Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ram Leela Movie Review : An honest film, with a remarkable lead pair

Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies are known for belonging to certain adjectives - big, beautiful, detailed and plagiarized. Yes, plagiarized,  at least for the last three ventures. The only difference is that this time he isnt playing games trying to hide his inspiration(s), instead he comes out way more comfortable and effective, having declared that Goliyon Ki Rasleela : RamLeela is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet. And its adapted in an unknown Bhansali town in Gujarat. Bingo! A premise that is like flesh to Bhansali's skin. 

Now that everyone around me has already seen the movie, I am witnessing a spectrum of reactions around me. From some critics calling it SLB's best work to date, to some friends trying to forget it as a nightmare; from the twitter world raving all day about it to some other friends in complete awe of it. Its been a couple of months since I saw such diverse reactions to a movie. Eitherway, its always welcome. What do I think? Does it matter now that the film is doing well, mostly owing to the mixed word of mouth which always increases curiosity? I dont know, but I can assertively say that this is Bhansali's most honest film after Devdas. Personally, I do not believe SLB is capable of churning out fresh plot-driven films, apart from his incapability to let go of wide-angle shots. But if you give him a text, or a screenplay, he has the wizardry to make a beautiful film out of it. And it wont just be an imposing array of visuals, he will invest a lot in the mood and the moment, using his music, motifs and whatever else he can. The text may not be new but his handling of it will be. RamLeela is where SLB belongs, the grandeur, the plush, the drapes, the colors, the songs, the drama, the comedy, the action - a larger than life work of imagination, a musical, a masala film. 

And yet, it falters in the second half, which is slightly shorter than the first one, but that does not stop it from being a royal mess where it almost seems that Bhansali and writers Siddharth-Garima smoked up something and forgot anything what he had originally imagined his characters to be. Leaving that aside, there is a striking majority of the film which does not work on surprise or shock. Infact, it buttresses on a sparkling, comburent lead pair chemistry. People who hated the movie might think that I belong to some other world but dare I say, its been ages since I have seen such crackling chemistry between the leads of a romance. Maybe they are in love in real life, but then so were Saif and Kareena when did those duds with zero chemistry? Ranveer Singh and Deepika (aahh!) Padukone let go of all inhibition and bring a fresh intensity to everything - the banter, the flirting, the chasing, the loving, the tears, the aggression and the fights. And somewhere amidst their fun and frolic, SLB and his writers have indulged profusely in sexual references, puerile flirting and candid-looking moments to churn out an engaging narrative for most of the film. RamLeela does get a bit too long winding up at around 160 minutes with seemingly endless drama, barrage of songs and a confusing second half. 

RamLeela benefits heavily from a very efficient supporting cast. Supriya Pathak Kapur, as Leela's mom, is first-rate, menacing to say the least. A veteran actress living up well in a part tailored for her. Richa Chaddha continues to impress, even with a supporting role, she is superb. Sharad Kelkar and Barkha Bisht make an impact as well. However, it is Abhimanyu Singh and Gulshan Deviah who do not get much scope to perform and get stuck in partly caricature-ish roles. But it is Deepika and Ranveer who provide this canvas the colors it will boast of. Their energies and their synergies, work well to provide the masala. Ranveer, as the sassy Ram, is superb and Deepika, oh my, is she going to part-time acting school nowadays? 

Bhansali's music is unapologetically loud. Not only are the songs high on decibel and colors, but they retain their soul as well. How often do we see that? Lal Ishq, rendered by Arijit Singh, will stay in the playlists for some time. I do not believe that a cinematographer can do a bad job if he is working with SLB. Ravi Varman's camera puts together some of the best frames you will see on the screen, to the point where it almost seems surreal. Bhansali has also edited the film with Rajesh Pandey and done a bad job at it to be honest. But it is the Production (Wasiq Khan) and Costume Design (Maxima Basu, Anju Modi) that is spellbinding in RamLeela. A lot of work goes behind making everything look so big and beautiful, starting from Bhansali's detailed vision and the technical skills of his team to re-create it onto lavish sets and magnificent locations. 

Ram Leela is definitely not Bhansali's best work, but it is not an aimless Saawariya also. He is comfortable in making films that are low on content and high on his style and it is a film that should be seen in that perspective. One would concur that it is definitely more honest to make a Ram Leela than a Himmatwala/OUATIMD/Boss in the garb of a masala film. Plus this one has a lead pair chemistry that is worth the price of the ticket itself. Its a bit long, stretched out, old-school, but far from disappointing. Bhansali, in his home terrain, does strike a chord and splashes many colors in one go. Go for it!

Rating - 3/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here