Tuesday, 19 November 2013

RAM LEELA : Movie review

                                              Just when you think you have seen it all, there comes a film that reminds you of how far the cinematic medium has come....And how far it can go in the right hands. And let’s face it. Bhansali is Bhansali. Every image, every frame tells a story. Every shot in this brilliant film has a place in his cosmos. You won’t be left wondering for even a split second why you saw what you just did. Yup, size matters. And in the case of Ram Leela you can say that with a wink. Bhansali’s Romeo and Juliet are unabashedly sexual in the body and verbal language. None of that traditional coyness and hesitation that characterizes traditional courtship when Ram and Leela discuss one another’s vital statistics. He runs a porn video parlour. She comes from a family of gun-wielding criminals helmed by a steely matriarch (Supriya Pathak, brilliant). As far as Ram & Leela are concerned, he comments on her ‘136 inch’ chest, she talks about his, er, trigger. They are in love and they know lust is an integral component of their relationship. No two lovers derived from a classic romance have celebrated their mutual sexual desires so frankly and fearlessly. 
SCRIPT & SCREENPLAY                                           :          Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela is Bollywood’s third stab at ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in a year and a half. Full marks must be given to its writers that include SLB, Siddharth and Garima who have embellished this tale by blending traditional tale along with modern elements.  It’s violent and vicious Verona all over again; this time around the theatre of action is relocated to a village in the Rann of Kutch. In the bargain, the essential spirit of the Bard is left by the wayside. Bhansali’s Romeo is Ram (Ranveer Singh), a rakish, hunky Lothario who believes that physical love is as essential as acts of violence are avoidable. Needless to say, he falls prey to both. Juliet is Leela (Deepika Padukone), an epitome of feminine grace who thinks nothing of giving free rein to her sexuality. Boy and girl are so smitten by each other that, after the initial moments of tentativeness, they aren’t sure where lust ends and love begins. But once passion blossoms, there is no stopping the duo.But in their path are their respective families. One clan peddles guns, the other spreads terror. Venom flows free, and so does blood. Bullets fly thick and fast and lives are snuffed out with a thought. The young lovers have no choice but to turn their backs on their folks and elope.Amid all the ballyhoo, the village manages to produce a newspaper of its own. It’s called Ranjhar Times. Wonder who has the time! Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela is neither Romeo and Juliet nor your friendly neighbourhood Ram Lila, where the audience knows exactly what the outcome is going to be. The pacing also dips rather badly in the middle and whenever Ram and Leela are separated, since from a dramatic standpoint their tandem star power is the engine that makes the whole thing run. Those caveats aside, visual splendor and hot-blooded melodrama mostly win out over rickety pacing and scripting.

STARCAST                                                          :        The actors, in keeping with the no-holds-barred ambience that the film exudes, take recourse to grandly expansive gestures to express the minutest of emotions. What makes the ride as enjoyable as it is, are the performances of Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in the leads. Singh prevails over a very odd (even by masala hero standards) mustache to give a deeply affecting and rich performance as Ram, but it's Padukone, as is increasingly the case, who steals the show with pure, deliberate, ferocious star power. The striking thing about her performance as Leela is how tightly coiled and tense it seems; she's ready at a moment's notice to kiss or kill (or both), never passive, never merely a photographic subject.  Padukone, who's very close—if she isn't there already—to becoming the star among stars in her generation. Her every gesture is fascinating.  Apart from the leads, three male performers who stand out are - Sharad Kelkar who has played the part of Leela's brother. Supporting a stubbed beard, he manages to impress even in the short duration of his screen presence. Secondly, Abhimanyu Singh who we saw as Bukka Reddy in Rakht-Charithra has delivered an astounding performance as Ram's elder brother. He looks really mean & menacing and his expressions are really convincing while portraying the character of a Don. Thirdly, Vishnu Devaiah as Leela's greedy cousin who wants to become the leader of clan by hook or crook has given a commendable performance. Similarly,  in females three performers who stand out are : – Supriya Pathak Kapur as Leela’s mother, Richa Chadda as the heroine’s sis-in-law and Barkha Bisht Sengupta as the widow in the enemy camp. Especially impressive is the way Chadda nails the local accent even as it fluctuates wildly all around her. So, all in all, SLB has extracted the best performances from all his actors and it is a treat to watch them portraying their characters onscreen and credit should also be given to the casting directors i.e. Shruti Mahajan & Parag Mehta.   

TECHNICAL FINESSE                                                          :     On technical front, it’s the cinematic equivalent of a well set, festooned moveable tableau where all the ingredients seem to be outshining each other that ultimately its difficult to ascertain whose the best. The music for the flick has been composed by SLB himself, and if not very good still he has done a descent job out of it. Monty Sharma, has given very good background music. I will also like to give due credit to the Production Designer, Wasiq Khan whose art work too unfurls a spiraling tapestry of kaleidoscopic colours that find a place in the hectic frames without jostling or crowding the canvas. S.Ravi Varman's cinematography is plush and passionate and yet the film's visuals never topples over into the kingdom of the garish. And what visuals as he has made the desi Romeo and Juliet's turbulent togetherness an occasion for optical enchantment. Varman, let me state, uses the camera like Ustad Amjad Ali Khan uses the Sarod. It’s an instrument to converse with divinity. Movie has been edited by SLB himself along with Rajesh Pandey who have kept the length of the flick to 154 minutes which i feel could have been restricted or better fine tuned by editing some of the lengthy scenes. Now, coming to the man himself i.e. Sanjay Leela Bhansali who has written, produced, composed music, edited as well as directed this opulent movie. So much has been said about Bhansali’s cinematic sense. But not enough. The way he composes the shots to convey the passionate desperation of lovers who know they’re running out of time is a subject that textbooks can be written about. With a magician’s dexterity Bhansali weaves the characters into frames with seamless splendour magically making space for the passionate and the tender. You could say Bhansali’s cinema is the visual equivalent of Lata Mangeshkar’s singing. And you wouldn’t be wrong.

WOW MOMENTS                                          :          Of the innumerable imperishable images that emerge from Ram Leela’s tumultuous tale, I’d single out two. The first shows Barkha Bisht as Ranveer’s widowed sister-in-law running away from a gang of attackers. As she runs through the rugged hinterland her brass vessel tumbles down-slope with her. The sequence, caught in a desperately dying light, is probably the most vivid image of impending doom I’ve seen in any recent film. The other unforgettable image features Deepika, her hand bloodied after an injury, lying on the wet ground in a streak of blood which reminded me of Aishwarya Rai’s slashed wrist creating a pond of blood with her hand in Bhansali’s Hum...Dil De Chuke Sanam.

CONCLUSION                                                          :      Ram Leela’s visual poetry is so eloquent you wonder at times if the filmmaker is a closet-painter. Really, you’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Exhilarating, tumultuous, passionate, flamboyant, fluent and quite simply fabulous....Sanjay Bhansali’s Gujju take on Romeo & Juliet would have surely made Shakespeare giddy with joy. Brimming with exuberance and energy Ram Leela’s exalted aesthetics and powerhouse narration once again prove Bhansali to be an incomparable storyteller.

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