mighty man, she brings out the right emotions. Worked hard for her role, running in jungles, sliding from cliff. Prithviraj as Superintendent of Police looks stylish and apt for role.

The storyline is nothing new to Tamil cinema. It is basically a revenge drama. But what is entertaining is the way Mani has made the script and screenplay. Man of many accomplishments, he has ensured that it has class and mass elements in them.

The movie begins with Veera (Vikram), a dreaded don and his men fighting cops and taking away Ragini (Aishjwarya Rai). Ragini’s hubby Dev (Prithviraj) is Superintendent of Police in Thirunelveli district who is already behind Veera who has over 60 cases pending against him. But he is ala Robinhood in the forest for his kind heart.

The cat and mouse begins between them. Dev is joined by a DSP (John Vijay) and they enter the forest. They get the help of a former forest guard Gnanaprakasam (Karthik), who knows the nook and corner of the jungle.

Meanwhile, Veera keeps shifting Ragini from one place to another with his elder brother Singam (Prabhu) and younger sibling Sakkarai (Munna) helping him. Veera is also helped by the villagers in every act of his. Ragini even attempts to end her life, but Veera saves her. In the meantime, Veera and his brothers manage to catch hold of the DSP and physically harass and torture him.

Angered at their act, Ragini pours angry words. When she questions as to why he has kidnapped her and is abusing a cop, an agitated Veera narrates the reason for all his acts. In a flashback, it is revealed that the death of his sister Vennila (Priyamani) had provoked him to do so.

Vennila along with her brothers lead a happy life until her marriage is fixed. On the day of her wedding, Dev and his men enter the wedding hall and attempts to bump off Veera, who along with his brothers flee from the place hoping that Vennila would be protected by her husband. However fearing life, the bridegroom runs away leaving her. Her modesty is outraged and she is forced to end her life. Brothers then vow to avenge Dev.

Now cut to present, Ragini starts to sympathise Veera. The hot chase by cops for Veera continues until Gnanaprakasam prefers to come all alone and broker peace with Veera. In return, Sakkarai goes to meet Dev and agrees to end everything. But he is killed.

Now it is all up to an angered Veera to go hammer and tongs and teach a lesson to cops. At one point of time, Veera allows Ragini to go with her husband. But Dev makes sure Ragini meets Veera once again. What is his motive and what happened to Veera is the climax.

It has been a gripping narration from the very first frame. After ‘Sethu’ and ‘Pithamagan’, another side of Vikram’s acting credentials is exposed. As Veera, he is at free touching almost every aspect of acting.

Aishwarya is pretty and comes out with her best. Prithviraj and Priyamani have taken the challenge of being part of a Mani Ratnam’s film and delivered their best. John Vijay walks away doing a negative role.

Karthik as forest guard fits the role to T. His expression and body language are something interesting. Equally attracting is Prabhu. Munna as Vikram’s younger sibling gets a meaty role to play, which he utilises well.

The shots especially in the huge jungle, water falls, hot chase and stunts have been canned at their best. The tone and texture is amazing. All credits go to Santosh Sivan. Rahman’s music is the highlight and it gets more sheen with the way it has been shot. ‘Veera Veera…’ and ‘Usure Pogudhey…’ still chime in our hearts even as we walk out of theatres.

Running for little more than two hours, ‘Raavanan’ will go down in the history of Tamil cinema as one of the finest and best. Cheers Madras Talkies and Mani Ratnam for rendering a class movie that is racy and entertaining too.

Watch Raavanan, it’s visually poetic!
Let’s get this straight. Raavanan is not Mani Ratnam’s attempt to venerate the epic villain whose name the movie is titled after. It’s not also a study on complex human relationships weighed down by trust, conviction or quandary. It’s a pure cinematic retreat spanning across the dense jungles of Southern and Central India with exceptional cinematography (Santosh Sivan and

Manikandan), by-now cult songs (A R Rahman) and interesting performances by its lead actors. And the significance of the movie appears in the same order mentioned above.

Mani’s conviction of illustrating an unachievable love story between the two leads (Aishwarya Rai and Vikram) is palpable from the very start of the movie. However, the blossoming of love doesn’t quite form the back bone of Raavanan so much. The movie digresses into other aspects – a man hunt, flash backs, revenge drama and so on and so forth. The man hunts lack dexterity, the revenge drama that is triggered by the death of Vikram’s sister seems engineered and Prithviraj often comes across as stiff – showing unnecessary tautness in the character that is probably designed to defy emotions (may be because he is in his Khakis?).

But all that is absolved, as the movie stunningly unfolds often drenching itself in the monsoonal deluge making you feel rain-soaked. If you have any doubt about Mani’s eternal love affair with rain, Raavanan stands as a remarkable testimony. It rains in the song sequences, in encounters and in emotional scenes. And at other instances, the sky is constantly downcast as if threatening to pour down. And the cinematography captures it all in delightful exuberance.

For the most part, Vikram owns the movie seizing it magnificently even from Mani’s own hands. His love blooms out of astonishment at the outwardly courage displayed by Aishwarya Rai and he makes those scenes persuasive for the viewer. He infuses life into the character and shows no jaggedness, falling for a married woman thus replicating, probably the characters of Raavanan. Suhasini’s profound dialogues come in handy in many places and the viewer is made to read between lines quite often.

Aishwarya Rai’s semblance of the late Padmini is unmistakable, it could be her dialogues or the way she manages her composure attentively even in the hardest of terrains the character puts her through. The lady sure has attempted to reach on par with Vikram in performance in many sequences. Kudos to Mani for a dignified portrayal of his lead woman. There is a refreshing strength in Ragini’s character brought out well by Aishwarya.

Prithvi plays a toughie police officer and somehow his character portrayal leaves a few questions unanswered: for instance, his love for Aishwarya Rai is weighed down by his commitment and that singular fact does not come across convincingly.

Priyamani plays the ill-fated Vennila and leaves a lump in your throat. Karthik in his second innings steals the show. Prabhu and Munna play support roles that ebb and flow with the movie.

Cinematography by Santosh Sivan is brilliant and has rendered the perfect support for Mani. His probing lens takes the audience through the thick jungles, the mighty waterfalls and the rough terrains of India. Music and art direction play equally momentous role in Raavanan as its lead actors. If not for Rahman’s songs and background score, Vikram’s unrequited love wouldn’t have been so painful for us. The songs have already been much debated about and leave no scope for further discussion. One word though: it’s not for nothing “Usure Pogude…” has achieved a cult status. You tend to try hard not to fall in love but fail with the song as Vikram heaves a sigh of relief, having seen Aishwarya Rai breathing and alive after a steep fall.

Sameer Chanda’s art direction complements the ruggedness and splendid beauty of the nature in the jungles so well you refuse to believe anything is man-made.

A major drawback is the lack of ‘Tamil’ feel in the film and its music; it more appears for the audience north of Vindhyas in many places. What Mani loses out is the pace over the later part of the first half; he gains it back with a major twist in the climax. Although you have a few questions about the incidents leading to the finale, those are done away with – thanks to the elegiac climax.

Spectacular
How do you even begin to write about a movie that is very close to spectacular? Despite all denials from the Villain team, the movie is indeed an adaptation of the epic poem Ramayanam, but has been restricted only to the abduction of Seetha episode and some small incidents like Hanuman visiting Seetha in Ashokavanam. What has Mani Ratnam has done differently? He has made the whole episode humane and real. Each of the characters is neither completely good nor completely bad. You might want to take sides, but the pace of the movie is such, especially in the second half, that you are not sure on whose side you are or want to be.

What is it about?
Superintendent of Police Dev Prakash (Prithviraj) is transferred to a tribal village. The mission set for this encounter specialist is apprehending Veera (Vikram), a dreaded tribal outlaw. Along with his beautiful wife Raagini, the cop makes the tribal village his home. But one day Veera abducts Raagini, and thus starts a cat-and-mouse chase. The beautiful landscape of hills and mountains, rivers and waterfalls, the dense and hard forests, all add to the storyline, an adventure for the eyes and the soul.

Performances:
Vikram as Veera is top notch. He is cruel and funny, gentle and harsh, romantic and vulnerable; not ten but a hundred different emotions quiver across his face. Veera’s changing dynamics with Raagini, from the first time when his boat collides with her canoe till the last frame of the movie, is a poetic expression of varied emotions. He is indeed Raavanan; the one with ten heads and each head with a hundred different thoughts and feelings.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Raagini is indeed music on celluloid. As the graceful dancer wife of a rugged police officer, as the helpless victim of Veera, as the strong woman who stands against wrong, as a fighter who does not give up in the most difficult situations, Aishwarya plays Raagini with a lot of passion. The fact that she has dubbed for the first time in Tamil adds a lot of emotion and reality to the role. Barring a few places, most of her performance is controlled and precise. Mani Ratnam sure has extracted a good performance from her.

Prithviraj as Dev Prakash does justice to the character. He is flawed like every human being. Though a police officer and a defender of the law, he is not scared to wear his emotions on his sleeve. His hatred for Veera, love for his wife and commitment to his job, all make him the man he is.

Karthik and Prabhu share screen space again after a long time. Though they have only one scene together, both these veterans add to the quality performances in Villain. Karthik as the forest guard adds humour to the script; Prabhu as Veera’s elder brother brings a lot of dignity on screen. Mention must be made of Priyamani, who plays the important role of Veera’s half-sister. Her character defines the twists and turns in the movie.

Technical review:
Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan have created an amazing celluloid experience. Each frame is a canvas of nature’s brilliance captured with such simplicity; yet not once shot must have been easy, given the difficult terrain. The action sequences and song montages are splendid.

Samir Chanda has created some amazing sets; be it the bridges for the action sequences or the tribal village, all are so real and believable. Every single set merges into the surrounding environment and becomes part of it.

Sreekar Prasad’s crisp editing has added to the pace of the film.

A.R. Rahman’s music is in sync with the story. The background score captures the onscreen drama and enhances the movie’s narration.

And finally, what can we say about ace director Mani Ratnam? His screenplay is top notch; though it may feel a bit slow in the first half; it is more than compensated by amazing camera work. And of course, the second half is what sets the pace, making Villain an incredible ride.

Verdict:
Those who have watched the Hindi version of the movie should definitely watch the Tamil version too to experience the sheer brilliance of Vikram under the direction of Mani Ratnam. Though the movie reminds us of Roja in some places, Mani Ratnam has once again proved that when it comes quality cinema, he is among the very best.

Top Notch
Ever since Roja , Mani Ratnam has wanted to go pan-Indian. And I am not talking only in terms of the plot, but the audience too.

Few, if any, directors have consistently bridged the north-south divide in sensibilities. The seasoned Mani Sir knows that ultimately it’s the story and the telling. Roja took in its sweep both the tumultuous north and the placid south, but it can’t happen every time with every film. But you can’t blame Mani Sir for trying.

He has been trying since then. With Bombay. Dil Se/Uyire. Guru. After some time he must have realised that dubbing a Tamil film into Hindi doesn’t make you a Hindi director. With Aytha Ezhuthu/Yuva he tried a new tack — making the same film in two languages, with a different cast.

You can take a Tamil director out of Tamil Nadu, but you can’t take Tamil Nadu out of him. To me Mani Sir’s films have always been about the native idiom which, in a vast, diverse culture as ours doesn’t translate easily — the reason why he must have decided to make two films at one go.

Still, I’ve always found his films appealed more in Tamil than in Hindi — surprisingly, even the all-new Yuva was not as good as its Tamil counterpart, a viewpoint shared by many of my bilingual friends.

Naturally, then, the wait was to see Raavanan and Raavan to decide if I was being biased in favour of his Tamil work. Having just emerged from a marathon session of film-watching, let me say this: I would never watch the same film in different languages one after the other for anyone except Mani Sir.

Like the Mahabharat, the Ramayan is an amazing epic, containing within it every emotion possible apart from telling you that goodness and evil are not black and white concepts. Ram is the hero, divinity personified, but he still killed Vali unfairly.

Raavan is the villain, yes, but he was not one till he lost his heart to a married woman and kidnapped her. Was Ram right in asking the virtuous Sita to undergo an agni-pariksha? You can debate the two epics endlessly, which accounts for their timelessness.

This, however, is not Mani Sir’s first nod at our ancient epics. My alltime favourite film of his, Thalapathy, was a takeoff on Karna’s story set in modern times. Just as Raavanan/Raavan is.

The premise is tantalising. The wife is kidnapped by a powerful leader to settle scores and kept in captivity. What if the two end up liking each other? Only Mani Sir could have the vision to see the epic in such terms. Can the modern Sita played by Aishwarya Rai go back to her husband? Does he suspect her? Do they separate? A brilliant premise, except the last few minutes.

So, there is little to differentiate between the two films in terms of treatment. In the Tamil, Vikram, superstar down south, plays Veera (the role essayed by Abhishek in Hindi), Prithviraj plays Dev the cop (Vikram plays it in Hindi), and Aishwarya plays Ragini in both. Aside from the rest of the cast, there is really nothing to differentiate the two films barring a few frames.

Vikram told our Patcy Nair that Aishwarya was the real hero of the film — after seeing both versions I can understand why. This to me must be the most physically challenging role she has played in her career, and every time she stumbles through the river, jungle, or jumps off the waterfall, one needs to remember she had to shoot the scene twice, once in Tamil and once in Hindi. Incredible!

There was never any question of the so-called Bollywood top brigade of heroines coming anywhere close to her, and with Raavanan/Raavan she has simply put herself in a different league. The Kareenas and Katrinas and Priyankas can contend among themselves, but Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is beyond them. A combination of ethereal beauty and mind-blowing talent like her will not be seen again in my time, I am sure.

Which brings us to the male performers. I did say there was little in terms of treatment between the two films, but there is a mountain of a difference in the performances.

Veera/Beera needed to be menacing, edgy and playful at the same time, and yet come across as credible when he loses his heart in the blink of an eye. To me, Raavanan soars because of Vikram. Abhishek’s Beera, on the other hand, makes the right expressions and sounds, but doesn’t go beyond them. I am not saying Bachchan Jr is not good, just that Vikram in the same role is better.

Vikram, too, gets only a conditional vote. I am not a cineaste, so I am not aware of other actors having played the main role in one version and the counterpart in another, the way he has played Raavanan in Tamil and Dev in Hindi.

Unintentional, yes, but Mani Sir’s decision to have him do this (Abhishek the Raavan, approached to play Dev in Tamil, refused) reinforces that good and bad are only relative, what is good in one setting need not be good in another.

It must challenge any actor to don the greasepaint and play one role, remove it, don another makeup and play another role in the same frame. Vikram does Dev well in Hindi, but I must admit that Prithviraj, perhaps because he was unburdened by the challenge of playing two roles, does a better Dev in Tamil.

And may I add that A R Rahman’s music appealed to me better in Tamil before the film’s release, and this has only been reinforced after seeing its picturisation. Kattu Sirukki sounds better to my ear than Ranjha Ranjha; ditto, Keda Keda Kari Aduppula over Kata Kata; and Kodu Potta over Thok de Killi. It’s Vairamuthu’s lyrics in Tamil and Gulzar’s in Hindi – so you know it’s not about the lyrics.

With Raavanan/Raavan, Mani Sir returns to familiar territory, abduction of a spouse, which earned him a nationwide following with Roja. But Roja was not just an abduction tale — through the human interplay it also took in the political hot potato of the time, the Kashmir insurgency.

In his latest, he seems more interested in the human interplay and treats the issue of tribals’ fight for rights as a mere backdrop, referenced by a comment here, a barb there. Catching it by the scruff of its neck is what one would’ve expected of Mani Sir.

‘Raavanan’ defines New-Age Cinema
There isn’t anything much you can expect from this master of contemporary cinema. Stunningly spectacular visuals, Sleek and stylish technical aspects, crispy narration, powerful characters and the actors making every gesture look perfect. What else does a perfect cinema need than this?

Manirathnam’s ‘Raavanan’ is remarkably great as it surpasses out to the highest degree of exceptional arenas.

Just as our viewers wanted a short and sweet review, we bring you an exclusive analysis in shorter notes.

The story of Raavanan goes this way…

Veeraiyya aka Veera (Vikram), an outlaw and untamed personality rules the entire region of Vikramasingapuram. Here the cops have got nothing to do with their law and justice as everything comes under him. Deva (Prithviraj), a honest cop is on the verge of pulling down his realms. Regrettably, it results in the death of Veera’s sister (Priyamani) and the revengeful act now sets open a chain of events. Raghini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), Dev’s wife is kidnapped and what unfolds next is a series of events that plunges open an emotional drama between these characters.

A creme de la creme show by Manirathnam… First of all, we must appreciate him for directly taking us into the story. 5 minutes into the film, you’ve the complete prologue as Mani attempts for a novel kind of narration and the characters stand out more than their star values.

Aishwarya Rai was reported to be dubbing with her voice, but it sounds like actress Rohini has done it at few points. Vikram’s characterization of ‘Raavana’ persona has been splendidly depicted. Just as the 10 different people define in their own terms as a nice guy, talented literary figure, jovial person with sense of humor and so on, it’s completely amazing. Prithviraj’s delineation as mythological Rama is apt and his action during penultimate sequences of doubting his wife for a cause is justifying. Karthik as Gnyanaprakasham, a forest officer strides with his own acts.

But when compared to his previous film ‘Maanja Velu’, he doesn’t get more footage, but his role is best as Prabhu. Nice to see this duo Karthik-Prabhu once played lead roles together in Manirathnam’s yesteryear blockbuster ‘Agni Natchathiram’ together again. Priyamani’s role hasn’t got much to do with this film and it could have been done by any other actress, even a newcomer. John Vijay’s role as Prithviraj’s assistant is good. Ranjitha doesn’t appear more than 3 shots.

The climax portion is the best of 130mins as the film the performance level of Aishwarya Rai and Vikram are top-class. Remember this; none could’ve done such a best acting than them at this place. Thanks to Manirathnam for a best casting.

A.R. Rahman has pulled all his best efforts in the background score. Especially, it’s nice to hear the song ‘Kattu Sirukki’ in a different tone in backdrop. A.R. Rahman’s additional song in the climax is blissful and it’s sure to soak your eyes. Santhosh Sivan and Manikandan have canned their shots with unique styles and there are many places where you can distinctly spot them. Sreekar Prasad’s editing during the first 15minutes and last 15mins is fantabulous. Choreography in all the songs, particularly ‘Kodu Potta’ is stupendous while ‘Usure Pogudhey’ has some repeated shots in visuals.

The continuities do miss at few spots and Manirathnam could have corrected it down on the editing table with good transitions and even the final shot of climax is more abrupt.

On the whole, ‘Raavanan’ is a film that doubtlessly offers something new, fresh and exceptional. But it would be an aggrandizing aspect to say that it’s the ever best of Manirathnam. Sorry, the film isn’t best than some of his yesteryear showpieces, but can be regarded as one intensely emotional film.

This is purely a masterpiece from Manirathnam
Concerning for a predilection for an esthetical showpiece, Manirathnam’s attempts to savor the universal audiences keeps him over top of charts. Post ‘Nayagan’ and ‘Thalapathy’, the filmmaker hadn’t shot such an expensively grandiloquent show. Even when it was his previous bilingual film ‘Yuva’ and ‘Aayuthu Ezhuthu’: Surya, Maddy, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi and others were just budding actors.

Assessing Manirathnam’s trait isn’t a big deal: Simplistic theme, interesting plot, clichés broken, brilliant characters and wonderful technology defines his films.

Of course ‘Raavanan isn’t exclusion as these aspects are Conforming to an ultimate standard of perfection or excellence. No words to define ‘Raavanan’ as the film’s very exotic backdrops of dense forest regions take on as though they’re important characters.

The film is worthy to hold an important place in the racks of World Cinema collections, but when it comes to favoring the B and C centres, it’s slightly doubtful. Well, they’ll have to forget about commercial gratifications.

This is purely a masterpiece from Manirathnam and it’s not best as his ‘Nayagan’, ‘Thalapathy’ or ‘Roja’. But it’s of his own style and quite outstanding.

Veeraiyya, Raghini and Dev Prasad – Don’t term them as male and female characterizations. These are the stark protagonists with their own contrastive motifs and shades.

Soon after their marriage, Dev Prasad (Prithviraj) and Raghini (Aishwarya) move to the deepest place of South India – Vikramasingapuram. A honest and rough cop by nature, Dev is exposed to an extreme scenario as this place has no regards for the law and justice of Court and Police. It all lies in the hands of one man Veeraiyya (Vikram). Advocating for his own principles, well-being of the community and dead against the cruel deeds of the police, he is worshiped as his people’s Lord.

With the attempts of ripping into the territory, Dev barges into the forests thereby bumping off Veera’s sister (Priyamani). This isn’t the end, but a series of chain reactions of Veera kidnapping Raghini with a valid reason to bump her off.

But, there’s gonna be a twist in tale as the three characters’ conflict in second half pierces with emotional imbalance leading to a shocking climax.

Extend your heartiest praises for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Mark our words! She wouldn’t have and will never get such an exceptional character to perform. In fact, she has more footages than Vikram and Prithviraj. Right from the beginning till the end, she’ll keep you engaged with her rigid nature of advocating her husband, though she advocacies meant for Vikram and Co. Especially, her stunning performance with Vikram during climax is colossal. Vikram on the pars crosses to the next level in his career and it’s a ne plus ultra show. His characterization of 10 heads, 100 thoughts has been perfectly portrayed and 10 versions of his portrayal by 10 different people is a good shot. But just as Karthik reaffirms it by saying 10people-10versions could’ve been avoided as it looks so cinematic. Prithviraj looks apt for the role and does justice to his role. His characterization cannot be regarded as a negative shade, though he may seem to be.

The biggest plus of this film is that none of the audiences can justify each other’s conflicts. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s dancing skill in ‘Kalvare’ is extraordinary, but why her blouse on one side is always lowered all the time? Manirathnam wants to compromise with such traits of posing Aishwarya Rai in backless choli, low-neck costumes and so-called blouse.

There are some continuities missing in the film. At one point we see that Prithviraj departs from the camp with thick beard (in fact he wipes his shaving cream). But right on the same journey, we see that he has become so clean shaved.

Technically, the film has the best-and-the best of the entire team. A.R. Rahman’s background score is marvelous as he attempts utilizing new-patterned instrumentals. Most of them are incisively of percussions. Manirathnam has shot the songs in a completely different manner and ‘Usure Pogudhey’ is at best as the cinematography is good. But repeating the same shot in the film could have been avoided. It maybe a little dissatisfaction for the audiences, who expected yet more visuals from this song while ‘Kodu Potta’ has the best choreography and so is ‘Kedakari – marriage song. But the stunningly orchestrated version of ‘Kattu Siruki’ is fantastic. Yes, you wouldn’t be witnessing the same track that you heard in CDs as the complete style has been changed.

Priyamani’s cameo role is good and her pathetic culmination reminisces of yesteryear movies. Prabhu and Karthik have got a scene together that has some interesting notes. Karthik’s depiction as Lord Hanuman is good. But why does Manirathnam turn so amateurish of making him jumping from tree-to-tree? Munna’s characterization is fantastic and it cannot get better for the actor than this. We need to thank the filmmaker for avoiding the hackneyed narration of establishing the problems of the outcasts’ communities for the entire story would have drifted away from the main plot. So don’t question why the cops are searching Vikram and what are their intentions?

Camera Shots invariably differentiate the works of Santhosh Sivan and Manikandan. Just tag it – the dark gloomy shots are canned by Santhosh Sivan while the bright ones are likely seemed to be taken by Manikandan.

Choreography by Brindha for ‘Kodu Potta’ is mind-boggling and Peter Hein’s climax fight over the bridge is superb as it wins the applauses of audiences.

If you’re walking out of the theaters with a puzzled mind to mark the verdict, here is a small advice as we have analyzed you.

This is a pure cinema breaking the clichés and that may be the reason you’re frizzled with your thoughts.

‘Raavanan’ is an outstanding movie with typical Manirathnam style. The film is about three characters and they travel all throughout the film. An outlaw’s confusions, a cop’s assignment and a woman’s emotions are the three highlighting attributes that makes ‘Raavanan’ a good show.

Generally a Mani Ratnam film isn’t about good vs. evil. It’s more about good taking on good and evil, evil. Because his protagonists are a blend of black and white! Plaudits to him for scouting for, and zeroing in on some of the country’s awesome virgin locations!

Masterstroke yet again
Generally a Mani Ratnam film isn’t about good vs. evil. It’s more about good taking on good and evil, evil. Because his protagonists are a blend of black and white! The pattern that was evident even in Ratnam’s Tamil debut, Pagal Nilavu, keeps coming to the fore often. It was strong in Nayakan and Thalapathi, and is equally forceful in his latest offering, Raavanan (U). A solid story (so what if it is inspired?), a fairly taut screenplay, well-rounded characters and able direction set Raavanan apart. A dynamic hero who has honed his skills to perfection and a ravishing heroine who comes up with a riveting show are its other pluses.

With every venture Vikram seems to raise the bar higher. Myriad emotions of love, animus, anguish and joy dance on his face in quick succession! At times, he seems to go overboard in his howls, but when the character is multi-layered it has to be so. Aptly conveying the dichotomy between the leanings of the mind and heart and the angst of the screaming ‘heads’ inside him, Vikram lifts the role to an admirable level.

This is easily Aishwarya Rai’s most genuine performance till date. Agony, relief or confusion, her eyes speak volumes. The actor has slogged it out through rough terrains, slippery rocks and gaping craters, all in the rain. Kudos to her grit! Another commendable feature is that she has dubbed for some of her scenes. Though most of it has been handled by Rohini, the difference isn’t noticeable. And either way, her lip sync is perfect.

Prithviraj plays top cop Dev with élan, though the character’s turnabout midway through the crisis snatches away the regard it had earned earlier. The character takes a beating when Dev mindlessly aims his gun at the truce-maker from the enemy camp. His lack of tact is disappointing. That’s when heroism and villainy merge, and Veera emerges as the positive hero in the viewer’s mind. Vikram’s dominating screen presence has a lot to do with the shift in favour of Veera.

It’s refreshing to see Mani Ratnam, Prabhu and Karthik come together after Agni Nakshatram. Priya Mani as Vennila emerges with a short but impact-making enactment, while Prabhu, acting as a shield for his brother Veera, is another interesting cameo. As the astute, fun-loving boozer, Karthik is a joy to watch. And Munna, who is initially a mere supernumerary, scores in the vital sequence where he encounters Dev.

Parallels between the epic and the film are easy to draw. Forest guard Gnanaprakasam (Karthik) meeting Ragini in the forests a la Hanuman is one of the many such. The best part of the screenplay is that Ratnam gets down to business straightway with the kidnap drama taking off even as the film opens. His acumen is also evident in the interspersions of crisp romantic interludes between Ragini (Aishwarya) and Dev, and in the incidents that lead to her plight. And beneath the game of cat and mouse runs the smoothly textured love of Veera. Yet narration dithers towards the end when two song sequences follow each other in a matter of minutes. Otherwise, editor Sreekar Prasad is an asset to Raavanan.

Plaudits to Ratnam for scouting for, and zeroing in on some of the country’s awesome virgin locations! Sameer Chanda’s art adds to the impact and these have been captured in breathtaking fashion by lens men Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan. The ‘Kodu Potta …’ number stands out as a showcase of the protagonist’s mindset that comes out clearly in Brinda’s choreography. Aishwarya’s graceful movements for the ‘Kalvarae’ song exemplify the expertise of dancer Shobana, who has designed the footwork.

Raavanan’s stunts are stunning. A remarkable job by action choreographers Shyam Kaushal and Peter Hein!

Among A. R. Rahman’s numbers, ‘Usirae Pogudhae …’ is a treat and re-recording scales great heights, with backing vocals doing a splendid job. The lyric component (Vairamuthu) that weaves in references to the Ramayana is sheer wizardry!

In the early years, pithy exchanges between the characters were Ratnam’s trademark. So just when you feel that the voice modulation and responses of the characters are predictably Ratnam, dialogue writer Suhasini changes tack to make the exercise spontaneous and, at times, thought-provoking.

Living up to the hype and hoopla of a product isn’t easy. Raavanan has done it. And why only the Ramayana? What about Ratnam’s own Roja where instead of the heroine, the hero was kidnapped? Or the evergreen tale of do-gooder and outlaw Robin Hood?

Eventually it’s the treatment that makes the end product a bane or boon for the viewer. Raavanan is a boon!

Compelling tale of modern-day Sita’s plight
An innocent woman caught in a fierce clash between the system and the people — Mani Rathnam’s ‘Raavanan’ is all about the plight of a modern-day Sita and more.

Veerayya alias Veera (Vikram) is the head of a tribal community inhabiting the forest areas. He is seen as the saviour by the people while the police force sees him as a criminal.

A special police team under DCP Dev (Prithviraj), which goes after Veera to apprehend him, outrages the modesty of Veera’s sister (Priyamani). This ignites Veera’s anger and he abducts Dev’s wife Raagini (Aishwarya) as revenge.

Dev enters the forest with a huge police force to free his wife and to kill Veera.

So far, on the lines of the epic, Ramayana. But here, the similarity ends.

Mani deviates from the epic by shaping Dev’s (supposed to be Rama) role with gray shades, making Veera (Raavan) fall for Raagini (Sita), and making Raagini take her own decision while being questioned by her husband about her ‘purity’.

The changing chemistry between Veera and Raagini is the turning point in the movie.

Watch the film to find out who wins the battle between Dev and Veera, whether Dev accepts his wife back, and what happens to Raagini. The film comes to an end through a well conceived climax!

It begins in an eerie surrounding where the sound of the Adhirappalli waterfalls and the speed of the tide of the river strike the viewers in the first frame itself.

Mani Rathnam straightaway gets into the crux of the story. The scenes dealing with abduction of Raagini, the oscillation of Veera’s mind towards Raagini, the hunt for Veera, the tragedy of Veera’s sister, and the suspicion factor make the film move ahead without hurdles.

Suhasini’s dialogues are razor-sharp.

In his inimitable style, though, Mani Rathnam makes the sequences speak for themselves on many occasions sans the dialogues.

On the flip side, the depiction of characters except that of Veera, Raagini and Dev, is inadequate.

The backdrop of Veera’s struggle for the welfare of the people should have been shown in more detail. Probably, the director didn’t want any comparisons with Veera’s role and the raging Maoist problem in the country and apparently ‘underplayed’ that particular portion.

Similar is the ‘muted’ depiction of the police force’s brutalities while on the hunt for Veera. It dilutes the screenplay and makes the film look incomplete.

Aishwarya’s screen presence, full of majestic beauty and grace, is amazing. She expresses her anger and agony while caught as a pawn in the game of chess played between the executive and the fighting group.

Her anger getting gradually subdued has been expressed well.

Vikram has doled out one of his best performances. His eyes express with amazing speed the varied feelings of anger, agony, desperation and disappointment.

His rage against the system, the pangs of agony at the plight of his sister, the attraction towards his hostage and his inability to handle the same are astonishingly portrayed by the actor.

The way his eyes betrayed the instant attraction created in his mind while seeing Aishwarya lying unconscious on a tree is outstanding.

Prithviraj fits the bill as the tough cop who hunts for the criminal. For some reasons, though, his romantic moments with Aishwarya haven’t turned out as well as expected.

The viewer can’t help feeling that he could have been more ferocious in sequences of revealing his anger.

Karthick and Prabhu have carried their roles well. Priyamani, in a brief appearance, manages to impress. Her narration of the torture she was subjected to moves the audience.

Cinematography by Sivan is top-notch. He has captured the jungles amazingly well.

Sivan has made the entire movie look like a work of art. Vairamuthu’s lyrics and A.R. Rahman’s music are great plus points for the film.

The song ‘Usurey Pogudhey…’ is particularly amazing and has been captured very well. The background score by Rahman is also captivating.

The major flaw in the film is that the film fails to depict the struggle between an insensitive system and the tribal people in a telling manner.

Yet, amazing performances (by Vikram and Aishwarya), screenplay, cinematography and music make it for a compelling viewing!

The Making of a Mad Man
Director Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan, the Tamil language counterpart to Raavan, is a misty, murky take on the classic story of the kidnapping Ram’s wife Sita by the ten-headed demon Raavan. In this modern re-telling, Raavan becomes Veeeru (Chaiyyan Vikram) the ‘king’ of a small patch of jungle and all the villagers within it and for his ten heads, he has ten moods. Ram becomes police inspector Dev (Prithviraj), who has been sent to the forest district to take out Veeru and Dev’s wife Raagini (Aishwarya Rai) is the Sita who is kidnapped.

Raavanan opens with the kidnapping of Raagini and follows her through her captivity, with flashbacks to previous events as she finds out the circumstances that led Veeru to her. While Raagini finds her beliefs about right and wrong being tested, her husband the police inspector is tracking her down, ready for revenge. A showdown is inevitable but in Raavanan, despite the simple story, nothing happens the way you would expect.

The battle between Raavan and Ram is usually seen as one between good and evil but Mani Ratnam flips things around so that the battle between Veeru and Dev is more complex than that and the characters come to symbolize a fight between two ways of life–the natural world (Veeru) and the man-made world (Dev). Veeru and his followers are dressed in home-spun cloth and are, more often than not, covered in mud and water. Dev and his policemen, in contrast, are in uniform, shirttails tucked in and facial hair neatly trimmed. Veeru is dark-skinned and Dev is fair. Veeru acts justly while Dev acts lawfully. And caught in between the two men is Raagini.

Vikram and Aishwarya, who were both doing double duty in Raavan and Raavanan, give excellent performances. Not only does Vikram command the screen every second he is in the frame but the chemistry between him and Aishwarya rivals even the steamy scenes between Aishwarya and Hrithik in Dhoom 2 and Jodhaa Akbar. Vikram runs wild with the ten faces of Raavan and Aishwarya matches him with a calmness of spirit and a steely will. She is not afraid of him and he finds that irresistible. Prithviraj has a thankless task as the secondary male lead but he does a nice job as Dev, giving Vikram a foil and showing that a handsome face cannot disguise a lack of inner beauty.

The performances were supported by beautiful cinematography from Santosh Sivan and Manikavan who captured the watery feel of Mani Ratnam’s dreamscape with a light touch, never letting the mist and mud bog down the frame. And the score by A.R. Rahman only added to the otherwordly feel of the film, especially Veeru’s bombastic theme tune. The songs were paced well and the picturizations were a good mix of lip-synced and non-lip-synced.

Overall, Raavanan is a gripping and emotional film, the Mani Ratnam of Dil Se instead of the cerebral Mani Ratnam of Guru. Packed full of sexual tension and violence, it’s a film as lusty as Raavanan himself.

CINEMATIC MAGIC!
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Are you not sick of being in awe of this man? Can you ever get enough of his pure, unparalleled genius and his immortal masterpieces? Yes we are talking about Mani Ratnam, probably the finest film maker this country has ever produced and talking about masterpieces, the man relentlessly adds another one to his kitty with RAAVANAN.

Loosely based on the great Hindu epic, The Ramayana, the film follows the events happening over a period of 14 days where Veeriah (Vikram), a Robin Hood like character kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), who happens to be the wife of a street smart cop Dev (Prithviraj) in revenge for the latter having an indirect hand in the cruel fate of his half sister Vennila (Priyamani).

Such eye popping locales, such visual poetry, are probably a first for Indian Cinema. The cinematography is quite simply, out of this world! The way the camera captures those tiniest of tiny things like a droplet of water falling on a leaf and breaking into pieces and the early morning sunlight seeping through the little holes in a palm leaf will make you fall in love with the magic of this magnificent art!

The greatest plus for this movie is that it does not worry about morals or the need for a quintessential lead man who is all white at heart with no strings attached. Indeed that is where the sheer class of Mani Ratnam comes to the fore as he colors the two protagonists in equal shades of black and white, not allowing you to pick sides or make judgments for the best part of the movie’s surprisingly short runtime of 2 hours.

Having said that the film seldom lets up or sags, as it sets a scorching pace right from the start with some significant events from the Ramayana, beautifully yet believably interwoven into the narrative. (Karthik’s character for example is straight out of the epic.)

Oh, what can you say about the performances! If Vikram stuns you with a myriad of emotions crossing his face in a matter of seconds, Aishwarya Rai mesmerizes you with her portrayal of a brave, yet helpless woman starting to doubt where her loyalty really lies. While Karthik and Prabhu, especially the former are a sheer delight to watch, Priyamani tugs at your heartstrings in the shortest of cameos.

Rahman’s music, especially the rich and powerful background score goes a long way in helping the movie attain almost cult status.

On the flip side, though there are so many positives, 2 hours seems too short a runtime to give proper character sketches and the romance between Dev and Ragini seems too half baked to make an impact.

So when the lights dim in the theatre, just sit back, relax and let the master spin a magic web around you and transport you on a wonderful, mouth watering, cinematic journey that is going to take some forgetting!

VERDICT: – A SLICK, RIVETING THRILLER OOZING WITH CLASS AND SHEER CINEMATIC MAGIC!

A FILM TOLD IN MANIRATHNAM’S WAY
An excessive ornateness of visual elegance, technical excellence and stunning delineations of characters marks ‘Raavanan’ as a most estimable chef-d’oeuvre of Manirathnam. Yeah! ‘Raavanan’ is a modernized tale of Hindu Mythology ‘Ramayanam’ as even the minute details have been adapted to the present-age issues. Let’s not relate it with sociological aspects of ‘Maoists’ or LTTE…

It’s a story that revolves around every character involved in this drama with own ideologies, justifications and conflicts.

Perhaps, this must gone far ahead of your perception levels or you may kink up this as an articled research.

To start off with, the film’s synopsis is similar is so simple, but the Mani’s treatment of getting you straight into the conflict right on the 10th minute of the show is magnificent.

Cops are mercilessly massacred; their lives are endangered vividly in the region of Vikramasingapuram by a specific community, Raghini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), wife of honest cop Dev (Prithviraj) is kidnapped.

Veeraiyya (Vikram) is the man behind this drama and he has his own plans of seeking revenge. But this isn’t patently all about retaliating for the loss, but a strange yet powerful drama of relationship that plunges between the Hunter and Hunted.

A story told in short, depth and crispness always wins the heart of audiences. If so, Manirathnam scores brownie points over the attribute as ‘Raavanan’ is just 130mins in duration.

The complete first hour travels with the establishment of characters and the contradictions involved with them. But the intriguing part starts off post-intermission. You have couple of peppy festive numbers ‘Kodu Potta’ and ‘Keda Kari’ with stunning choreography and a mind-blasting stunt on the Bridge (again symbolizing a bridge in Ramayanam) by Peter Hein adds more momentum. Especially, the heart-wrenching climax with A.R. Rahman’s vocalism sets you on for an emotional trauma.

At last, it’s a best thing to give away a standing ovation for the entire team for their earnest efforts to deliver an exceptionally best show. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan must thank Manirathnam for offering her knifelike distinction from her previous films. Marked by unusually impressive acting, she walks with unstoppable applauses during climax. Just watch her imitating Vikram’s mannerisms and the very next moment your hearts would skip a beat.

Thanks to Manirathnam! Nice to see Vikram without his ‘Chiyaan’ in title cards and of course he isn’t the same Chiyaan as you saw him over his past movies. He has pretty lot of chances to fetch the best honors while Prithviraj makes a best attempt to keep him along with the bandwagon of lead characters. His role is trivialized and looses out importance at some point. Somehow, the penultimate sequences with Vikram and Aishwarya Rai brings out some estimable gestures.

Prabhu’s meaty role embellishes the script while Karthik’s portrayal as modern day Hanuman (flying across trees right at the introduction) is fine. The ultimate show is evident on his conversation with Vikram and Prabhu to sort down the issue. Munna deserves special mention and this guy must now carefully choose the best scripts to get his fortunes prolonged.

On the flip side, the continuities do miss at some point just as Prithviraj with and without beard at fraction of seconds. Manirathnam seems to have been uninterested over the picturing of ‘Usure Pogudhey’ as the footages repeated over and again throughout the track. Background score on percussions and unique instrumental styles are a special treat for his buffs. Santhosh Sivan and Manikandan – two pillars of visual enhancement have shown a diligent work. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is neat and the cuts necessary at every situation has been exactly done.

A moment to relish for the audiences if they were looking for a good cinema… Elite audiences can opt for this show and so the ‘B’ centre audiences, but the following level audiences may or may not grasp this to be a cake meant for them to taste.

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