When I walked out of the theatre having watched Ravan, one of my friend started humming Ranjha Ranjha. Well, the song was not even in the movie. Actually it was so difficult to remember anything from the movie that he chose to hum something which was not in the movie.
It is quite difficult to write about Ravan. Actually, it is difficult to recall anything worth writing about Ravan. Except the cinematography and the music. Sadly, this time Mani Ratnam chooses to rely more on his apprentices than on his own a story telling skills. Moments are still there , but they do not build up to a credible story line. Rahman is as usual top-notch and the camera work by Santosh Sivan is once in a lifetime stuff , but when through the length of the movie, you start to get the feeling that you were better off buying the audio cd and then taking some screenshots, you know that the movie will have difficulty redeeming itself. Maybe they would come out with an album with shots of the movie as a redeeming feature. But till then there is hardly anything to write. I can write pages about say both Maqbool and Drona. One was exemplary film making and other absolute drivel. But more importantly I am going to remember both of them. Presently I am having difficulty remembering scenes from Ravan, a movie I saw few hours back. And that is the worst feeling I can have after watching a movie. And that is sad. More so coz it came from Mani Ratnam Stable.
The problem with Ravan is that once you take your eyes off the camera work and your ears off the music , all you see is incessant humming and all you hear is blatant cacophony. Disappointingly the subtlety that was so apparent in Guru is thrown out of the window. Of all the actor on display the best performance came from Ravi Kissen. Now do I need to say anything about the performance of the rest of the cast, though the performance is a credit to the actor Ravi Kissen has grown into. Heck, in a movie of Abhishek, Aishwarya, ManiRatnam, I am talking about Ravi Kissen!!!! Who would have thought? But then, you get the trend , don’t you? Abhishek has still not found a shaving blade and by the looks of it, it seems he had spent a long time in a mental asylum looking for it. Chak chak chak chak, bak bak bak bak. He chooses to exaggerate Lallan from Yuva rather than try for a redux of Gurukant Desai. The latter would have been definitely more bearable. Aishwarya looks so lost as to why is her husband acting like this that she completely forgets that she is in a movie herself. Govinda looks as if he has jumped straight from the sets of Maharaja, if you remember that there was such a movie. And then comes the guy whom plays Ram or whatever he is called. He tries sooo hard to shed his southern accent that he makes Abhishek Bachhan look less irritating. Now, even Mani Ratnam could not manage to do that in this movie. That’s saying something , right?I didn’t even bother to check up his name. I can see why is the Tamil version of the movie where the same guy plays Ravan is a big hit. Ahem, Ahem.
There is a scene in the movie, where a lot of people from the village tell the police inspector and you what is Beera like. Now, do you remember any instance while watching Guru, where you had to ask yourself as to what Gurukant Desai is like? Why? Because the focus of Guru was on the story content. The characters came out in a beautiful subtle manner. Subtlety as an option is as absent as “Pride and Glory” were from England’s football world cup campaign. Here you have Aishwarya shrieking, the man who played Ram shouting and Abhishek Bachhan hamming which was worse than shouting. Was he trying to project a scary image? Instead, he reminded me of this video. For reasons known to them only everyone in the movie tries to thrive on excess, but only cinematography looks good while exaggerated. The movie by the way is a photographer’s delight, a cinematographic orgasm. But wish, I could say the same for the rest .
But a lot of these things could have been glossed over only if the script was good enough. But the plain simple fact is that no matter what we talk about, Ravan is a long , boring movie. It doesn’t involves, it doesn’t surprises and most damningly , it doesn’t interest. Actually to be fair to the scriptwriter, when you decide to make a movie on Ramayana, he has to work his way out of a very inherent flaw, that is lack of drama. Ramayana is a very straightforward story of love and revenge devoid of any drama. There are no twists, there are no traitors , there are no cunning plans , there is nothing to shake you through the scruff of your neck in Ramayana. And if you are thinking about the Vibhishana episode, that bit in Ravan is badly chopped out to leave the Vibhishana guy nothing but an extra. Ramayana the serial was a phenomenon despite its poor actors and hyperbole because of the religious audience. And with a plot like that , if you are going to project Ravan as God and Ram as opposite, Mani Ratnam should have realised that he is trading in thin waters. A case in point is Rajneeti. It was based on Mahabharata, and loosely took threads from The Godfather. Few books written have had more drama in them than these two. So in spite of the sincere attempts of the Rajneeti Director to screw up the movie in the second half, the end product felt good. That the people came out of the theatres feeling good, was more of a credit to these two books than the director. Ravan- devoid of drama, the director is somewhat helpless, somewhat inept to handle such an even more inept script.
In the end , Ravan left me indifferent . In my dictionary, that is as sorry a reaction I can have for any movie. After Guru, I was really looking forward to Ravan. I will still look forward to Mani Ratnam’s next, but the dynamics of my expectations would have changed. Sadly.