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By Behindwoods Visitor Bharath Mahadevan
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For years now Mani Ratnam has never been able to create a movie in the league of Nayagan, Iruvar, Anjali or Kannathil. With Raavanan (with the *an*), he has created a masterpiece which can stake claim as one of his best Tamil films ever. Raavan (without the *an*) is good, but unfortunately Abhishek had to be pitted against Vikram and this is a no contest.

Unlike what most reviews say, Raavanan is not to show how Vikram is a Robin Hood or the gray in his character. Its a typical Mani Ratnam movie where the audience effortlessly falls in love with the anti-hero (more effortlessly with every film of his - from the detailed story in Nayagan to not so detailed in Dalapathy to more and more crisp editing in Dil Se and Guru).

Also, unlike what most reviews say, Raavanan is anything but slow - It shows editing at its best and crispiest - The Prithviraj - Ash romance in one song, the Naxal theme in one song, Vikram’s character in a couple of frames and Vikram falling in love in one brilliantly choreographed song which is poetry in modern frames! The editing is so taut that it’s easy to miss a dialogue or a connection to the epic - Hanuman, Vibheeshan, Kumbhakarna, Jatayu. Blink and you miss a scene where Ash gets out of the train and waits for Prithviraj. Turn away and you miss the human side of Vikram falling in love with Ash.

This is one movie where Mani Ratnam has
deliberately left a lot of ambiguities. What does Sita go back for? What happens after the end? Who does she love, or does she love Raavanan at all? Who is Raavanan - A brilliant psycho? Millions of voices ringing in his head? Is the movie about Good Vs Evil, about how love destroys, about the captive and captor? Or is it about the Naxals? Or a bit of everything? Or is it a simple love story? Is Prithviraj involved in the Shurpanaka incident? Is he just a righteous cop who'll do anything for justice? Was Ash imagining Vikram falling on her and getting close to her, like the other dream sequences?

There’s no point talking about the brilliantly backlit frames, excellent music or the sets or the cinematography - These are all taken for granted in a Mani Ratnam movie. As are good acting performances from the side cast, especially Priyamani, Prabhu, Karthik and Ravi Kishen.

Finally, the point which most reviewers have missed. Ash's performance - The best by any adult heroine in a Mani Ratnam film (along with maybe Manisha in Bombay), and the best by any heroine in recent times.

And Raavanan Vs Raavan - Raavan is by far better than any of the mindless stuff which comes out of Bollywood these days. And Abhishek doesn't have a good PR manager like that fellow who played Arjun in Rajneeti :) Abhi isn't as good as Vikram, but by any standards an Abhishek performance in a Mani Ratnam film is better than any other peer - Ranbir, Imran Khan etc.

Mani Ratnam is way ahead of his time in filmmaking. He defines moviemaking style in India in terms of camerawork, choreography, music and themes. Nayagan came in years before Company and Sarkar or any Mafia movie in India. Look at Mammootty and Rajnikanth in Dalapathy versus Manoj Bajpai and Ajay Devgn in Raajneeti. Dil Se was way ahead of its time. When Yuva was released, Bollywood was still caught in the traditional fare. Now, six years after Yuva we have mainstream films which are not typical love stories. So we need to wait for a few years for critics to applaud Raavan (without the *an* - that’s already a masterpiece) as a path breaking movie. Haven’t we waited years for critics to say Iruvar, Dil Se and Yuva were good movies after they were ripped apart when they were launched?

Finally - Which other director in India would have the guts to present Ram as the villain and Raavan as the hero?

Raavan makes you think. It requires you to keep up with its breakneck speed. Not a simple movie like Guru, which is why it has flopped.

Bharath Mahadevan

Tags : Raavanan, Vikram, Mani Ratnam, Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan, Priyamani, Raavan

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