The world and its father has already written about Raavan and Ravanan. I’ve seen the former, and as far as I am concerned, that was rather enough for me.
For starters, never mind the parallels with the Ramayana. What Indian cinema storyline doesn’t involve some shadowy version of one of the epics? And the elements that are supposed to reflect the epic, are bloody obvious in the story. Right down to Surpanakha’s nose pinching. I just found myself wishing that this film was called Beera, or Jungle, or even something pointless like Jalwa. Because the need to keep beat to the epic actually held the film back. The dialogues became more laboured, attempting to drop hints. At every point, Mani wanted you to spot these ‘touches’, and say ‘See, see, it’s like the Ramayana’.
(Honestly, will Luv and Kush make an appearance in a sequel?)
Aishwariya is gorgeous. To anyone who groans about her ageing. Err.. Everyone does. Where on earth does it say that the heroine has to be fresh-faced and 19 years old? But she is so ethereal looking all the time, that you never see her dark side. You see her brave side, her confused side. But there is no darkness to her at all. Of all the characters dissected in the Ramayana – where different perspectives talk of Rama being not all that virtuous and Raavan’s virtues, here was a brilliant opportunity to understand Sita.
But at no point was Sita (or Ragini) ever actually torn. She doesn’t take sides. She’s so insignificant, she’s not even a pawn. She doesn’t really have a moral compass. She isn’t really tempted. Even her compassion is rehearsed.
On that note – if ever there was an interpretation of Sita that was brilliant and challenging, it’s Nina Paley’s Sitayana.
I have always loved Mani Ratnam’s films. I didn’t hate this one. I didn’t love it either. I was just bored. With every twist in Hanuman’s sagging tail becoming bloody obvious. The film didn’t move me, which is generally what I associate with Mani’s films. To be moved. To have something tug at your feelings.
Visual feast is maybe, but the film left my heart hungry. And what good is that?