Okay, so I watched Raavanan last night. Finally.

When I look back on it today, what stays in mind are disconnected flashes of memory, each more picturesque than the last, but no common thread running through them. If you ask me what happens when I might fob you off with an RTFE (E for Epic, you know the rest).

Now I sit and wonder how this film would’ve turned out, had Mani Ratnam told it like a normal story. My guess is, it would’ve been a good movie. We would’ve enjoyed it as a skillful spin on the epic. Oh, and it would’ve made a lot more money, I’m sure. But for that, I don’t think it would’ve had a shot at being a great movie.

Instead, the man took a story everybody knew and concentrated simply on the moments he wanted to give his own treatment to. He assumed that we would fill in the gaps and concentrate simply on the individual moments. To his credit, some of those moments are absolutely fantastic. The one where Ragini jumps off the cliff, or the one where the indru poi naalai vaa exchange is given a new spin, or the conversation on the train towards the end.

The performances are as brilliant as they need to be for these moments to work: Vikram is in sublime form — the man almost always swings for the fences, and this time he connects. Prithviraj taps into that reservoir of menace he displayed so wonderfully in Kanaa Kandein. Prabhu and Karthik (reuniting in a Mani venture after many years) are aptly cast. Ash is… well, where she is mostly intolerable in someone else’s movie, here she is watchable if not eminently so.

The trouble is with this strategy, however, is that it doesn’t work by itself, only as a riff on the story everyone kn0ws. Even if you’re okay with that, the writing is too inconsistent to ignore. The much commented-upon bak-bak-bak is a complete disaster. Some of the dialogues don’t have the sophistication they need (Sujata, you are missed). While watching the movie, these little irritants detract from what could’ve been a wonderful experience.

Perhaps the way to look at Raavanan is as a sort of dreamscape. As dreams go, it’s amazingly vivid. As films go, it falls short of greatness.


6 thoughts on “Raavanan

  1. PV says:

    You are being too charitable – replace Mani Ratnam with say Selvaraghavan – would you be so kind ?

    Vikram has delivered better performances, Prithviraj was more chilling in Kanaa Kandaen. Ash – well, wish there was a way to pixillate her presence out

    Imagine if this movie was made a few years ago with Revathy as Ragini, Sathyaraj as Ram, Kamal as Veera

  2. Interesting that you should mention Selvaraghavan. One of the things I meant to mention but never got around to was that I felt this film was to epic adaptations what Aayirathil Oruvan was to Indiana Jones. So would I have been at least this kind, given how much I loved AO.

    But yes, I would’ve preferred it had he cast someone else in the Ragini role.

    I would have dearly loved to see this with Satyaraj, Revathy and Kamal (love the casting choice!), but the fact is, I don’t think Mani had it in him to make something like this back then. He was always a good filmmaker, but he wasn’t much of a risk-taker back then.


  3. i wish mani had spent more time showing how prithviraj-ash are as a couple. we basically get one song with ash dancing around him and i honestly didn’t feel why i should give a damn about their relationship.

  4. S says:

    Okay, so I watched Raavanan last night. Finally. (Thank you, Sruthilayam DVD, for wending your way so quickly to my friendly neighborhood Indian store.)

    Dunno if it was the “big screen vs. big-screen TV” experience, but Raavan seemed like a way better movie. The only scenes that made it for me, in the Tamil version, were the rant to Lord Ranganatha’s torso, and the train scene. The latter, especially, coz the Tamil dialogues mouthed by Prithviraj felt much more impactful than the taciturn, tentative Hindi version Vikram relays. That train scene needed a wee bit more emoting/speaking on the husband’s part for it to work just as well as it did in the Tamil version, I thought.

    As for “Vikram is in sublime form,” you surely mean the eventual vaporization of his solid resolve, as the movie progresses? 😛

  5. neon>> I think that might have been intentional. In order to heighten the effect of Ragini’s thawing towards Veera, I think it was necessary to keep the Dev-Ragini relationship a bit amorphous and not bring it too much into sharp focus. It is interesting how you see it through the eyes of three individuals (Dev, Ragini and Veera), but not in itself. Each of them sees it just a little bit differently. Ironically, Veera is probably the one with the most idealized view of what it might be, probably because it is what he wants his relationship with Ragini to be like. Shades of Rashomon in how that works 🙂

    S>> Haven’t seen Raavan yet, so can’t comment. But lately, I get the sense that Mani might benefit from sticking to one language rather than trying to straddle two worlds with the same film. His last really tight movie was Kannathil Muthamittal, imo. And before that, Iruvar. The bilinguals haven’t worked out quite as well.


    • S says:

      “trying to straddle two worlds with the same film” — Therein lies the true thrill my friend, I hear Mani saying. 😀

      What you say to neon about Veera’s idealized view etc. are exactly my thoughts too, and dammit, there’s your trademark Rashoman reference, yet again. 😀 (I’ve had that movie added to my “Watch Instantly” Netflix queue forever now… just haven’t had the right opportunity (or the time) to play it from my TV yet. Ippo sadhikki Kurosawa padam paakka koduthu vekkala, avvalavu thaan.

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