Few months ago I read an interview of Naseerudin Shah in a daily. The interviewer asked him a question about today’s state of Indian films. Naseer responded back quite disappointedly that with advancing technology and prolific role played by media, the producers-directors easily garnered the publicity hype and sell the well packaged material to the audience earning expected profit. Creativity only lies in making frames glamorous, stuffed it well with audience friendly emotional drama and promotes it well globally; yes we are good in wrapping but not in content.
Maniratnam’s much hyped modern take on Ramayana reminds me Naseer’s words. As an admirer of Maniratnam I was expecting from this film and he’s the director who gave few brilliant films to Indian cinema like ‘Nayakan’, “Iruvar’, ‘Roja’, ‘Yuva’. Its noble intention to revisit our epic in modern context but when makers like him fails terribly with poor screenplay, shallow presentation, poor characterization and shoddy direction the epic becomes caricaturized and loud product.
The first half of the film is so irritatingly directionless, monotonous and lifeless in everything (except Santosh Sivan’s DOP) that I hate to see the second half in the interval. Mani shifted the gear in the second half and attempted honestly to make it gritty and reasonable one with few ingredients of action, twist and turn and wins the character and audience’s sympathy for the antagonist. Looking at the performances both Aishwarya and Vikram seems so flat wearing typified expressions. Aishwarya has done nothing except shouting and frowning and she didn’t look appealing too. Where’s Mani’s touch that directed her in ‘Iruvar’ and ‘Guru’? Hope Vikram has done fairly well Tamil edition as antagonist but here he’s less than average. Govinda and Ravikishan have stuffed more footage than entertaining the audience. Priyamani is quite impressive in her few minutes presence. It’s only and only Abhishek who worked hard to uplift the film and seems impressive among all cast. Don’t expect different expressions but watch his intensity and dedication to retain the character in couple of well acted scenes and I mean it that he’s the sole reason to watch this film even though having many shortcomings. He saved the grace of Maniratnam as Maniratnam saved his in ‘Yuva’.
Technically the film is rich with Santosh Sivan’s camerawork as always filming some great landscape locations and Shyam Kaushal’s brilliantly choreographed stunt on the bridge 2000 feet above (one of the best I’ve ever seen in Hindi cinema!)
The opinion is mixed; the film entertains in bits and pieces but disappoints as a whole product.