Saturday, June 19, 2010

Raavanan: Eye Of the Beholder

The disadvantage with thinking of a metaphor first and then 'velai menakettu' developing a story that wraps around the metaphor is that the logic of the actual story is compromised. There seems to be almost no basis, logic or point for this story. The sole purpose of this movie is not to provide us with entertainment but to fullfill the need to reinterpret the epic. I wondered how this movie would look like if ramayana never existed. Without the metaphor hanging over this movie like a low-hanging dark wet cloud this story and its characters actually look slow, pointless and nonsensical. And mani does not want us to notice this point and so he over-references Ramayana in a very amateurish way. For example where in India is this story set to happen (if at all this is actually happening in planet Earth -> India -> TN). Manirathnam picks his usual Thirunelveli jilla and their accent like a reflex (yawn! - someone needs to tell Suhasini to stop mixing iyengar words in Hillpeople-speak). But there are no hills like this near Thirunelveli. What language do these hill people speak? Who are these hill people? What is their problem?

Also, If you go back to the earliest chronological point of this movie, why do the police attempt to rudely interrupt a certain marriage and attempt to arrest Veeraiyyan. What is the background for that? If I only developed opinions on this movie by just watching this movie, I would get no answers for these questions. Mani starts the movie in a jerky fashion and tells us a conveniently carved out slice of a bigger story in a very clumsy manner. Some scenes seem awefully disconnected and others unnecessary. And like Dhalapathy, Mani develops this tiring habit of creating this pseudo society which worships a non-governmental set of rowdies. The public claim (or the rowdy co-horts claim on the public's behalf) that Veeraiyyan has given them lives when they had none. And then Mani pitches a "Us Vs Them" theme that claim that city people don't know the travails of the hill people. We are just supposed to take that on face value. No core issues, no motive. Mani wants us to just assume there is some problem and would like us get to the part where he actually has something to say.

*** Extreme Spoiler Alert ***

Here is what broke my tolerance when I was willing to indulge in Mani. Raavanan gives only one side of the story. While what Mani says explicitly in this movie presents a balanced view of Dev, Ragini and Veeraiyyan, what he leaves unsaid (with regards to Ragini's actions in the end) unduly damages Ragini and favors Veeraiyyan. The gaps left unfilled in this movie seem to conveniently suppress Veeraiyyan's mistakes. If mani had a flashback that filled the context on Priyamani's marriage interruption and this context had Veeraiyyan raping Hemanth's daughter and killing 20 policemen in the process of looting a bank, things would have been very interesting. In the process, I am reminded of Manohar's bohemian attempts to bring retribution to epicVillains with movies like Lankeswaran and Narakasuran. Even Manohar realized the value of a strong story to drive a movie and didn't meddle with the actual epics. But simply developed another backstory that made you see the epic in a dfferent light. His movies gave both sides of the story. What Manirathnam does is selectively pick from the epic and seems to hint "while I believe Valmiki's characters and some of the main events in his narration to be true, I also think he is lying about the things I don't agree with"

Now to the direct comparison. Setting aside the futility of judging a prehistoric story with 21st century moral compass - The only similarity Manirathnam shares with Valmiki is that the beauty of the characters is based on the eye of the beholder. The 'kuppai' in your mind will show up as the 'kuppai' in the character. I did not think Ragini returned back to Veeraiyyan because she actually fell in love with him. While Ragini stopping a train and walking out looked silly, I thought : Dev found out that Veeraiyyan had fallen for Ragini -> decided to use her as a bait -> she just came back to verify Dev's claims. This is the only balanced view. But Mani's visuals try to make this as ambiguous as possible. Lets the kuppai in the audience mind to work: Example of where the visuals were going: ragini falls in love with Veeraiyyan - Dev's instincts were right -> answer to "nadakka koodathathu (which need not be physical) nadanthutha" is yes. So in any combination of examples Ragini cannot come out in good light. And this is a failure to deliver his stated intentions of keeping everything even keel. Hopefully, the process has taught Manirathnam how difficult it is to write a story that provides multiple perspectives and at the same time bring out the nuance that distinguishes between good and evil. Forget Valmiki, I rate this less than Manohar's story.

Manirathnam should not have read up on character of the real Raavanan so much. It seems to have enamoured him into having an unexecutable idea. Vikram's antics to project 10 different minds comes out as 'half-assed' and rather looks like over-acting. Nobody except Dev keeps it real. Vikram's mannerisms were irritating. Mani seems to have found out somewhere along the line that he can't deliver 10 personalities via Vikram's performance alone. So does a silly thing of having 10 people describe Veeraiyyan in 10 different ways. We are just supposed to 'get it'. And lastly, the forest was there for the sake of it. I thought it was overhyped and apart from providing good visuals didn't seem to be a character in the movie. Luckily Mani doesn't try picturising the already bad songs fully. What was picturised gave ample evidence that none more was needed. This was a hindi movie, not adapted but forcefitted into Tamil milieu.

14 comments:

SathyaRam said...

Your comments are quite good. In fact going by what you say the movie may not be good or even average. In fact you nailed it down by giving a good comparison with Manohar's plays which were extremely good.

But what I dont understand is you terming VTV as epic. I could agree with most of your posts except that. I am not sure that movie can be even regarded as an average one...

Sreekrishnan said...

No mention of Sugasini ? I think the prime reason why the movie went this way was because of the dialogues. they just never flowed !

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, assuming we all knew the story already, Mani wanted to impress us with two hours of lingering shots on waterfall, water, trees and more trees.

Not sure if you've watched 'The New World' (Collin Farrell & Christian Bale), it's an adaptation of Pocahontas and revolves around 2 guys and a girl. Wafer thin plot with extensive shots of nature.

I am pretty sure that Mani drew his inspiration from this movie but twisted it accordingly to fit the Ramayana.

-Vani

Anonymous said...

Except for the first kidnap scene,none remembers the first half of the movie. It was a drag...

blackaccord said...

first half was one of mani's worst first halfs...last 20-30 minutes was what made the movie not a total disaster..I beg to differ on Vikram's performance.. I think it was one of his best performances till date...(i'm no big fan of his sethu, pithamagan and anniyan roles..The movie was nothing but a cheap way to bring out his (mani's) atheistic thoughts and spoil an epic...Do you really have to show karthik move around like a monkey to make him hanuman or do you have to make prabhu a sappattu raman or the cop poke priyamani's nose to make her surpnakai..? btw, ranjitha got the biggest jeers in the movie :)

Bala said...

Funny, the Hindi audience feels it is a Tamil Movie. I am not sure who this movie is for? Probably could have been edited to less than 90 minutes to suit English Audiences?? Would also appreciate the background score. Seems like Mani is focusing more on the Canvas than the actual characters. I also do wonder why it took 2 years for this movie? On the plus though the last 20 minutes brings the story teller in him and leaves you yearning for more..

Hawkeye said...

from the horses mouth. hindi was the original movie..

http://www.hindu.com/cp/2010/06/18/stories/2010061850010100.htm

Sreekrishnan said...

read that interview. watched Hindi today .. looks more complete from the tamil because of the dialogues and nativity ...

But Vikram was better with his facial expressions in Beera than Abhishek was.

Praveen said...

Can u repost that Hindi link pls. Not opening

Praveen said...

The Hindu Interview link I meant, sorry!

Anonymous said...

Ramayana by itself is a boring epic unlike Mahabharata..boredom begets boredom..

bala said...

Tat perumai suhasini screwed up big time.I don't know what on earth was she thinking when she wrote the dialogues. Kuppai dialogue.

Suma Subramaniam said...

Hello,

I was wandering in the blogosphere reading reviews of a singer and I came across your blog. I like your take on things and your strong POV.

Thanks for the great review. Perhaps, a good choice to do other things this weekend and putting off this film for later.

Best,
Suma.

whencatrawman said...

Your review brought in a whiff of fresh air when you referred to Manohar's plays. I have heard from some seniors in my family about the POV Manohar presents in "Ilankeshwaran". You echo the same here !

http://whencat.posterous.com/raavanan-notanepicfail-but-failstobecomeanepi