I could not find a listing for Ram Leela on bookmyshow.com because I was searching for movie names starting with R and not with G. Took me a while to figure out there was Goliyon Ki Raasleela before Ram Leela! Clearly, a very large section of the judicial machinery of our secular nation is immersed in delivering stay orders and judgements to soothe ruffled feathers of various religious/political/professional groups that take great exception to movie titles. Remember Billu Barber which was seemingly a huge insult to hairdressers? Well, a petition filed by six parties stated that Ram Leela, a film portraying sex, violence and vulgarity would deeply hurt religious sentiments and feelings of Hindus (who I guess abstain from all three!). So the Delhi High court hotfooted to issue a restraining order which was lifted once the raasleela bit was added. Raasleela being associated with Lord Krishna, I am rather surprised that we did not have six Krishna devotees raising objections.
The Bard of Avon had penned many a story, but possibly none as popular as ‘Romeo and Juliet’. It was among his most popular plays during his lifetime and is now, along with ‘Hamlet’ one of his most frequently performed ones. It is interesting to note that this is not an original composition. Shakespeare borrowed heavily from an old Italian tale but developed the story and characters to give it the form we read and loved. Romeo and Juliet has also inspired more than 40 films and television adaptations, the most well known being ‘West Side Story’ and closer to home Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. The latest in the long line of adaptations in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela.
Let us take a look at the good things in the film. A SLB movie will always be visually enthralling because he is a director who cannot think simplistic and normal. So we have swirling ghagras, whirling bodies and twirling bullets….all designed to leave you stunned. Set someplace called Ranjhor, in and around the Rann of Kutch, the opulence of the sets make you breathless. Add to that spectacular costumes for both men and women of the two feuding clans, a riot of colours, competent performances by the main cast and the sheer beauty and sensuality oozing out of the lead pair Ranveer Singh andDeepika Padukone, one is led to believe this is value for money. Ranveer plays the happy Romeo who would rather love than kill, with the same blitheness he displayed inBand Bajaa Baraat. Deepika’s character is as independant as can be in a mainstream film and she does full justice to her role, getting better with each film she does. I cannot help but mention Supriya Pathak Kapur who effortlessly steals every scene and Richa Chaddha who packs a punch in her usual understated way.
And now the not so goods. The film should have been shorter by 30 minutes because there is just that much you can stretch a tale that every audience member knows the end to. Forgettable music, three or four superfluous songs too many and a totally unnecessary item number by Priyanka Chopra makes the tempo sag even more. The village of Ranjhor, where Kalashnikovs and other sundry fire arms are sold openly; families store bullets in spice jars and women casually carry guns and knives in their cholis is too much to handle. While the costumes are beautiful, I could not for the life of me understand why every woman wore lehengas made of traditional Gujarati fabric other than Deepika. (She does however don the traditional the moment she is handed the ‘kursi’.) And why did every male look like they were off to star in a commercial for washing powder in their whites other than Ranveer who wore the kitschiest of kitschy shirts and denims! While Ram’s attraction for Leela is easy to understand, one is left wondering why she gets so drawn to him in the first meeting specially with his unreal abs all covered. Glimpses of Saawariya,Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, SLB’s earlier creations, are visible in multiple frames if one looks closely. And last but not least, the Mr. Bhansali stamp overwhelms in every scene; so much so that it is difficult to find a ‘real’ moment in this grandiose creation.
Copyright © Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa December 2013
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