Mani Rathnam’s movie for me is like Rajini Movie for Rajini Fan. In fact, I find it difficult to eliminate his movies in my list of 50 Tamil Movies to watch before you die because the last two decades he redefined the movies not only in Tamil Nadu but India. The experimentations that a few directors speak were made by this prolific director long back through his movies. But somehow I have become a reluctant fan who is waiting to dump my beloved with his last few movies. Be it futile attempt to recreate Amores Perros in Ayutha Yezuthu (Yuva) or commercially successful Guru, I am forced to believe he is losing his aura and magic…Raavanan just substantiated my belief.
Raavanan is a modern adaptation of the Indian epic Ramayana ( a few claim that it’s an adaptation of Veerappan Story- the only link being the name of the protagonist) but the director says it’s his take on caste differences in rural India. I would have agreed to Director’s claim if i haven’t seen the inherent symbolisms spread all over the movie from the start. I am not going to go for the synopsis of the movie because you don’t need to know the story if you know the epic except that in here Raavanan is the protagonist and Ram is the antagonist. Yes, there is a little twist at the end.
The biggest problem of Raavanan it looks like a Lonely Planet documentary on Kerala by a celebrated director rather than a movie. The characters are badly defined, the screenplay lags at many points with unimpressive acting performances. Yes, Vikram as Veeraiyan shows his spark of brilliance when he expresses his love to Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) but how many times we have seen him portraying similar characters. He has become stereotypical and predictable. Yes, Aishwarya was fantastic in the scene where she reacts to Veeraiyan’s flash back. But her expressions fail her miserably throughout the parts of the movie ( and that voice – Rohini? – uff, incorrigible) . Prithviraj as Dev (Ragini’s Husband) looks jaded for most of the movie, if you are a policeman doesn’t mean that you need to be stiff as a stone. But he has is moments when he tortures Veeraiyan’s brother in law who is injured and during his confrontation scene with Ragini in Train after saving her.
As usual the supporting cast takes the glory, Karthik and Prabu are so brilliant on screen that you wish they got more time on screen. These two veterans just cake walk their characters with suave and style. They are natural born actors, aren’t they? One more actor who stole the screen in the limited time she had is Priya Mani as Vennila ( Veeraiyan’s Sister) who becomes the focal point for the kidnap and revenge.
I don’t deny that movie will be one of the most beautiful movies ever shot. Every frame can make up a desktop wallpaper in your PC. Santhosh Sivan has written a sonnet in camera whereas the Art work of Sameer Chanda is spell binding. That mandap like setup on the river and the broken goddess statue, are astounding. I can’t say the same thing with AR Rahman’s music. Yes couple of songs are heart wrenching ( Usure and Kaattu Siruki ), even the final song (not in the original album) is excellent but this is his worst performance when it comes to the back ground score. The first half is brash, erratic, loud and I think he was absolutely clueless on what the characters are made of. Every time, Vikram is shown on the screen in a serious mood, he starts with that loud theme sound and suddenly he switches to soft instrumentals – jumpy. I dunno why used Kaatu Siruki for both Aishwarya and Priya Mani (mismatch?). He pulls back in the second half but this one is the most unimpressive BGM score from AR Rahman ever. I loved his work in VTV but I am taking back my words that he has graduated to the next level in BGM. Ilayaraja, James Horner, Ennio Moricone and Mancini are called Maestros not because of their songs but because of the back ground scores and original soundtracks
The dialogues are too childish for a movie of this genre (Suhasini) and editing is a big let down ( Sreekar Prasad) as the 2 hr and odd movie seems to be a drag.
I don’t understand why he needs to deliberately show the symbolisms to represent Ramayana like hopping of Karthik, catching Priya Mani by the nose, polygraph test etc., where is the subtelty of portraying Mahabaratha in Dalapathi gone. Although his characters were grey in his previous movies, the audience were able to understand the intentions of those characters whereas in Raavanan, although he claims the characters to be black and white, the characters are confusing because of the extremely unclear portrayals. The way he is trying to establish the North Indian locales as Tirunelveli dampened the effect of the situations even more..
As a whole, Raavanan will mark the lowest point of Mani in his career. From the days of Pallavi Anu Pallavi, he has raised his benchmark to a newer level with every movie he has made. Even Mani needs a bad movie so that we appreciate his classics. Let Raavanan be the one and only from him.
2/5 only for the Cinematography, Artwork and few brilliant scenes. Skip it if you wish, it’s not a must watch…