The staggering curiosity slowly waned away and honestly, it is probably the slowest starter of all MR films that I have seen so far. And this time, it’s not the script but the treatment of the entire subject that stood apart. Months before the date of release, the inevitable talks of the adaptation from our epic ‘Ramayana’ were selling like hot cakes and it indeed, is a hypothetical yet subjugate version of the mythological legend. I could sense pick ups from the life of the dangerous and inimitable Veerappan; a messiah out to save his portion of the zenith. I could visualize glimpses of Durga in RGV’s ‘Jungle’ (though technically both films are poles apart). The first half scrapes through like a wounded tortoise and gains momentum in the latter. Surprisingly and probably not to my utter bewilderment, most of the sequences between ‘Veera’ and ‘Ragini’ reminded me of Ghai’s commendable ‘Khalnayak’. The penultimate scene took the twist to a different spectrum and I liked the manner in which ‘Ragini’s’ character unfolded at the end.
Mani has a penchant for working with some of the finest talents our country possesses. And ‘Raavanan’ is no exception. Santosh Sivan’s photography (strongly aided by V Manikandan) is nothing short of a spectacle. Every frame describes patches of divinity and looks like SS is taking a stroll in the streets of paradise. Screenplay has been MR’s everlasting strength and he doesn’t disappoint. Samir Chanda’s art direction is commendable. Dialogues were ordinary and quite inane at times; being Mani Ratnam’s wife alone doesn’t provide Suhasini with the commanding credentials that a MR film actually demands. Editing could have been a touch better; probably it was an intentional periodical lapse by MR to depict a story woven from shreds of half baked characters. Music by ARR is haunting; the background score is tantalizing. The songs are chart busters; none grace the screen completely.
Let’s talk about performances. MR is known to derive the best from his casting crew. But this aspect was bit of a let down for me. Vikram as ‘Veera’ was impressive but not ruthless (as it was supposedly marketed); he is still showcased as human who falls for a beautiful married woman. Prithviraj was decent; his role of a police officer wandering with vengeance in mind was visible. Prabhu has a cameo as ‘Veera’s’ brother and excels convincingly; Karthik sizzles in his ‘Hanuman’ act and Priyamani is acceptable as ‘Veera’s’ sister. ‘Veera’s’ gang could have been punctuated with few accomplished actors; may be it was intended to be that way. Aishwarya Rai Bachhan as ‘Ragini’ was average. She cannot act and even Mani’s exemplary skills were not enough to make her histrionics look exquisite. She screeches through the chapters and ends with a whimper. She looks ravishing alright; I think Santosh Sivan can even make Lalita Pawar look like the most gorgeous woman on this planet earth, so let’s not dwell deep in to it.
I would have to watch the Hindi version to have my viewpoints substantiated.
‘Ravanan’ doesn’t rank amongst Mani’s superlative works till date. Neither does it qualify itself to be a masterpiece. But it is a visual incarnation of enormous magnitude and yet another courageous attempt to defy the nuances of a myth.