Saturday, June 19, 2010

Raavanan: Not the best of the best, but definitely a treat!

When Vikram's back was shown on screen, the hooligans in the cinema just went crazy. I don't usually watch Tamil and Hindi films in the cinema, but this was embarrassing. After all, this is a proper cineplex at a proper shopping mall, not some ancient cinema down town tucked at one corner! Those hooligans definitely need to learn a lesson or two on how to behave in public. Whistling and making monkey sounds when your favourite actor appears on screen is labeled 'normal' by my aunt who often goes to the cinema to watch Tamil movies. Gosh! What if our Malay and Chinese friends see this? What would they think? It is embarrassing enough that these same species of hooligans make a havoc each time there is a festival at their local Hindu temples and become a disgrace to the Indian community, now we have these dumbos acting like maniacs in cinemas! Sh*t!

Wait a minute! This was supposed to be a movie review! What the hell am I doing acting like a moral police over here? Hahahahaha... sorry. Got a little too emotional a minute ago. Well, someone has got to stand up and question something wrong in our society - just like in Tamil movies. Huhuhuhu....

Fine, so to be honest the movie does not meet the expectations of a Mani Ratnam film. But it was not a disappointment though. Usually Mani Ratnam's film are both entertaining with an important social message. In Raavanan, there is an important social message but not much entertainment qualities. It was not as if we were expecting a Vijay-styled masala flick. Not from Mani Ratnam at least. But when compared to Mani's previous film; Guru, Raavanan is less of a good movie. Let's evaluate the many departments of the film shall we?


Alright. So we all know the story is a modern taking of the Hindu epic Ramayana. There is also a major twist in the film - Raman is the villain and Raavanan is the hero. Of course, some schools of Hinduism view Raavanan as more than a villain, but no Hindu would ever label Raman as a villain! He is an avatar of a deity! So, in order to avoid from taking any offence from the movie's plot, it is best to not view the film as anything to do with the Hindu epic. Mani Ratnam and his wife, Suhashini; who wrote the dialogues are both atheists. So, both of them would not have any inner conflict in making a movie such as this.

Did you know the movie was initially named Ashokavanam? Well if you are not well-versed with the Hindu holy scriptures, then let me tell you that Ashokavanam is the place in Lanka where Sita was kept by Raavanan when she was kidnapped by him and brought here. Sita mostly spent her time under an Ashoka tree, thus the name Ashokavam. Since most of the story takes place in the jungle where the heroine(Sita) is kept, it would have been more creative and artistic to name the film Ashokavanam. But perhaps Mani Ratnam wanted to parallel the film to its Hindi version which is titled Raavan. Thus, the film is named Raavanan.

Like every other Mani Ratnam movie, Raavanan has a powerful story. Since it is based on the Ramayana epic, the main characters are based on these Hindu icons:

Raavanan : Veeraya (Vikram Kennedy)
Sita : Ragini (Aishwarya Rai)
Prince Rama : Dev Prakash (Prithiviraj Sukumaran)
Hanuman : Gnanaprakasam (Karthik Muthuraman)
Kumhbakarna : Singarasan (Prabhu Ganesan)
Suparnakha : Vennila (Priyamani)
Vibishana : Sakkarai (Munna)
Lakshmannan : Hemanth Kumar (John Vijay)
Lady Rakshas: Raasathi (Vaiyapuri)

There are no boring scenes. Every scene contributes to the power of the story. Most scenes are extremely melodramatic. Like when Ragini realizes she has bee kidnapped by the three outcast brothers - Veeraya, Singarasan and Sakkarai. Ragini starts to recite some poem on bravery or something - I think it must be from the Ramayana epic itself. I'm not so sure. But it seemed a little too overdone. Tamil-movie-goers who only like masala films and are not fully well-versed with the vocabulary of art films might find all this boring.

Unlike most Tamil films today which uses English dialogues, Raavanan hardly has any of this. In fact, most of the dialogue is in pure Tamil with the Thirunalveli accent. Most of the lines are very dramatic, not to mention poetic.


Now let's not compare this movie's music direction to other AR Rahman musicals. It seems like Rahman has focused more on the background music than on the songs. Rahman uses native African, Red Indian and Bali music to set the atmosphere of the film - which is set mostly in the highland jungles of south India.

Veera, Usire Poghudey and Kalvare are typical AR Rahman masterpieces. Veera is an energetic number and Usire Poghudey has catchy Afican tribalistic tunes in it. But my personal favourite is Kalvare, which is a slow melodramatic number. The choreography of this song performed by Aishwarya Rai and choreographed by the famous dancer turned actress Shobana. Her Bharanatyam routine was flawless, not to mention stunning - according to my sister who studies the dance.


People who don't know who the director is would have definitely expected a complete entertainment based film. After all, the cast includes among two of the hottest actors in the Tamil film industry - Vikram Kennedy and Prithiviraj Sukumaran. Not to mention two of yesteryears' most successful actors - Prabhu Ganesan and Karthik Muthuraman. Even National Award Winner Priyamani is in this movie. And of course there is the real star of the film - Aishwarya Rai. After becoming the Queen of Bollywood and making it big internationally after staring in The Pink Panther 2 alongside Steven Martin, and not to mention becoming the ambassador for various products such as Lo'real Paris, Lux and so muc more, the fact that she is staring in a humble Tamil film will definitely boost the image of the Tamil film industry, which is revered by Tamilians all around the globe.

Vikram is okay as Veerayah, the tribal leader fighting for his people's rights. He plays the heroic and agresive aplha male once again like in most of his films. He is both scary and funny each time he appears on scree. But bear in mind this movie was filmed back to back scene by scene with the Hindi version, in which Vikram plays Dev Prakash instead. This means he has to play two roles at once - one the hero and another the villain in two different languages mind you! You've got to give the man some respect for that.

This is Aishwarya Rai's first Tamil film in ten years. Her last Tamil film was Kandukondain Kandukondain in 2000 which was a massive hit. Note that all her Tamil films are AR Rahman musicals. She is beautiful as Ragini, Dev Prakash's wife even though it is widely known that she did not use even a touch of make-up during the jungle scenes. She gives justice to the role as the brave and sensitive Ragini. Her blue eyes speaks emotion for her. In an interview she knew Tamil as in konjum konjum teriyum. In this movie, she took some private tutoring to brush up her Tamil. She managed to speak the language like a native speaker. Amazing indeed. Just like her two heroes, she too performed her stunts by herself. One scene where she climbs a waterfall with Vikram is shot so beautifully it will take your breath away.

Prithiviraj does a good job but does not shine as bright as his two other co-stars. He may be acting as the husband of Aish's character, but in real life he is ten years her junior! But he looks matured enough to act as her husband. It is only revealed that his character has a darker side towards the end of the film. In one particular scene where he walks into the jungle and pretends to make peace with one of his enemies, his facial expression might give audiences the creeps as we all know he plans to kill the enemy in cold blood. The sinister smile on his seemingly sincere face to make peace totally freaked me out!

The cast of supporting characters boosts a line of popular actors like Karthik, Prabhu and Priyamani. Karthik and Prabhu brought some comic relief to the extremely dark film. Karthik was jumping like a monkey form one tree to another in reference to Hanuman. Prabhu also delivers some funny lines like when he scolds Aish for her rudeness and disobedience towards him and his brothers. Despite having limited screen time, Priyamani did a wonderful job in her role. In fact, just like in the original Ramayana, it is this character which is the main reason of the conflict between the good and the bad of the story. I will not tell much here, but it may seem a little too predictable to some.


Santosh Sivan is most probably the real star of this movie. If our Tamil stars had not come on screen, you might even think it is a Hollywood film! The camera has successfully captured the beauty of the jungle and also the chillness of the highlands. The film was shot at some of the most beautiful parts of India like Ooty and Kerala. Even the stunning action sequences are shot to perfection. A fight-scene between out two leads on a hanging bridge a few thousand miles above sea level can be considered the highlight for the cinematography of the film.


It has been a few days since the film has been released and it has received mostly mixed reviews. It might be an average grosser. All I would like to say is this movie is not for the average Tamil movie fan. It has no masala film elements in it. It is more of an art film staring A-listers. I would stronly recommend this movie to those who are:

- fans of Mani Ratnan films
- fans of Vikram, Aishwarya Rai and Prithiviraj
- fans of AR Rahman's background music
- fans of art films
- those who expect something new and fresh from the Tamil film industry

Go enjoy the film... Lots of love from mua!!!


  1. deyh..u missed the most awesome song la...KEDA KEDA KARI! haha...good all-round touched on everything..i'm an excellent candidate to whom u shud recommend the movie too! in love with aish n prithvi i tell u sigh