Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vikram, Govinda, Nikhil Dwivedi, Ravi Kissen, Ajay Gehi
Director: Mani Ratnam
Music: AR Rahman
Good things first – Raavan is one of the best shot movies I have seen in a long time. Clearly makes cinematographer Santosh Sivan the biggest star and best performer in the film. Ironically such superb work only points out the rest of the shortcomings of the movie only more glaringly.
Raavan starts really well. A series of shots establish Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) and his group and their enmity with the police. The villainous tone for Beera is set. Right after that he kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya). And as the desperate victim wants to know what she has been kidnapped for, Beera declares that he will be finishing off Ragini in 14 hours. Unfortunately for the character and the film, the actor playing the role does not match up to the image that has been conjured. Abhishek fails to create the rage and fear with his dialogue. It would be unfair to say he did a bad job. Abhishek is rather good except at those moments when he needs to portray the authoritative demon. All other facets of the character come out well.
Raavan is primarily a story of a husband searching for his kidnapped wife. In this case it is a Superintendent of Police Dev (Vikram) who is trying to get back his wife Ragini. And he is aided by his right hand man DSP Hemant (Nikhil Dwivedi) and Sanjeevni (Govinda) – playing the characters of Lakshman and Hanuman from the original inspiration Ramayan. However, the search turns more into an ego fight as Dev chases Beera. In the meantime different facets of Beera are shown including that of a lover. He falls in love with Ragini – the woman he was to kill in 14 hours but failed as he could not find the fear of death in her eyes. He starts admiring her and falls for her while Ragini steadfastly awaits her husband to come and take her back to home.
The back stories behind all the characters evolve in flashbacks. And they are handled well to express the emotional quotient of each character – a brother's revenge, a husband's love for his wife and a wife's longing. Strangely, never for once the director makes an attempt to give a brief to what makes Beera the outlaw and neither does he give any geographical explanation – definitely an attempt to keep things politically correct. Also there is an absolute lack of detailing when it comes to the language. While the police jeeps bear number plates of Madhya Pradesh, the dialect spoken is from rural UP and in a particular sequence a newspaper used is from Ranchi (Jharkhand)!
Although it is tough task making a comment on a masterful director's work, the fact is that screenplay is an issue. During the first half I probably looked at the watch twice wondering when the intermission would come about, hoping it would get faster after that. The first half leaves you wondering where the film is headed as it continues to spread its wings. The second half however gets faster as the action sets in and also the emotions peak – especially the bond between Beera and Ragini. The last 15 minutes especially come in as quite a clever move, taking me by surprise. That's when even the change of hearts happen and you know exactly that that was Mani Ratnam's vision before he went about making the film.
The film is helped by superb background music. The action direction is top notch and some scenes are remarkably well done. Dialogue writer Vijay Krishna Acharya certainly could have done a better job. Performances of all actors are good. Aishwarya clearly steals the show and the hearts. Kudos to her for going through all the physically strenuous action! Vikram is good and his deep baritone makes a lot of difference to the character. Govinda is very well cast and he along with Nikhil Dwivedi comes as a surprise package. Ravi Kissen fits in. Also Priyamani in her short cameo does a good job.
Overall, Raavan is more a choreographed musical-cum-psychological drama but without proper character backing. What makes the movie worth watching is the peaks in the second half, of course apart from the imagery.
- Noyon Jyoti Parasara / Sanskriti Media & Entertainment