a question Ratnam explained why he was not into sending messages to
society at large. “I am not providing any message, I merely share an
emotion, share a thought, share laughter, that’s what we do.” The
stretched the 138-minute film a bit to live up to the title since the
14-year Ramayana analogy had to be adapted to 14 days for the movie.
allegory is clear. You have the forest, the intrigue, the 14 years, the
name of the film, the locations and the usual connection between good
and evil except that one is left wondering whether good really triumphs
over evil or is it love that conquers.
suggests, one should see Raavan
or Raavanan from Ragini's (Aishwarya) point of view. (She plays the
same role in both: Hindi and Tamil.) Wife of a police inspector, Ragini
has clear views on right and wrong. In her journey there is the hunter
and the hunted and with roles and characters constantly changing, one
wonders if the hunted becomes the hunter. The battle between good and
evil continues, and when the lines between them tend to blur one wonders
whom to favor: the cops (Inspector Dev played by Prithviraj in Hindi and
Vikram in Tamil) or a tribal chief Beera Munda (Abhishek in Hindi) or
Veeraiya (Vikram in Tamil) who fancies Ragini.
Govinda could have been used better in the Hindi version. He pops up
suddenly (like Hanuman) specially when he has to help the
inspector-husband, Dev, who sees himself as the law, the punisher and
the righteous. The untamed but popular tribal leader kidnaps Ragini, (an
epitome of conscience and beauty) to avenge abuse of his sister played
by Priyamani (Jamuna in Hindi and Vennila in Tamil) by the inspector’s
men. Aishwarya shows emotion in a few scenes and Abhishek's effort at
emotional conflict is commendable.
the Tamil and Hindi versions were above par though Vikram, the Tamil
actor (as Dev) has performed better than Abhishek in the same role.
Ratnam brushed aside Vikram’s initial hesitation about playing Dev in
Hindi. Says Vikram, “The
most difficult thing for me was the Hindi version, I didn’t want to do
it, but “Mani-sir” said, “You can do it and boosted my
confidence.” Added Vikram, “I found every location beautiful.
Wherever we went, we had to drive down in a car for two hours, then get
into a jeep for an hour and walk for another 15 minutes, and the
beautiful sites [in North India and South India] were visual treats.”
Overall, it’s a plus for Vikram in two combative roles in the same
Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan have done a terrific job with some of
the footage literally
breathtaking: the collapsing bridge, rivals hanging literally to the
bridge in adverse weather and a romantic ambience showing love-birds
about to sit down for wine and dinner while overlooking soothing waters.
another journo query, Abhishek responded, “I feel the audience will
question themselves after this film. I think whenever I saw the rushes
or when dubbing the film or even while performing, I think Mani as a
director, was asking the audience, “what is right, what is wrong and
who is to decide? What is right for Beera in the film is completely
wrong for Dev. Who is to decide that Dev is right and Beera is wrong?
What is right and what is wrong and who are we to judge?”
of their relationship as a "married couple" a question arose
about their credibility and chemistry on screen specially since in Raavan,
the roles are adversarial. Aishwarya responded: “We all work together
as a team to commit and to deliver. We are creating cinema. At that
point, its not about personal equations, or what kind of relationship
you share outside the set. We are all actors, we are all committed to
the craft. That’s what it is all about. Abhishek joked, “I am not
chasing her in the film, I have already kidnapped her.”
differences between Hindi and Tamil versions, Ratnam said, “the idea
was to make people see both versions and compare…essentially the same
film but I do not believe in imposing that this is how a scene should be
done, in terms of content and spirit, its the same.”
Which has indeed come through in both the versions.
Its not a straightforward story of good triumphing over evil, there are wheels within wheels, and one needs to really think as to what is happening in today’s world – the dances and the costumes (Sabyas Achi) and the music (A.R. Rahman) notwithstanding. Some of the scenes where gruesomely symbolic (cutting off a coward’s hand) or shooting a defenseless man point blank. One wondered who was the torturer: the tribal or the cop?
[Raj S. Rangarajan is a New York based freelance writer. He covers trend stories on art, reviews books and films for media based in New York; Toronto, Canada; Seoul, Republic of Korea; and India. He can be reached at email@example.com]