RAAVANAN REVIEW
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By Behindwoods Visitor Shyam
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Thanks to a true auteur and a living legend in the form of Mani Ratnam, Raavanan was set out to create history (again) in Indian Cinema that aroused humungous expectations among audience and critics alike. Analogous to the phrase “Dig your own grave”, Mani Ratnam’s own stupendous record could turn out to be a major downfall for the success of this movie as it is painted all over with mediocrity as a film overall, by his own standards. Although Mani Ratnam has failed to deliver the goods as a film-maker, he has more than indemnified for the shortcomings by employing Oscar-worthy technicians in the likes of Santosh Sivan (Cinematography), ARR and Samir Chanda (Art Direction). Their ingenious work in Raavanan would undoubtedly fetch them national awards at the very least.

The story basically revolves around Veera, who is a tribal leader of the economically backward villages where the laws are driven and imposed by Veera and any attempt at law enforcement by the police would certainly end in disastrous results. Veera abducts Ragini to avenge his sister’s death as Ragini is the wife of Dev, the SP appointed to bring the goon down and restore law and order. Dev along with his subordinates and the forest guard (acted effortlessly by Karthik), begin their journey in the dense jungles to rescue Ragini and they find deliberate clues from Veera to help them proceed in the right direction. Meanwhile, Ragini begins to develop a soft corner for Veera after
listening to his sister’s story in which Dev was also involved, although indirectly. In an effort to bring a peaceful end to the intense clash between police and Veera, Veera’s brother ends up at Dev’s camp to discuss a possible ceasefire but a malicious Dev kills him to show his real intent to Veera. Veera and his people retaliate by destroying Dev’s camp and his police force and intentionally sparing Dev to lead him to a one-on-one encounter with Veera. To know whether Dev managed to end Veera’s atrocities or Veera tasted his sweet revenge, watch the movie for a grand (and twisted) finale.

The acting department is bound to receive mixed reviews although Vikram leads all the way with another stellar performance. Big B’s attributing of Abhishek’s poor performance (as Beera in Hindi Raavan) to poor editing (even if it’s true) seems to have no effect on Vikram’s portrayal of Veera and such is the magnitude of this man’s talent. Aishwarya finally seems to have learnt and delivered some good acting but her obsession with makeup is quite evident in few scenes. The Karthik that we know of Mouna Raagam days, seems to have only gotten better with his comic timing leveraging his unique voice. Prabhu does complete justice to his character as Veera’s brother and also excels in comedy. The most disappointing performance is from Prithviraj, who seems to have got into a look-fit groove to enact a tough police officer. Though he looks OK as SP, he fails miserably as Ragini’s husband as a result of complete lack of chemistry between the two.

The technical department is the pillar of Raavanan in all possible senses and that is what might keep Raavanan going for a longer time at the cinemas, even if it does. ARR has already generated some frenzied fans for “Usure Pogudhe” and “Veera Veera” but they are not in the same league of VTV (Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya). ARR’s BGM throughout the movie is slightly vociferous yet gripping and extracts the real sense of the situation with its aptness. Santosh Sivan and Manikandan have left no stones unturned to achieve a level of greatness in cinematography that is unmatched in Indian Cinema. Their camera capturing the crystal clear buzz on the rain-soaked fly is a testimonial of the kind of depths they have gone to create a new standard. No other forest would ever look more beautiful yet ominous at the same time unless it is captured by their flawlessly probing cameras. Samir Chanda might seem jobless as the backdrop of entire movie is the natural forest but if one looks closely, the sets erected for the village and the hanging bridge for instance, require deep and thorough attention to make it look veridical. The stunts choreographed by Peter Hein and Shyam Kaushal are mind-boggling in their own sense but seems a tad superfluous at some points.

Mani Ratnam, who usually tells his tales in the way they are, stumbles at many places as there is a mixture of both realistic and fantasy-driven situations and actions. Also, a very close resemblance to Ramayana at many instances is a sure turn off, which is where I guess Mani Ratnam was trapped in an uncomfortable dilemma. A soggy screenplay makes one wonder if it was the same writer who wrote the screenplay for Alaipayudhe, which switched between the present and the past so beautifully. The direction department also lacks the depth and clarity leading to quite a few plot holes although the dialogues from Suhasini stand out in most places. A true fan of Mani Ratnam would only hope that he musters the right script for his next project that would go places, which Raavanan was originally supposed to accomplish.

If you’re in a cinema screening Raavanan and you’re expecting a Mani Ratnam spectacle, you’ll be disappointed but if you’re looking for an offbeat flick that defies conventional story-telling and clichéd (or rather stolen) movie-making techniques, don’t miss this one.

Verdict: Sumptuous cake without Mani’s icing

Thanks & Regards,

Shyam
a_shyam41@yahoo.co.uk

Tags : Raavanan, Vikram, Mani Ratnam, Aishwarya Rai, Prithviraj, Priyamani, Karthik, Prabhu

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