Raavan

Written by: Mani Ratnam, with dialogue by Vijay Krishna Acharya
Directed by: Mani Ratnam
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Govinda, Vikram, Ravi Kissen

Raavan--written and directed by Mani Ratnam, one of the finest directors of our times--is a trilingual made in Hindi, Tamil and dubbed in Telugu. Anything offered from Ratnam is keenly awaited by the audience--such is the reputation he has developed over the last couple of decades. This movie is supposedly based on Ramayan (the greatest Indian epic which tells the story of Lord Rama). The movie stars Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Govinda and Vikram in pivotal roles. Does this thriller based on the modern adaptation of Ramayan deliver? It's a difficult question; it does satisfy but not mesmerize, which it had the capability to do!

The story revolves around a Naxal group headed by Beera (Bachchan) and his two brothers, who are on a police killing spree in their Tribal dominated area. They kidnap Raagini (Rai), the wife of Superintendent of Police Dev (Vikram) with the intention of killing her. They intend to showcase to the police that they too can take lives at will. However, Raagini turns out to be a tougher and stronger woman than Beera anticipated, which increases his respect for her. What follows is a game of cat and mouse, with Beera and his gang on the run with their captive Raagini and the police force led by Dev and guided by Forest Guide- Sanjeevani (Govinda) on their back. Do they manage to save Raagini, or is there something else in store for them? And why are the Naxalites are hell-bent on killing the police officers? These are the questions which are answered as the movie unfolds.

Performance-wise, Abhishek as Beera is good; he brings out the mannerism of a maniac Naxal leader pretty well. However, I strongly felt there was the lack of punch in his acting, which was very much required for the role he was shown playing. His performance of the villainous Lallan in Mani Rathnam's Yuva had a more lasting impression and intensity than the blood-hungry Beera shown in this movie. Aishwarya Rai excels and meets the demands of her role--she ensures her presence is felt in every frame she is in. Vikram, in his Hindi movie debut (he is a big name in the Tamil film industry), fits in his role with amazing ease and brings out the frustrations of a cop trying to hunt down the Naxal leader and getting back his wife from the clutches of the bad guys.

And Govinda is back! He has a small role, but he serves it excellently. The actor shows he has not lost any charm, and he's got the few witty scenes that the movie has. Given a good role (even as small as this one), he shows he can deliver. The scenes involving him and the tribals where the tribals speak about Beera's deeds and nature are simply hilarious. Ravi Kissen plays the part of Beera's brother and does it with amazing easy and charm--he keeps the atmosphere lively with his excellent performance.

Coming to the direction, Ratnam delivers as a director. He brings out the best from everyone, though I feel he should have got more out of Abhishek. Also there could have been more to the script--it picks up situations and "characters (not characteristics)" from Ramayan and applies it to the current scenario well enough, but somehow the proceedings on-screen wind up lacking. For a movie of this genre the pace should have been more frantic, but it does slow down.

Coming to the music, I can run short of adjectives praising it, with Gulzar penning the lyrics and A R Rahman giving outstanding songs to the film. All the songs have excellent, meaningful lyrics which add value to the situation they are being used in, and the music is simply top class. Matching the music is the cinematography by Santosh Sivan and V.Manikandan. Breathtakingly beautiful places are picturized in the most befitting manner. It is top-notch work by the duo.

Bottom line, it surely does satisfy, but leaves you wishing there was more to the script and the pace. It surely is not a must-watch (which it had the potential to be) but will surely not disappoint if you go in to see it. Not among Mani Ratnam's best but surely not among his worst, either.