Check out the appended text ** at the end of the post.
First things first, I never liked Ram. I had questions on every act of his ever since I learnt about Ramayan. First, the bits and pieces of the epic came as accompaniments with each morsel my mom so cleverly put into my mouth. Next came the TV serial. While people put agarbattis on their TV-sets for Arun Govil, I argued that Ram was no ways the Purushottam he was made out to be. The agni-pariksha was the biggest proof of it. As a kid, I guess I had more courage. I voiced my opinion on forums that considered it sacrilegious to talk ill of Ram or any other god. God is god, I was told. Of course, I didn't buy that argument.
During numerous discussions with friends and some not-so-rigid family members, I found out that I was not the only one who thought the way I was thinking. And my mom seemed to be the biggest critic of gods. She is an ardent devotee, yet she has had her questions about the myriad mythological stories.
In my adolescent years, I came across a play written on Raavan. The book was written by Chaturbhuj (the writer's pen-name, I think), a friend of my father's. Ma and Baba had told me about Raavan's knowledge and his generosity, in fact all the virtues one could think of. His biggest mistake, it was said, was kidnapping Sita. After I read the play, I became a fan of Raavan's.
Then much later, Lajja happened. No, I didn't like the movie; in fact, I have never managed to watch the entire movie in one shot. I have watched bits and pieces of it every time it came on TV. Now, Lajja had a very powerful scene where Sita (portrayed by Madhuri Dixit) gives a heartful to Ram (Sameer Soni). I think that scene was the highlight of the film. I would watch the film again only to go back to that scene. I could see my thoughts being reflected in the words that came from Sita's mouth. One would smell feminism in them, but those words showcase the bitter reality.
I watched Raavan yesterday. And sure enough the title was enough to pull me to the theatre but what assured me was that it was Mani Ratnam's. The film definitely gives you the Ram-and-Raavan-are-not-distinctly-good-or-bad message and not very subtly either.
By the reaction of everyone in the auditorium, not barring me, I could tell that people are going to be extremely disappointed with the movie. I made a lot of comments during the movie, something I rarely do. So, was the movie any good? Well, it was a play enacted on a big screen. It had all the elements of a play - over-the-top drama, overplaying of emotions, and poetry - not in words but in pictures.
As per me, I had my problems with Raavan. It stretched for me at some places. I felt Abhishek Bachchan (who I like and think can act) overacted; I guess I would have showered praises on him had I seen this performance in a play. I will rate his performance in Guru better than that in Raavan. I liked Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as the not-so-demure Sita. At many places, I felt she was the hero of the film. Vikram played his part well, and so did all the supporting actors. I liked Ravi Kishen in particular. And I liked Priyamani who played an enchanting Surpnakha. In fact, I am looking forward to seeing more of her work. Anyways, this post is not a typical review of the movie. It is about the thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the film.
A couple of phone calls broke my chain of thoughts while writing this post. Hope to talk more about Ram and Raavan in another post some day.
** Addition: For those who don't know, Vikram (the actor who plays Ram in Raavan) has played Raavan in Ravanan, the Tamil version of the film. I want to watch the Tamil one to see how he could handle both the roles in tandem.
Pics courtesy http://www.raavan-thefilm.com