The ballad of Ravannan…

On their way to Panchavati,
Perched on a big tree,
Jatayu, the giant vulture,
They met this huge figure.
“Sita I shall look after,
When alone you leave her
For the hunt you go for, ”
The vulture made a voluntary offer.

A predatory bird, perched on the canoe that Ragini sits in looks around the swirling muddy river. It then swoops, screeching in its flight towards Veera who is on a bigger reed boat, casting a sinister apparition on the brown waters. Alas, this Jatayu is the harbinger of Ragini’s fate to come, playing the role of a herald and not a protector. But, there was no need for Jatayu to protect Raagini from the clutches of Veera for Veera was Raginis’ protector in her battle for dharma.

Veera (Veeraiya) could well be modeled more after the notorious sandal wood smuggler Veerapan, living in deep jungles, embodied in his rustic tribal ways and playing Robinhood to his community. Dressed in shades of grey and black, he represents the darker side in all of us. But hues of black during the course of this epic become grey and even flirt with dazzling white more than just once. Veera is not one who allows himself to impose his dark, malevolent self on Ragini even if he wished he would. Through his darkness he allows light to fall on his gory ways. Veera is consistent with the larger world; he is as erratic in his emotions. He is a mystery only under the undulating spell of Ragini. He shakes off every whim that emerges in him in rapid succession when it comes to the soulful Ragini and reveals a mysterious visage. Veera is the “other” classical dancer of this love ballad, adorning himself with a flurry of emotions or Shringaram ( decorations ) that range from the initial “ Bheebatsa ( disgust ) to Rowdram ( violence ) to Veeram ( valor ) to Adbhuta ( wonder ) to Hasya ( joy ) to Karuna ( kindness ) to bhayanaka” ( fear ) to Shantham ( peace ). These are the nine “rasas” Veera conveys (almost in the same order). The tenth in my opinion is “guhya “(mystery), for in Veera remained a mystery till the end, was it love or wonder (respect) for this Sita. (Recall how different men from Veera’s tribe sit in front of a questioning Dev and summarize these emotions )

Ragini is an epitomizing beauty. She is feisty, spirited like the Scarlett ‘O Hara of Georgia, effusive with unsurpassable determination. Even if Veera pleads with himself to despise her, her soulful radiance traps him like a spider in a silver web. In this ballad of Raavanan, every character digresses from the epical conformity of goodness and evil in equal measure, thereby safely allowing the viewer to empathize with both goodness and evil in an unequivocal fashion. But, in this ballad of love and hate, goodness triumphs over evil in a physical sense yet begs to restrain this judgment on a metaphysical plane. Ragini as some rightfully state, is the soul of the movie. She is quite literally the same bridge ( Ram Sethu )that suspends in the climax scene connecting two different rugged terrains over which both the victor and vanquished have the final duel. Interestingly, Ragini acts as the cross over for both Dev and Veera. I do not believe Ragini loved Veera, she remains in awe his vulnerability and sympathizes partly with his cause.

Raagini’s husband Dev is seen as an able man, a deliverer from evil. He is as “fair” as Ragini and belongs to the upper echelons of society unlike Veera. He is the watch guard and a protector of his environs. His call of duty for his society outweighs his obligations as a dutiful husband. He remains affront with his ambitions of being an able officer and adamant in catching the out-law. His choice looms ominously until the very end, feigning to doubt the integrity of the chaste wife who is ignorant of his manipulation. Via his conniving ways, he channels the physical end of Veera. Dev is the upholder of “dharma” and operates within his own pre defined dharmic code of conduct. He is not compassionate like the Ram who stopped to stroke a meek squirrel at Rameshwaram but this Dev is one who twists an armless victim of Veera and instigates more pain.

Gnanaprakasam ( the forest ranger ) is the mediator between Dev and Veera and cautions one from the other. He divagates entirely from any semblance of loyalty. He is an opportunist and is instrumental in the fruition of the final war between Veera and Dev. Quite pointless to compare this character to Hanuman besides his tree jumping antics and informing Raagini of Dev’s intentions. Vennila, the younger sister to Veera is the instigator for Veera’s kidnapping of Ragini.

The above is my interpretation of Rathnam’s characters. At this point I would like to think that I was able to formulate my opinion on these characters without any knowledge of what portions have been edited. The story had its desired ebb and flow craftily handled by the master Director. For me, it was more important to understand each of these characters the way I wished to. I am given to believe that this was the director’s motive as well or I may be entirely off the mark here. Even if I am off the mark in understanding what the Director wished to convey, I am thoroughly gratified with this Raavanan experience in allowing us to get a peek into Rathnam’s unconventional thinking. I did not prefer the character of Dev over Veera or vice versa at any point of time; I only digested their subtle emotions and tried to relate it to our every day way of life. It is easy for us to be as flippant as either Dev or Veera depending on our needs and circumstances, allowing shades of grey to stay somewhere in this comfortable bourgeois area.

Rathnam is a genius for allowing us to think beyond realms of our limited imaginations. If there are two other areas which remain splendiferous, they are Santosh Sivan’s cinematography and Vikram’s performance.

The camera has not only captured the colors of the deep, wet jungles but also the shades of human emotions scintillatingly. I enjoyed trying to understand the colors that adorned Ragini and what they each symbolized. Ragini emerges in orange (bordering towards saffron) when she is in captivity announcing her renunciation into Veera’s jungles. Raagini is then seen in black at the time that she has a duel with Veera near the rugged cliffs during one of her attempts to escape. This duel is unintentionally seductive and in more ways than one borders on eroticism, the dark (black) colors play with the mood here. Veera’s eyes convey a lot in this scene and there is a point where Ragini appears to be captivated by those eyes for a few seconds. A bit later, Ragini then is seen in shades of red at the time when celebrations are galore in the tribal camp, by this time she has had a better understanding of Veera and almost appears quite participative in the festivities as she watches the proceedings calmly. It is right at the very end that she is in white implying her chastity and allowing herself to be stained by the red of Veera’s death. If not for Santosh Sivan’s master craftsmanship it would have been quite difficult to notice the subtle play of these colors. On another note, I lament not seeing the entire reclining Vishnu that was erected on the sets and cannot understand why only the damaged Vishnu was used.

Vikram is outstanding. His penchant for perfection is obvious in his every move. From his stained teeth (reminded me of Pithamagan) to his outlandish demeanor as a tribal rebel, he has gotten into the skin of this role. He has wonderfully portrayed a myriad of emotions and quite clearly communicates this to the viewer, I do not think there is any confusion with his characterization. Vikram has raised the bar with this performance in Tamil cinema. I can confidently state he sits almost alongside to Kamal Haasan at this time. His eccentricity was at par with Kamal’s own eccentric behavior in “ Guna” ,after all Ragini was Abirami in a subtle way.

Aishwarya is very good, far removed from “histrionics” and convincing. Her rendition of classical dance is quite exquisite, reminded me of Waheeda Rehman in Guide in certain portions. Rathnam could not have found a more beautiful Sita, unless he did this movie ten years back and cast Shobana in it. Rathnam has completely capitalized on Aishwarya’s beauty and the camera has allowed for it in numerous ways. Her eyes tell their own story. My regret is the usage of eye make up for a few shots acting as a visual glitch when she is in captivity. If there is one actor who requires zero eye make up, she is the one. Aishwarya and Prithvi Raj share a splendid chemistry on screen. These are two very good looking actors. A couple in synchronization yet not adequately shown together. Prithvi Raj plays Dev aptly and oozes with masculine appeal. Priya Mani as Vennila, is strong with her performance without going over the edge. Prabhu and Karthik are effective and bring about the much needed lightness in certain scenes. Prabhu’s heaviness actually provides the right dose of lightness and so does Karthik’s banter. Good to see Karthik and Prabhu back in a Rathnam venture after such a long hiatus.

In conclusion, this movie highlights Rathnam’s superior movie making skills. Even if this movie does not translate into a BO miracle, I wish Rathnam continues to juice his creativity with movies such as this. It is important for an outstanding movie maker to not compromise on his innate desires. Rathnam is an artist whose brush strokes are not just inimitable but remain to be cherished for years to come.

My other thoughts on Raavan a month back –


70 Responses to “The ballad of Ravannan…”

  1. This is much better than the other review that you had posted about ‘Raavan’. I had happened to see the hindi version. I liked the movie despite the slow narrative, and horrible AB Jr & his jeering.
    Most of the people said that tamil version is better, the difference is Vikram indeed.
    Looking forward to see it.

    There is this review which I read on Raavan. Do read it when you get time 🙂

  2. Sharmila,

    This is definitely the best review of this movie that I have read so far – something the director himself would possibly love to read, if only to feel how his vision appears to the viewers in reality.

    To me, the storyline and schema appear plain ordinary.

    There are probably 10,000 movies in which the hero’s wife is kidnapped by the villain and rescued by the hero. As also, Bandit Queens and Kings have been quite popular on the Hindi celluloid.

    This Raavan is not exactly the class of a Ben Hur.

    Ramayan, as an epic, has a place in the history of Hinduism for entirely different reasons. It stamped the final authority of Aryan domination on the sub-continent. Aryan deities, namely Shiva, Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Vishnu, Brihaspati, Marut, Saraswati, Usha etc were firmly established in the religious ethos of the citizenry in this period – the Satyuga… Shri Ram was a practitioner and propagator of Vashistha’s Advaita philosophy which is practiced by all Hindus everywhere today. The same that was further demonstrated by Shri Krishna and described in the Gita.

    Ramayana is not the story of a woman’s moral values. It is the first record of a civilisation that crossed central India and conquered the Lemuria.

    Sharmila, you should become a professional reviewer. You are far more honest and impartial than the fakes on the blogosphere who pass for experts!

    Excellent review!

    • Reader – I am truly honored with your comment here.:) If I become a professional reviewer, I am afraid I will be partial to AB, Kamal and Rajini movies. I look forward to reading your review once you see the movie. Are you planning to?

      • Sharmila,

        Well, you know I too am partial to AB, Kamal, Rajni, Uttam Kumar, and so many… but my reviews are more of an ‘order’ to the listener… pukka Bombay ishtyle like…

        ‘Aye bhidu, shaanpatti nahin… phillum achcha hai bolato achcha hai, kya? Bhaai bola na achcha hai?!.. khallas.. sumadi mein jaaneka, thheyter main bayithneka or seeti bajaaneka.. samhja kya? Naatak kiya to thok daalenga.. chal hawa aane de!’

        But, on my own, I might find a way to send a message to Cho Ramaswami, Amma, Karunandhi and the coterie…

        What Lemuria needs is not an alternate perspective of Aryan history, but an altogether new legend, new deities and new religion…

        From Hrishi Gautama in the Indus to Atrey, Bhardwaj, Kashyap, Vaiswamitra etc till the Kayasthas (Srivastavas) on the Indo-Gangetic plains, Vedic philosophers systematically did to ethnic beliefs what Ghenghis Khan did to the Persians. Each hrishi, by name, is first ancestor and the title of the lineage. In Sanskrit this lineage is called Gotra. In the Hindus, there is no brahmin who does not have a Gotra i.e. whose ancestors cannot be traced to one of the Indus Valley Hrishis.

        An occassional, veiled voice, like Mani Ratnam’s Raavan will hardly be seen as a challenge to 2500 years of established faith.

      • Reader – Summed up quite perfectly about your reactions to movies. Reactions as these remain the best reviews. Word of mouth is still the miracle maker. If Raavan started with good WOM, it would have been on fire by now.

      • Sharmila,

        Re – WOM. I don’t know about Raavan… but I would account the lack of WOM to some degree of trust deficit…

        Not about the directors, actors or technicians… but the USP that was used in the marketing blitz ahead of the release… People are wary about religious themes… the general audience has become sensitized to mockery, distortions or sedition… that’s not entertainment… it’s quasi-intellectual hype… perhaps Raavan might have done better in terms of WOM if the USP had been music or screenplay… (Like ‘Bombay’)…

        I feel trust like reputation and goodwill translates into ready cash.

        Here is an example:

        A Sardar purchased a custom-built Rolls Royce which came with full guarantee of 1 year. On the last day of the year, in the very last hour, the vehicle broke down. Sardar called the Rolls Royce office in London and asked for a full free service on the spot.

        The guys at RR were very polite and asked him to wait where he was. They located him and soon a chopper arrived with a large box containing an engine for the car.

        They opened the bonnet of the car. To Sardar’s surprise, there was no engine inside his car! He said, “Hey, I drove this car for an year. How did it ran without an engine all this time?”

        The mechanic smiled and said, “Thats all right Sir. This is a Rolls Royce. We run on reputation.”


    • Reader – I meant it not as seriously as what you think. I am sure sense prevails over in my case most times. Re – cho Ramaswami, what do you think of him?

      • Re – Cho Ramaswamy… I think, very early in his life he was cheated by a mallu ayurvedic medicine for growing hair… he is still trying to get even with the world!

        But jokes apart, I think ‘Tughalak’ is better than Jaya TV… 🙂

      • Sharmila,

        Yes.. agree.. absolutely… you do keep the balance… and I am sure you have been tested too while maintaining that on a blog open to comments…

        You might have guessed that I am not very sound on the business intricacies of cinema… and my reviews are more likely to go tangent to anything that the movie makers might have envisioned!

        I comment on movies like an ordinary cine-goer… like it.. say it… don’t like it… trash it… and go back to the theatre next week… nothing personal… I enjoy a movie as it is…

        In younger days, movies of Kamal, AB, Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Feroz Khan, Rajnikanth, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, Balraj Sahni, Devanand etc were guaranteed to deliver the goods… I knew they would never let me down… money’s worth every moment… those were days when I was yet to define what aesthetics meant to me… I accepted practically everything on feelings… and never had the patience to express why I liked or disliked a movie…

        My usual reactions were like –

        For a good movie: “Don’t miss this one… if you don’t see it you will die!”

        For a lousy movie: “Go see this one, I need someone to share my suffering..”

        The worst reviewer is like me… someone who goes to have a good time and has it at any price… if the movie is good we sit still… if it is boring we spend time in making loud comments… or throwing popcorn at the screen..


    • Reader – Tughlaq rocks! Re – Cho, he is a favorite of mine. Love the bald look too. The sharpest mind in town, a fabulous commedian ( have u seen his movies?). Above all, love his take on politics. There is no comparison to Amma or her Tv:)

      • I think after R.K. Laxman, Cho is the only one who has kept his class consistently all these years… he can hypnotize a guy by simply staring at him silently…

      • See the cartoon of the common man on the right of this line —->

        To me, that is R.K.Laxman and Cho’s portrait in one package!!!


    • Reader – ha ha ha ha ha,,:)Reputation matters, RR and Rathnam bank on it.

    • R.Nataraja Says:

      Hi Sharmila,
      Ur Ravanan tamil review is the best one I suppose. Wot a fantastic observation u have made n nice explanation that u have given.After reading ur review, i think I should again watch it once.I didnt concentrated on colors, specific moods of Dev n Veera, but as u told, the master craftman has done it with ease.
      Good review, keep it up

  3. Didn’t like tamil as well hindi.
    sreekar prasad editing was very bad. as was suhasini’s dialogues. i am really not satisfied with mani sir.

    vikram went unabashedly over the top (a bit less than Abhishek) that it has to be seen to be believed. felt at places the pithamagan dude came alive.

    vikram should stop deluding he is a good actor doing excessive roles like blind man in kasi or half-animal in pithamagan or cringeworthy caricatures in anniyan.

    i far prefer his star roles in saamy, dhool, dhil, non-mental portions of sethu, etc..

  4. Aishwarya Says:


    There have been literally over a million reviews that we have been exposed to so far – tacky and premeditated as though they had been waiting to trash the movie, barring a few perhaps.

    And then, like a breath of fresh air, comes along yours. The movie read like a kaleidoscope of mythology and modernity spinning a colorful, timeless, and seamless tale – an enthralling spectacle. Watching Vikram and Prithviraj’s interview on ‘Manorama News’ yesterday further confirmed that.

    Looking forward to you waving your magic wand with the review of the Hindi version as well.

    • Aish – Thank you and honored. More so, thank you for your shout outs on AB’s blog. Was so touched.

      • Aishwarya Says:

        I was surprised when I didnt see your name in his blog post. Then I figured it might be because this is a review of the Tamil version. Was thrilled when he mentioned it as ‘brilliant’ on Twitter…it truly is!

        Good you pasted his post here, hadnt read it.:P Left a comment there just to thank him for the mention. Proud of you, dear.:)

    • Thanks again Aish!:)

  5. Tell me something, Sharmila…Your review says a whole lot of things….Mythology, Colors – their Interpretation, Navarasa, Modernity, Rathnam’s Characterizations…so and so forth…!?

    Does all this stand on the same line of equanimity? If, yes then the movie is not just GOOD, it is the BEST in time to come…!

    But have the director told the same to all the people, ok…leave everybody at least to people who understand and interpret cinema in the way you and I react, won’t the movie been an EPIC, in its own sense?!

    Why do you think, even after promoting, talking, and marketing it, it did not make a good impact…?!

    Very truly, said there in the comment with an example – But reputation does not stand long if you aren’t consistent…and that is what matters at end of the day.

    You(Director) want to modernize an epic or talk about the intricate of a character that more rightly driven by the faith of several people and break away from traditions, rather than the character himself that stood for it…It does not require subtleties, it requires quantum…and that too visually exploited!

    Why did the director fail in interpretation?! – Just a thought!

    Randomizing my thought…I have read so many negative and two positive reviews so far.

    You know the strange fact about the positive reviews is that they had a very descriptive writing, mixing it with a wider knowledge and a clean array of supporting arguments and references, that my mind wants’ to ask a question at the end of it – Did the director visualize all of this? Did it go in his making and scripting or is he one among us reading this and grinning in the glory as Vadivelu does – “Innum Ma Intha Ooru Nambala Nambuthu”

    Last but not the least, a nice interpretation and it clearly exhibits your grasp of certain subjects and their usage for a very dry subject such as – Review! 🙂

    As always, the comments are more questioning…!?! 😀

    • KK – Thanks for this comment. To find Vadivel in the middle of a serious subject like Rathnam threw me a bit off guard here, but it made me giggle too!:)

      There could be a myriad of reasons why Raavan failed to garner the right response. Audience have rejected Iruvar too from Rathnam, which imho, was his best. Not to forget Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. I am also given to believe that word of mouth is critical too. Twitter was one place which set Raavan on fire adversely by negative WOM.Here is a bit from AB’s mouth abt Raavan and will write a whole lot more about why it failed.

      *The reponse to Raavan in Mumbai has been remarkably rabid. What would you say are the reasons for it?

      I am not qualified to respond to reasons for a response ! In a free society everyone has the right to comment and pass opinion. If there have been, according to you, ‘rabid’ remarks on ‘Raavan’, then that is what the people who make these observations have felt. We must respect the freedom given to an individual to do so.

      * Many within the industry have gone as far as to label it Mani Ratnam’s worst film ever.Does that kind of extreme response anger you?

      No it does not anger me that many in the Industry label Mani Ratnam’s film as his worst ever. On the contrary it actually justifies how much he is loved and admired. The liberty to get angry comes from those whom you love. Mani Ratnam is an exceptional talent, a director of immense credibility and worth. Even his so called ‘worst’ is a million times better than many so called ‘bests’. When one sets such high standards of credibility, you garner high expectation also. And when the audience feels that that standard has been even minutely compromised, it expresses disappointment. The anger is more a comment on their own disappointment, rather than one directed towards merit. People may not have patronised Guru Dutt’s ‘Kaagaz ke Phool’ or Raj Kapoor’s ‘Mera Naam Joker’, but they never stopped loving them, or else their very nexts ‘Chaudhavin ka Chand’ and ‘Bobby’, would not have seen such phenomenal successes. Aamir Khan and ShahRukh may have disappointed you in ‘Mela’ and ‘Paheli’, but that never stopped you from loving them to box office excellence in ‘3 iDiots’ and ‘Kabhi Alvida na Kehana’. No, it is not anger that is being expressed, it is indeed love !

      You saw the film a day before the rest of the world. What were your responses? Did you anticipate the adverse comments that emerged from Mumbai?

      Yes I saw the film at the premier for the first time and I shared my thoughts on it with Mani after. I told him that it was marvellous how a thin story line had been given such a voluble presence. The film is an astonishing mix of mythology and politics put out in ethereal poetry. It is an intelligent film and possesses huge intellectual value, assets, that the ticket paying audience and the box office pundits are not necessarily impressed with. Hence the adverse reactions. Fair enough. But Mani Ratnam is the maker. It is his vision and thinking and artistic creativity. We must respect that. We may not like someone’s creativity, but we do not have the right to tell him not to create, as has been most harshly expressed by some.
      I would want to put out here impressions of two individuals from my blog, who have reviewed the film, to exhibit the kind of intensity and vision they have. It is a stunning reminder of how discerning a viewer can be. Unfortunately they are long expansive pieces and shall take up far too much space, so I shall send them to you separately.
      As for anticipating adverse comment from Mumbai is concerned, this is what I feel. When you are in the public arena, when you are in celebrity status, when you are deemed to be high profile, you will always be vulnerable to adverse comment and accusation. It comes with the territory. You are a member of the select few. You will be attacked and attacked mercilessly at times. You will also be the idol of several, loved and admired equally. You cannot have it good all the time. You must learn to live with it or stop being a member of the celebrity club. If there is a shortcoming in your work, your profile, your action, it is customary that your ostracization will take place. Take it on the chin and smile. If you are right, get up and prove it. If you are wrong, acknowledge and accept it.

      Abhishek and Aishwarya’s performances too have come in for furious flak. Your comments on their individual performances?

      In the performances and their evaluation there is diverse opinion. Some have hated it, some have applauded it. Two critics from two different prestigious print mediums have on the same day tabulated two exactly opposite reactions ! One says ‘Abhishek has hammed his way through the film’ and the other expresses that ‘this is Abhishek’s best performance to date’. One castigates Aishwarya’s ‘silent and stone presence’ in film, the other gushes at the most endearing quality of the film being her ‘stunning performance, never seen before’. Who do you believe ??
      The critics opinion is a singular opinion. Their medium for its expression is in multiples – the medium apart from its reach, also bearing strength of influence. Critics review has the power of dictating opinion. Care then has to be taken on how the subject needs to be reviewed. You may hate a product, but I think you cannot, because of the power of the medium you represent, tell people not to buy it. That is unfair and not ethical. The burgeoning of several competitive and allied mediums within the last few years has somewhat diminished the exclusive majority enjoyed by the print media. People have greater choices now and are free to take which ever they prefer to.
      But to get back to performances, it is important to understand that, Abhishek and Aishwarya will perform according to what the director demands. He is the master of the ship. It is only after he has approved and passed what he wants from them, will it be allowed to go out into the public. Abhishek’s and Aishwarya’s performance as you see it in the film, is what was demanded by Mani Ratnam. We may not, I say again, like it, but who are we to say it was wrong. Critics have an onerous and difficult task. They have to be producer, director, actor, screenplay writer, dialogue writer, musician, play back singer, stunt coordinator all in one, and some more – they need to have the ability to assimilate all of this in an opinion and put it down against time lines within 500-600 words. Its a tough ask. They would all of them have to be very comprehensively qualified and educated to do this job. Commenting on their credibility would unnecessarily stir up sensationalized ‘breaking news’ bulletins for a hungry and starved idiot box ogre. So I shall refrain. But for me personally, I liked both their performances. They have both grown from when I last saw them in ‘Guru’ together. I also liked each member of the supportive cast ; they were all very good. Also remember each individual has his or her own personal standard of judging ability. They may not always be similar to general choice but, that needs to be respected also.
      On an aside, if I may state, I have enjoyed and commented on a few performances of my colleagues in some of the films I have seen of late. Whenever something has impressed me I have never failed to acknowledge it. For example –
      ** Saif, Akshay Khanna, Aamir and Farhan in ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ – sent them flowers and spoke to them too congratulating them.
      ** Irfan Khan in ‘Namesake’ – that telephone scene from Hospital to Tabu before he dies, brilliant, met him recently for the first time and told him so.
      ** Tabu also in ‘Namesake’ – the sequence when she comes to know her husband just passed away and she alone in home away from country moving from room to room helpless – incredible.
      ** Vidya in ‘Parineeta’, just could not take my eyes off her in the film, a Waheeda Rehman of KaagazKP, Pyaasa, Sahib Biwi.., vulnerable and so attractive with her throaty laugh ..
      ** ShahRukh in KANK and in MNIK – KANK the scene in hospital when he comes out of accident still groggy and MNIK the slightly squint and studied look throughout the film, brilliant. Told him.
      ** Kareena , not in any specific film, she is competent always, but in an advertisement, cannot remember the product, but it ends with her words “….on other things !”. The expression, priceless.
      ** Abhishek in portions of ‘Dostana’, ‘Sarkaar’ ‘Guru’ and ‘Paa’- Guru the last scene, and Paa in hospital, when he realises that Auro is his son, the close up, subtle staid and so effective.
      ** Shahid a few moments in ‘Kameenay’ astonishing close ups, silent. Met him on a flight from Goa and told him so.
      ** Prateek in ‘Jaane tu ya Jaane Na’, just the complete absence of the fact that a camera is recording his moment, the most difficult craft in cinema acting, from someone in his first outing, superb.
      ** Hrithik in ‘Jodha Akbar’ and the song Maula when he gets up and starts dancing with other sufi dancers, brilliant , a directorial moment for Ashutosh, felt like standing up in the theatre and clapping.
      ** Sharman Joshi in ‘3Idiots’ the scene when he goes for his interview with the board, and all his recent Mobile Adds., that he does, so spontaneous and such subtlety of expression, exemplary.
      ** Aishwarya in ‘Raavan’ the scene before climax in train with Dev her husband when he suspects her, the expressions spoke 10 pages of dialogue !
      ** Mani – the brilliance in all his films, but one sequence in ‘Raavan’ when Beera starts to realize his attraction to Raagini – magic, magic, great cinema.

      Do you think the subversion of the Ramayan specially towards the end was justified ?

      Firstly we need to understand that the film is not Ramayan. It is Mani’s concept of a story with elements of the epic in his own interpretation of it. When I shall send you the two reviews I have promised, you will get a more adequate response. This is the director’s take on a story. We cannot comment whether it is justifiable or not. It is best left to his sensibilities as a creative artist. Comment yes, justify perhaps not.

      I remember your vocal and emphatic support of Mani Ratnam’s Guru. Do you feel as strongly about Ravan?

      Yes , but in different ways. ‘Guru’ was straight story telling and his brilliance in its presentation was very clear to observe. ‘Raavan’ is asking me to study and think and analyse and probe. Its taken a while to comprehend, so it is not immediate. It is driving me to intellectualize, something that most viewers are not prepared for when they go to see a film. Mani’s technique and approach may already be the subject of discussion and inspiration or imitation even as I write. But then that is a personal and individual view. It cannot be generalised.

      *Apparently you’ve been reminding Mani Ratnam and Abhishek that they’ve worked thrice together and that it’s about time you got a chance to work with him. Is a film with Mani around the corner?

      I wish it was true, but there is no such offering. Could you put in a word for me ??

      * Does the savage criticism Abhishek’s solo films Delhi 6 and now Raavan strike you as being perhaps a little unjust to him?

      No not at all. As I said people pay to go and see a film if they do not like something they have the liberty to criticize it. I cannot understand why you particularly mention ‘solo’. None of my successful films were solo. Deewar, Trishul, Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Sholay, etc.,. Abhishek too has had his share of solo successes and non successes. Some work some do not. Its film making. Happens the world over. One accepts the public verdict learns from it and tries again.

      *His recent hit was Paa, where you also starred. Any more projects featuring you and Abhishek?

      I hope there will be. There are a few talks in progress, when they are ready we can talk about it.

      *You have again started signing films after a long gap. Please describe the projects you’ve taken on.

      Yes I had not signed a film for a while. There had been an accumulation of 5 films one after the other, due to the multiplex strike. All of them have released, barring one.
      I have signed up with Raj Kumar Santoshi, and there are projects on the verge of finalization with Pritish Nandy Communication, Prakash Jha, Puri Jagannath, Abbas Mastaan and of course R Balki.

      You were in Paris recently for a recital of your father’s poetry. How was that experience.

      Yes I was in Paris to do a recital at the prestigious Theatre des Champs-Elysee, of my Father’s poems. It was a first for me and a first for the Theatre too. Almost 70% French audience, subtitled facilities inside the theatre and a most remarkable evening for me. A venue that has played host to greats in philharmonic orchestra, world renowned ballet and opera to be hosting Hindi poetry recitation was unique. Some of my fans came in from New York and London, Germany and Spain to witness this occasion. I thought it was most endearing on their part. For me it was a privilege to be able to introduce my Father’s works to an foreign and alien audience. Just such a honour. My Father would never have dreamt that this would happen someday, but it did happen and it filled me with a lot of pride.

      In London you had dinner with Aamir Khan. Any projects together coming up?

      Why would you assume that when two actors meet and have dinner together that they would be doing a project together !! Aamir was in the same Hotel as me, he called we met and went out for a meal. Just another social evening, nothing more. Though working with Aamir would be a joy, particularly if he were to direct the film.

      *Lately Mr Amar Singh has had a lot of comments to make on your family. Your comments?

      Amar Singh ji is family and any matter on him becomes personal. I would not comment on matters personal.

      * I can’t help asking…you’re tweeting and blogging. Do these means of communication make the press redundant for you?

      How could you possibly ask this question at the end of this most exhaustive response of mine to the press !! No the media will never be redundant. Yes I Blog and Tweet and Vog and soon shall also video blog, but the press shall always have its presence and importance. For me these mediums are a wonderful opportunity to connect with my fans and well wishers independently and instantly. The internet is becoming a vast medium for the future. Most of the requests for interviews have also reduced because the media picks up all the daily news from our blogs and tweets. Look at the vast amount of information that these mediums provide on individuals you would perhaps have never had the opportunity to interact with. It should be allowed to grow and prosper, its use and misuse notwithstanding.

      Tweeting…what have been the most memorable experiences in that sphere of activity?

      To have had the great opportunity of a chat with Lata ji !!

  6. I haven’t seen the movie and so I’m not qualified to comment on it. But I have read your review and I can say for sure that it is really good. Before this I never realized that even CAs could appreciate the arts so well. You really are something.

  7. MonaLisa Says:

    The movie seems overly Hyped….
    will get back to this later if I could watch it…
    Hope the review helps watching it with diff angle….diff percept…..

    • MonaLisa – I think the tamil is faring better than the hindi or so it appears. Yes, people must watch it more for it’s artistic worth.

    • Parmaatma Says:


      I haven’t seen the movie and I am not in a hurry. It will premier on the TV next week.

      You are probably right about the hype… the only thing about it is the title Raavan… it is the name of God’s adversary in the religious mythology.

      Its like one of the mischievous movies called “The Last Temptation of the Christ” (1988) that was re- released with Passion of the Christ (2004).. and later sneaked into the DVD as well. “The Last Temptation..” had Christ marrying the town whore Magdalene producing a baby etc. The bed scene was more erotic than an early sly stallone porn film. The Christians here were enraged but could do nothing.

      Raavan has the same motive. The God in the myth is Ram… in the movie Raavan is the hero… that is the seditious part… Ram’s wife developing physical passion for lucifer, her kidnapper, is sacrilegious.

      But on a promising note, the best thing about Raavan’s run at the theatres in India is that the public and the religious fanatics both have ignored the film. Except for the name of the film Raavan nothing in the story, script and presentation is philosophical and Indians understand that. No one has objected to the making or release of the film. They left it alone. The result is it flopped commercially like two pennies. As in the case of the re-release of “The Last Temptation…” people upheld “Passion of the Christ”.. no one even bothered about Last Temptation…

      I don’t think anyone is personally antagonized towards the actors. There have been more anti-national films by other actors as well… but no one is getting a free lunch… if the film is good people will see it even with unknown actors… like Mel Gibson was not known here till the Passion was released…

      The Multiplex culture has created a big divide among movie goers. The ticket prices are so high that only educated middle class can afford them. The laborers and slumdogs who were filling the single screen theaters earlier are now left out of the customer base. This has changed the type of movies that are made. Most of them are now high investment projects with storylines that have to feed a thinking audience… thinking as in not-feeling and enjoying.

      2000 prints are released in 2000 theaters. Each show on the first day has an average of 400,000 viewers across the world. In the first two days it is seen by abut 3 million people. At an average 10 dollars per ticket that comes to 30 million dollars in the first two days. Hence the hype through all mediums… TV, Internet, Blogs, news media, controversies etc.

      • Reader – Interesting note on the cost of tockets. A ticket here in BLR costs Rs 180. An outing for a family of three to four including food and drinks will be in the vicinity of Rs 1200. Reliance is now studying their investment prtfolio very closely post Kites and Raavan.

      • MonaLisa Says:

        Thanx for the updation. However the comparison between Christ movies and Ravan doesn’t seem very appropriate. “The last temptation of Christ” and “Passion of Christ” are about Jesus Christ. where as Ravan is not about Epic story “Ramayan”.
        MR must have tried to portray mythological characters metaphorically his own way. I believe he is trying to portray that there can’t be only Good or Only Evil But each has at least a trace of the other too. Its like no coin can have just one side. There has to be two sides and when two mingles there has to be some gray area. Besides its not actually about “Rama” & “Ravan”. I believe the way he tried to create hype using that title ‘Ravan’ is one of the reasons for movie to be flop.
        About Mary Magdalene – i don’t think she was a whore,the way i believe ‘Joan of Arc’ wasn’t a witch.
        About Christ movies – Its too much of cruelty to take. I couldn’t watch those movies from beginning till end.

      • MonaLisa,

        Most certainly Mary Magdalene was anything but the whore shown in the ‘The Last Temptation..’. That movie was a vicious anti-Christ propaganda.

        I believe in Leonardo Da Vinci’s version. She was one of the apostles as he has depicted in that scene called Last Supper.

        Raavan, the movie, is done. I feel it has cost Mani Rathnam a great deal in terms of his religious inclinations. It was sold a commercial cinema sold as a documentary. Too mixed up for simple viewers like me…


    • Parmaatma Says:

      To close that..

      This idea was first devised by Fredrick Max Muller when he began translating the Veda and it is recorded in his letters…

      Once you don’t have a benevolent God, you have to worship and pray for protection to the King/Queen of England.

    • MonaLisa,

      Meanwhile, I think I am enjoying Sharmila’s Raavan more than Mani Rathnam’s or Valmiki’s Raavan.

      Its nice to find a space where these things are freely debated..

  8. MonaLisa Says:

    Did you choose not to write about Fathers……. OR
    In this ‘Ravan’ fever and under M R spell you forgot to write about Fathers on Father’s day last Sunday 20th jun 2010.
    Probably its not celebrated in India.
    Probably Mothers are more important figures……!!!?

    • MonaLisa – I was travelling a bit and did not get a chance to write on Father’s day, but I will soon. No,was not distracted by Raavan, there were other things.:)

  9. masterpraz Says:

    Hey Sharmila,

    Tnhis piece is up on MP, BB, NG and SS 🙂

    I have yet to see RAAVAN or RAAVANAN, plan to see one tonight and one tomorrow.

  10. […] Read the rest from HERE […]

  11. […] Read the rest from HERE […]

  12. Sharmila,

    I watched Raavan in a multiplex today and came out absolutely baffled as to why such a wonderful film was rejected by the audiences. Abhishek as Beera was superb and Ash looked divine! Even Ravikissen has done a very good job.The cinematography left me spellbound! Will you care to throw some light on why you think the film did not do well?
    Are reviews for all Bachchan family films biased and manufactured??


    • Shubha,

      Lovely to hear your views on Raavan. a coupls of things may have gone wrong. I tend to believe it was bad WOM that started on Twitter and caught on like a raging fire unfortunately even before the first complete show.Secondly, I think Rathnam’s budget was ambitious, making it even more difficult to recover, thirdly, the high multiplex ticketcosts do not help either. It is a pity it wound up this way. But, I will put up a more detailed note in a bit.

  13. Ravaan is a lousy movie. Waste of time.

  14. got ur link thru twitter… u seem to have made much more than wat raavan was all abt may the way it was intended…but a lot of times intentions fail to be portrayed in true colors.. I agree ravaan is not as bad as reviews made it to be but certainly not a master piece as u claim it. Too many faults… abhishek is shown shown as naxals, r thief yet doesnot have a lean hungry luk to him. too stout – he shud have been asked to lose weight! Aish – perfectly maincured and pristine… have u seen tom hanks castaway – the guy had dirt in his nails in a week – here our heroine shiny skin is never made ruddy by make up… on the whole too many flaws.. the whole movie has a shine, pristine glow to it when it shud have been raw, rustic to strike the right cord… these small things matter in deciding the over all feel of the movie

    • Yeshna – Thanks for your thoughts on Raavan, the review here is for Raavana in Tamil. I agree that certain aspects re make up was not up to the mark especially around Aishwarya. Do try to catch the tamil version and let me know what you think.

  15. Hi sharmila…………. the review was wonderful. i went through each of those emotions and colors described , twice during the same week – once when i watched the movie and second when i read this review. Its almost as though you have put in words all those emotions which stirred during my watching the movie. Thank you for that.

    Vikram is truly outstanding. With each movie he raises the bar for himself. Aishwarya was a revelation. Have liked some of her earlier roles likes HDDCS, Jodhaa Akbar, etc, but i think Mani always manages to move her performance to the next level. Coming from Kerala, i always knew and had seen that Prithviraj had great potential. Mani has been able to exploit that to the maximum

    In all, thanks to Mani Sir for making such a beautiful movie, way apart from the regular.

    Thanks to you Sharmila for the review.

    I just hope and pray that Mani Sir goes on to make many such thoughtful movies

  16. calender photography but otherwise a pathetic film in every other aspect – narrative, dialogues, acting, direction and above all common sense! Ratnam’s worst so far. Accept the defeat with grace, the failure is genuine.

  17. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    You seem to have understood each and every character of this film perfectly.Is it because you have seen the other version that is Raavanan?And yes,I admire your braveness to keep the comment,above.Though I haven’t seen the movie yet,but would definitely not agree with what the lady had spoken.


  19. Alex adams Says:

    Agree wid parmatmas views above— interesting points raised here. Also ppl showed maturity by not reacting to it but ignoring it . good point raised about Manis religious inclinations and motivations here in this reinterpretation— wonder if he got away with similar reinterpretations in other settings- will get back to this ….

  20. mksrooney Says:

    marvellous stunning.. loved reading it and it makes one happy that though hes in minority in respecting the movie hes in a good minority 🙂

    ps- i saw raavan.

    thnks for link sharmilla

    • Rooney – Good to see you here, thanks for dropping by.

      • mksrooney Says:

        yup i will love to drop here in future.. too but will like a favour whenever u write something interesting buzz me on satyamshot.. coz.. m a bit lazy 🙂


  21. sandeep Says:

    I havnt seen the movie yet but your review says a lot about it.. There are 2 larger issues here: ONE, people who claim as critics/reviwers have got no understanding of the real class cinema.. those who acclaim sajid khan’s crap flicks are not capable of evaluating ratnam’s thoughful grade A cinema… a certain class of audience will never go for a class movie but that doesnt mean that such work is failure. These reviewers have come out of nowhere and with absolutely no understanding of the game – a hockey player becoming an umpise for a game of cricket. TWO – When a director makes a class movie, he should be aware that BO success is not the only achievement in his life. I absolutely loved Delhi-6 coz of the cultural connect it had… so sometime bigger than a movie is the concept and what the maker is trying to capture in those 2-3 hours.. colours of life, colours of thought processes, highs and lows, emotions and facets… appreciate the product coz someone is genious enough to attempt it… rolls royce wasnt perfect in all their models…

    keep writing such stuff Sharmila.. and keep making many more flicks Ratnam… and AB Junior you are good – have the confidence.. you are far better than many choclates in the market as you have the capability of trying new stuff…


    • Sandeep – Thank you. Yes, you are quite right about both critics and what Director’s wish to do. Re – Delhi 6, again a pity it went largely unappreciated.

  22. yea … awesome !!!

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