Raavan Re-Visited

I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian.  I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears.  I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

I do not judge films based on awards whether it is Filmfare, Cannes or Oscars but I made an exception with the 2010 Anandalok Awards.  Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan won Best Actor and Best Actress for their roles in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan.

Elements of a good film
Raavan is simply one of the most beautiful films ever made in the history of cinema globally.  It is a perfect triangle of story, acting and cinematography.  Beera the outlaw played by Abhishek Bachchan, kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya) who is married to Dev, the chief of police played meticulously by Vikram.

However, my take is that Raavan is about a chasm in society.  The inequality eats up Beera so much it plays drums in his head.  That is why the director directed him to scream and exaggerate his eyes.
What we see on the outside is Beera’s pain.  Mani Ratnam did a good job of putting all this in context, a bridegroom who is a coward, police brutality and the rape of Beera’s sister.

I understand the film was done in two languages.  Abhishek Bachchan played Beera in the Hindi version and Vikram played Veera in the Tamil one.  Most film reviews did not like Ravaan, not at all.  I read a few where reviewers suggested that cinemas should pull out the film.  They listened because it was.

Raavan’s pace
It seems as if most of them did not like Abhishek Bachchan screaming.  They did not criticise Vikram for the same action that was requested by the director.  Another reason was that the film was slow. 

This reminded me once again that what you are reading is my own subjective view, but I think I owe you an explanation, so that you can disagree with me based on a solid foundation.

Raavan was very fast for me.  It pounded me with premium acting from Abhishek, Vikram and the spoilt Ragini played by Aishwarya.  I suppose a film’s pace is subjective.

I walked out of Action Replayy because it was slow and it had old story lines like making fun of people who are not considered handsome by society, the going back in time angle,  and a woman chasing a man whom she had previously despised.

I stayed up to intermission because of Vipul Amrutlal Shah whose work I monitor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who is very careful about her projects.  I did not go back after intermission because she was going to try and seduce Akshay’s Kumar’s character, which she ridiculed in the first half. 

I did not write a review of the film because I did not see all of it.  The vicious Raavan reviews were so similar, I wondered if reviewers actually saw the whole film.  Were they so unhappy they walked out like I walked out of Action Replayy?

A bad review that is not justified does not help the director and cast.  They cannot improve because they don’t know what they did wrong.  Seemingly, Raavan was so bad that Aishwarya and Abhishek should not act together again. 

Once again, I don’t get the reason why because Indian couples continue to make films together although the last one did not well at the box office.

The interpreters
Ravaan cast members gave the performance of their lives in a very difficult geographical setting.  For whatever reason, the bad reviews ignored most of the social issues that gave rise to Beera for example, class issues. I admired Ragini initially for her determination not to be broken by Beera.

It later occurred to me that she is defiant because she comes from a certain class and looks down upon him.  She is confident that her beloved Dev, chief of police will come and rescue her.

Raavan is fiction but it raises the issue of people living off a wetland if I can put it that way.  It is always raining.  Life is difficult but they are alive.  Children play and even make fun of the haughty Ragini.  Beera is their hero.

The negative reviews against Abhishek and Aishwarya even went to the extent of praising Govinda’s role, which I don’t regard as important at all.  Another criticism was the editing.  I did not get an explanation about how Mani Ratnam cut the film badly.

Become a reviewer yourself
I mentioned in my review (Ravaan Review - My Take, 3 July 2010) why I did not like the ending.  I’ve seen too many films where an army opens fire at an unarmed man.  My review is subjective, but I must justify it.  I screen films and present my humble opinion.  I’m not a film journalist, just an ordinary blogger. 

After all is said and done, I cannot put all the blame on bad reviews.  The onus is on me to go and see a film and have my own take on it.  Relying on film reviews means I don’t have a brain and two eyes.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness the novel.


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