So often, I find that movie critics and reviewers in India fail to recognize the merits of any thing that lies outside of mainstream cinema. Typically, there is such little understanding of the art of story telling, and such little regard for the nuances of movie making, that the essay turns out to be nothing more than a detailed storyline, sometimes accompanied by a thrashing down of whatever the reviewer deemed unsuitable in the movie.
However, when I go for some of these films, despite the warnings in the papers, I find myself being thoroughly rewarded for my time! Recent such examples in Indian cinema include the fantastic “Road Movie, The Film” and the newly-released “Raavan”.
Raavan is a class act that is clearly not for the masses. Yes, it has all the popular elements of a bollywood masala film – love angle, action, drama, etc., but the “treatment” is refreshingly unique.
Fundamentally, it is a tale of good versus evil, and about the shades of good and evil that lie dormant within us all. Raavan’s main characters are clearly not on any one side of the spectrum, and that’s what makes the story interesting (and also probably unappealing for the common man).
I was impressed with Abhishek’s ability to “get into character” by way of mannerisms and expressions that I thought were remarkably consistent with the persona that he was playing. I especially enjoyed his character’s ability to deal with his inner conflicts, whether he’s coping with new-found jealousy or experiencing fear for the first time.
I was also left impressed with the film’s canvas. Almost the entire length of the movie has been shot in pouring rain – a feat that is not easy to pull off. Yet, somehow, the green and grey palette works like a charm, helping the characters blend-in in places, and making them stand out in contrast, in other frames!
The cinematography is truly exceptional, and among the best I have ever seen coming from Indian movie makers. The makers of the film seem to have taken the trouble to scout some of the prettiest natural locales of the country in which to set the story. I thought that many of the shots were visually stunning, giving the film a very artistic quality. Unlike typical bollywood fare, I was also pleased that the nuances of the film were more-or-less in sync with the way of life of the story’s setting – whether it’s the food they eat, their mode of transport or their attire and living conditions.
If I had to nitpick, I’d probably drop Govinda (allegedly the “Hanuman” element) from the story altogether, since he did not seem to add too much value to the plot. And, it would have helped to see a little more build-up to explain to audiences why the two key characters are hell bent on destroying each other from frame one.
But, all said and done, Raavan is definitely a movie worth watching and represents Mani Ratnam’s best work till date. Critics be damned!