There is so much Mani Ratnam could have done with the piece he took from Ramayana to interpret, but seems he got lost with managing two production (Hindi and Tamil) at the same time. He set out to explore the shades of Raavan’s character, of his not just being black or grey but yellow too. Ratnam probably wanted to paint each head of Raavan as different character, of him being deified by the locals, of being a Robinhood, of being a terror, but the canvas he chose seemed not large enough.
That’s when I wish I knew Tamil. Vikram exuded some great control over his emotions in the glimpses of footage he managed to extract from Ash-Abhi hullaballoo, that Mani Ratnam create in hindi version of Raavan.
The paper thin plot concentrated in the three primary characters of Beera, Ragini and Dev. Beera abducted Dev’s wife to avenge his sister’s rape driving her to suicide. But instead of mindlessly killing Ragini he mindlessly saves her when she attempts a suicide by falling off the cliff on being abducted. The movie did had its Mani Ratnam touches but somehow it wasn’t consistent. The central plot of the relationship between three characters, of their changing dynamic and the various shades they exude holds the signature Mani Ratnam treatment, but other character in the fringes either make or break it because of their own caliber rather Mani’s directorial skills.
Beera falls for Ragini’s resplendent beauty (some awesome work by Santosh Sivan and Manikandan who merges Aishwarya Rai with the scenic beauty of Athirappilly Falls and other breathtaking locales that Mani chose around South India) and courage displayed (probably reminding him of the courge his newlywed abandoned sister showed when taken in police custody.) The abductor then falls in love with her and keeps asking her hostage if she would stay with him? Ragini had a perfect married life and ideal husband or so she believed. Beera came in to her life to pierce holes into it and her illusion breaks apart. She screamed, hauled and believed that her husband would come to her rescue within fourteen minutes but Dev seemed more interested in capturing the bandit than rescuing his wife (Dev kills the messenger for peace whereas any other would have utilized it to reach to his wife) and does not turn up till the fourteenth day (reference to Ramayan’s number fourteen.) Ragini’s indecisiveness with her loyalties increasingly became evident as the movie progressed and she gets back to Dev.
The climax of the movie did bring out the various imageries of good, bad against the colour white and black. The fight between Beera in black and Dev in white on the bridge is what Ratnam has depicted in “Yuva” as well. What Ratnam wanted to explore here was not the good, bad and evil, but how the hero can have shades of grey and how a bandit is more sensitive towards her hostage’s sensitivities. Beera is careful not to hurt Ragini but Dev is more efforted towards his duties as a cop than as a husband.
What is disappointing in the movie is the postured acting of Aishwarya and confounding animation of Abhishek. A far cry from their stellar stroke of “Guru.” There were so many moments in the movie that could have been great for want of acting caliber by Abhi_Ash. That’s when I felt my inadequacies with Tamil language. Beera’s character had so much to emote rather than the head shake and dirty grin. The diractor too felt their want and used shaky camera but only to add to audience’s frustration. I am hopeful that Vikram did bring about the magic of Beera through the screen.
The sub characters came and went without proper introduction or conclusion to their part of the story (though this is not new to Ratnam’s narrative style has done it before in “Dil se.”) It was only Beera’s sister Jamunia (Priyamani) who got a conclusion but more so because she was the one who sets the ball rolling. Others characters like the ones played by Ravi Kishan and Govinda disappeared in the end as the spotlight moved to the three central characters. Ravi Kishan effortlessly brought about the torn between innocence and revenge of a bandit for which Abhishek struggled till the end. Govinda was as much a nuisance as he is in any of his movies. Sadly, Mani Ratnam could not keep up his own expectation let alone help Govinda’s image.
The saving grace of the movie was few breathtaking moments created by Mani, Sivan and Rehman. Few of the shots with Rehman’s score (he did the background as well), Sivan (or Manikanda- we would not know) and the genious of Ratnam would linger on till a long time after the movie has ended. The shot were Aishwarya jumps off the cliff when taken into abduction by Abhishek and later when Abhishek falls off after being shooted with Rehman’s rendition of “Ja ud ja re” playing… these are some of the images to take back home.