and the American Film Institute declared it the best
American film of the 20th century.
Tamil cinema too has its share of such films. One
of the earliest examples that come to my mind is Anthanaal
released early 1950s soon after Parasakthi. It showcases
one of Sivaji Ganesan’s best performances ever.
I would go so far as to say it surpasses his performance
in the much well known Parasakthi. If one sees the
two films side by side today, Sivaji’s acting
in Parasakthi looks theatrical but his performance
in Anthanaal looks very modern. I would go out in
a limb and say his performance here is the first example
of realism in terms of acting in Tamil movies. Tamil
movie would not see such performances (in natural
dialogue as spoken by the people in real life and
not as though in a stage which veers to classical
Tamil) until more than a decade later. But how many
people even today have seen Anthanaal?
The same can be said of Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar.
It was a box-office disaster when it came out and
very few critics had nice things to say about it.
Today it is recognised as one of his finest works
and one of the best examples of basing a story on
real life characters and declaring it fiction.
The list of underappreciated Tamil movies goes on.
Add to this list Rattha Charithiram (RC) which elsewhere
was released as Raktha Charitra 2 but in Tamil was
released as one movie RC. I did not see RC1 (but I
certainly will after having seen RC).
First of all RC works as a complete movie by itself.
Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) did a great job in condensing
RC1 into the first 20 minutes of RC. Suriya who plays
the character of Surya Reddy makes his appearance
after 20 minutes – something unheard of in Tamil
movies for a hero. But my goodness! What an unforgettable
appearance -- in slow motion with his eyes blazing
I always thought that only Gautham Vasudev Menon could
photograph Suriya beautifully. Now he has tough competition
from RGV. RGV has captured the emotions of Suriya’s
eyes and his physique magnificently. The unusual camera
angles for this movie are another plus point. They
are also another reason why this movie merits a repeat
watching. Watch out for the camera angles in the court
scene and in the prison fight scene. The latter is
one of the most stunning choreographed fight scenes
ever -- all done in slow motion with each sinew of
Surya’s muscles lovingly captured by the camera.
After watching this scene one immediately thinks of
Shakespeare’s line, “What a piece of work
is man...in form and moving how express and admirable...”
Then there is the infamous 360 degree camera angles
that seemed to irritate some. In the first instance
it is used in the movie – right after the assassination
attempt on Prathap Ravi (Vivek Oberoi) – it
works quite well. It seems to symbolise the world
in Anandhapur (and in Prathap’s and Surya’s
life) turning upside down after that attempt. Subsequent
attempts work less well. The extreme close ups are
effective in that it showcases the actors’ ability
to signify the smallest emotions just by a look or
As for the screenplay, it was well played out. One
does not have to be well versed in Andhra politics
to appreciate it as it works well on its own (having
read in the internet on real life blood feud between
the two characters on whom the story is based I would
say RGV has done a great job in marrying fact and
fiction to present a story as he sees it). Not having
duets to distract us, the director manages to hold
our attention by focusing on characters and the plot.
All the peripheral characters have played their part
well. Even if their screen time is only 15 minutes,
they came and leave an indelible mark. Sudeep, the
famous Kannada actor plays a suave police officer
DCP Mohan Prasad (suave police officers are a rare
breed in Tamil movies. Most of the police officers
even the cool but awkward-with-women Anbuselvam of
Khakaa Khakaa are all mean killing machines). You
wish you could have seen more of him but he comes,
he acts and he delivers. The same for the two female
protagonists – Nandini (Radhika Apte), Prathap’s
wife and Bhawani (Priyamani), Surya’s wife.
Although given limited screen time due to the nature
of the story (the story is about two men after all)
they perform admirably: Radhika with a mixture of
vulnerability, devotion and toughness; Priyamani with
her rage and absolute belief in her husband’s
cause. What a difference from the normal Tamil movie
where the heroine appears for 5 songs and numerous
irritating scenes without leaving a dent in our consciousness.
The pulsating background score is another major plus.
It gives the movie an almost Tarantinoish feel to
it. Rarely has background score and slow motion come
together so effectively in a movie. Since there are
no duets every 10 minutes and only background songs
that leads the story forward, it gives hope that Tamil
movies can break away from the song and dance routine
and just focus on the characters and story to propel
the movie forward.
Much has been made of the violence in the movie and
how it is not suitable for family audience. Of course
this is not a movie to bring kids and its ratings
clearly says so. I can understand if the Hindi audience
were squeamish about violence since their movies are
usually urban and foreign based laced liberally with
sex, comedy and glamour. But for Tamil audience, violence
in movies is like mother’s milk. One just has
to see the trailer of Siruthai to see how much violence
in movies that we take for granted. The difference
in RC is there are a lot more people killed but in
the end it is not as gruesome as some make it out
One cannot talk of this movie without talking about
the stellar performance of Vivek Oberoi and Surya.
In RC the Tamil version, Vivek stands toe-to-toe with
Surya. I have not seen him in RGV’s Company
but saw him in Yuva (Siddharth was better in the Tamil
version) and the sleep-inducing Prince. But who would
have guessed he has such fire and intensity in him?
The present generation of Hindi actors except for
a few (Amir Khan, Ajay Devgan to name a few) can’t
seem to convey the feeling of anger and hatred. Looking
at some of these pretty faces one wonders whether
they can get violent at a lemon. After languishing
in mediocre roles, Vivek finally finds one where he
can sink his teeth into and he does a magnificent
As for Surya, those of us who thought he outdid himself
in Vaaranam Ayiram and would not find a more challenging
role, RC is another example as to why he is one of
the most talented actors working in Indian movies
today. If a picture paints a thousand words, then
Surya’s eyes paint 1001 pictures. Rarely has
an actor’s eyes been used so effectively in
a movie. The way his eyes change from rage to softness
is remarkable. Some standout moments: the first time
he sees the DCP, he looks at him with anger. The moment
he realises that the DCP has actually left Surya’s
wife in a women’s hostel for her safety, his
eyes soften towards the DCP; the scene where he sees
his family’s massacre, the agony in his eyes
and the involuntary twitching in his left eye and
when the opposition strikes a deal with him he smiles
– but it is with his eyes. How does Surya do
The scene at the climax when he accomplishes his mission
is another masterpiece. There is an equal mixture
of joy, rage, happiness and sadness at all that he
last and won to arrive at this moment. And in the
scene in the jail where the DCP comes to pay him a
visit, the way the camera spies on him as Surya slowly
looks at the DCP from under his lids – he comes
across as menacing and evil. Perhaps he has not realised
what he has become, something which the DCP reminds
Surya. It is one of the fine examples in Tamil films
where dialogues get replaced by facial movements.
By right Vivek and Surya ought to get some honours
for their work here. But whether or not the film fraternity
recognises their work remains to be seen.
In Tamil movies where characters are usually portrayed
in black and white, it is a pleasure to see these
two main characters shrouded in grey. In the end Prathap
and Surya are tragic figures. Though ruthless to their
enemies, they are also loving sons and husbands to
their women. They were two ordinary men who would
have been content to lead a simple life but forces
beyond their control force them to go on a wrong path.
As in most cases like these, once the wrong path is
tread, there is no turning back for these two. Blood
begets more blood. In that these two men have our
sympathies and they do not come out looking totally
bad or good. The movie ends with the now widowed Nandini
looking at an interview of Surya on TV. The camera
focuses on her baby boy she is holding. Would the
blood feud follow into the next generation? (Interestingly,
Surya Reddy also has a son). That’s the tantalising
question posed by the director.
Is RGV glorifying violence and revenge? Of course
not! He seems to warn that revenge is a path that
is never ending with tragic results for all parties.
And events differ when seen from different person’s
Is RC for the masses? The few young men sitting behind
me were yawning away, hoping perhaps for an item dance
to spruce up their interest. If you can’t abide
to watch a movie that does not explain how A gets
to D without showing you the B and C parts, then avoid
this movie. But if you are tired of watching the same
old run of the mill boy meets girl, throw in some
plot, interlace it with songs from foreign locale
then RC is or you.
A last word on subtitles. This movie in Malaysia was
shown with English subtitles. The subtitling was good
85% of the time. During crucial moments in the film
it was missing. Perhaps the producers should have
paid more attention to this.
Whatever the shortcomings of this film, RC will stand
the test of time. I am sure in later years it will
gain in appreciation. It would be a pity to miss it.