The story of Raavanan is nothing new. Maybe that’s the reason most of the first day/second day reviews talked mostly about the absence of a storyline or how there weren’t high points that one usually associates with a Mani Rathnam movie. What Mani is trying here is to paint a different picture with respect to characterizations and do a “what if” analysis on some of the characters actions and priorities.

The screenplay right from the first frame makes it clear that it is not going to waste time establishing the characters or the plot as is. Mani Rathnam knows that a large part of his audience would be familiar with the Ramayan, makes the correct assumptions and shows only the relevant events involving Dev’s(Prithiviraj) journey in searching for his wife Ragini(Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). I can see where the knee jerk(not all, but most of them) disappointments sprung from. Most of us probably went in expecting a completely different take right from the start and when it turned all predictable, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But personally, the interpretation in the end, and how it is built up gradually through some key scenes, had enough payoff to consider this to be a good film.

This is not a movie where Mani Rathnam has chosen to play to his familiar strengths. We have come to associate Mani’s movies with relevant, real life issues and characters’ actions and interactions around that issue as seen through Mani’s eyes. More often than not, the issue at hand is the prop. But Raavanan is not a movie using an issue as a prop. The visuals are used as the prop with which the minds of the characters are let out in the open without any of them literally speaking out. Santosh Sivan/V.Manikandan’s cinematography is breathtaking to say the least. Raavanan is surely the best shot Mani Rathnam movie considering even his standards. There are a few instances where it is used as a gimmick and quite rightly so. There is a shot of Ragini falling through dead branches, unconscious all the while, that is so brilliant that you don’t mind the shot appearing multiple times. You have one spot the difference answer between RGV and Mani Ratnam right there. But then, here comes more. The visual telling of a story is handled with some deft touches.

One of the key scenes in the first half is where Veera(Vikram) is standing on a coracle with little children having fun spinning it around. He’s just realized that he’s smitten with Ragini but doesn’t know what to do about it and how to react to it. When Ragini comes to him and asks him to throw away the gun(that’s what she asks right? Slight memory loss here) as last resort, his head is spinning, literally and figuratively, caught in this conundrum. Ragini is standing at the edge of the bank trying very hard to maintain a poker face while Raavanan’s mind drifts away.

Suhasini is the weakest link in the team. The dialogs completely fail in some of the most important sequences. In particular, the whole pontification on God/Rakshas /Dev by Veera in front of the statue. You can’t help but imagine what the late Sujatha would have written for such a scene. Not that they fall flat throughout the film though. It works in the scene where Veera broods over Ragini’s staunch refusal to be frightened and how that has affected Veera, the Raavanan. The scene simultaneously plays out as character sketches on the multifaceted Raavanan and the simple minded carefree Kumbakarna (Singarasan played by Prabhu). Vikram’s bak bak are mildly annoying and I am not sure if it was a Vikram fan club pleasing thing to do. But I believe Abhishek Bachchan’s Veera too uses them  so that may not be the case.

There are more visual touches towards the end. When Ragini sees Dev’s conniving side for herself, you see the train moving on the hills passing in and out of tunnels. As the realization dawns on Ragini, you see daylight and then all black.  More daylight and all black.  Simply getting it across that in this version, there is no black or white. There is only gray. The upholder of dharma might not have made a great family man after all. Just like how in the real world, it’s impossible to please everyone. Priorities matter the most.

The climax fight scene is nothing less than stunning and enough has been written about it already. With all the judgment on black or white, Ragini is left stranded. It could have been a conscious open/ambiguous end. But some people like to call it a loose end. It’s up to the individual, I believe. Interpretation is the word when it comes to this movie. Start to finish.


30 thoughts on “Raavanan

  1. I was waiting for your review! Nicely written! :)
    I think how he wanted to show the story in a different angle is what I liked abt the movie!
    But as you said, it’s upto the individual!
    I’m surprised how some ppl didnt enjoy it!

    Adi: Same here, I don’t know why it was “boring”


  2. Fantastic. Did my initial review make a difference? And coracle eh…didn’t know it had an English name.

    Adi: Heh, can’t tell! :)


  3. Dude,

    I watched the hindi version.
    It was decent movie -1 time watch. but i really dont understand why there is so much -ve criticism for his movie. Sad that media teaches ppl like Mani what to have in a movie and what not to.

    I found it nice and def not that bad as some give 1 on five rating.

    I am 100% sure, Vikram would have rocked in tamil version even though AB jr has done well.
    Never like Aish till date but this time she has really put effort and acted very well.

    Like all said, Cinematography is excellent..but give credit to Mani also because job of cinematographer is to bring what the director wanted :)

    Overall – 1 time watch
    but def would like to know why ppl dint like it?

    Adi: I do think it’s more than a one time watch. It’s a movie that could be different in multiple viewings.


  4. Long post- Die hard M.R fan, don’t expect anything lesser :) Also made references to Raavan though u haven’t yet reviewed it :)

    Couple of things I wanted to discuss.

    1: Any reason for spelling it as Rathnam and not Ratnam?:)

    2: I loved the dialogues. I felt it was the movie’s USP apart from the cinematography. Veera’s comparison of Ragini to gold, Ragini’s dialogue before she jumps from the cliff & even the dialogues during the fight scene. The dialogues were fantastic in Tamil and didn’t sound as powerful in the Hindi one. Translation suffered!

    3: Expectations. I got what I expected. I knew it would be a different take to the Ramayan and it was. Showing gray areas in every character was fantastic- including Sita. Mani Ratnam made it all look so human like. No one is perfect. There is no perfect man(Ram) or perfect woman(Sita) and the demon could be the one with the “heart.” I expected this and I got it and I don’t think a lot of people expected something entirely new and in fact many really enjoyed the gray areas and the constant references to the Ramayan like you rightly pointed out. With me I loved even the reference to Jatayu in the opening scene of Ash, with the vulture coming and sitting on the boat.

    4: “The upholder of dharma might not have made a great family man after all.” – think more than that, Mani Ratnam did leave it to the audiences to decide how you approach your dharma. Dev at one point became an animal who’d do anything to get what he wants, from suspecting his wife, to disturbing a wedding and hiding and shooting your enemy who is unarmed. (Why did Ragini say, I am sure he did it for a reason? because we are questioning Dev’s approach to fulfilling his dharma)

    5: Love your tunnel and spinning on the boat references :) I think she said “why don’t you kill me instead of asking me to stay here with you.” Not drop your gun. Btw the dialogues did differ “a bit” in both versions I felt, so I could be wrong :)

    6: Think Prabhu was Vibhishana because Kumbakarnan gets killed in the end in Ramayan and the younger bro gets killed in Raavanan not Prabhu. Also Kumbakarnan tries to convince Raavana in Ramayan not to fight the Lankan war which is done in the movie as well by the younger bro. Of course in Ramayan Vibhishan joins Rama and is crowned Lankan king later but we don’t have that in the movie but he lives till the end so he might have become the king after the climax- loved the ambiguous end btw! :)

    7: Can’t agree more with bak bak bak and now on to why I think Mani Ratnams standard suffered-
    a: AB Jr. was bad choice for Raavan, he’d have been better off dubbing the tam version to hindi since it was way better in all aspects. AB was a misfit. Vik and Ash had more chemistry between them than Ash and AB.
    b: What was all those romantic action scenes between vikram and ash? I didn’t quite follow the art behind that! Think him seeing her fall from the tree was more romantic than their stick fight!
    c: Compare the romantic scenes in his past movies and his approach to the chemistry between the characters, I feel its definitely not his best ever movie.

    Adi: That jut might be longer than my post :P

    1. He was always Mani Rathnam till Roja happened :)

    2. I am not sure, the dialogs fell flat in some scenes, as in they sounded amateur relatively.

    3. That bird’s eye view was fantastic.

    4. True, that’s why the “gray”

    5. I need to watch the Hindi version soon!

    6. I am not sure. One, the size. Another, Vibhishina is the more sensible of the lot. But then, he doesn’t get killed.

    7. Casting in Hindi was always a suspect.


  5. I loved the way you referred the man as mani ra’th’nam. It’d be better if you had written Raththinam?

    Suhasini = EpicFail ! Who is the next Sujatha? We need him/her…

    Adi: Heh!


    1. But Suhasini have a role to play even in Iruvar’s dialogues? I know Sujatha too did. But lets not completely diss her :)


      1. Right, Iruvar was acceptable .. That was probably Mani’s english converted to tamil :)

        If i remember it still had bad dialogues – which used the words like “Kacchidham” etc. Was inserted… On the other hand, see aayitha ezhuthu or kannathil.


  6. “completely different take right from the start” – not exactly but there needs to be more differences to raise serious questions that the movie headed to. The movie(not just the promotions) claimed it was going to show Raavan and Ram in a different light, that wasnt fulfiled at all.

    “The upholder of dharma might not have made a great family man after all. ” – great line Mr. Wolf:)
    May I remind you this was part of the original and nothing new though.

    not just saying this, but you write very well:)

    Ps: Also, the peace maker was Vibhishan – some one who was ready to take a completely different sensible stand so. Prabhu’s gluttonous, more loyal could only mean Kumbokarnan. Other parallels like Jadayu I feel is a bit of a stretch, no point doing it just for the sake of it.

    Adi: It showed them in a different light in the sense that Ram’s bigger purpose being the end of Raavan and not saving Sita from his clutches. What am saying is, the expectations were more in the line of a narrative scene by scene approach than lurking in the bigger picture as the ultimate payoff.
    About the line not being new, I didn’t want to mention the spoiler on Ragini’s actions, which IS new and not part of the original. That shows Ram’s character in a different light despite the same actions.
    And yes, Prabhu is Kumbakarna.


    1. Can’t agree man, to the Kumbakarna part :)

      See wiki says-

      “When he was informed of the circumstances of Ravana’s war with Rama, he tried to convince Ravana that what he was doing was wrong.”

      But I also do agree that most reviews are going with the older one being Kumbhakarnan coz he seems better fed :)


  7. I *really* need to watch the Tamil version! What little I’ve seen of Vikram as Veera, I think he comes closer to what the movie set out to accomplish.

    I sat through the first half wondering what the hell was going on. Not literally but structurally speaking. And then the second half began and it was one of the more clever plays of the three act format I’ve seen. Very nicely done.

    But that first half, the second act of the play, is really key for a viewer I think – it demands a level of trust from you that’s really hard to fork over. If you can give it, the result is rewarding. The majority of people from what I saw, however, checked out long before the movie got around to presenting the first and third acts. Which explains the “my head is exploding!” reviews I guess. :D

    Adi: Ah do let me know what you think of the Tamil version!


  8. Now you realise why I dont do serious reviews? ppl brood and over analyse for days with comments that are bigger than teh post.

    all waste lands!

    Adi: Hahaha, She is like that everywhere. Blog comments/chat windows etc.!


  9. Great post !!!! The best part of the movie is the grey characterization…. Its a puzzle why people dont appreciate such a simple story ….!!!

    Adi: Yeah, sad.


  10. I really, really, REALLY liked the movie. It isn’t so much because I wasn’t expecting too much after all the mixed reviews I heard, but the movie was genuinely a treat to watch and to understand. Loved it – Vikram, the music, Prabhu -everything.

    Adi: And that’s rare!


  11. I thought he climax was funny. With police personnel to right and left side of Dev and all of them firing aimlessly, chances are high that Ragini standing just beside Veera would have been shot! There are no ambiguity as to the fate of hers.

    Adi: Mani usually goes for that visual spectacle that by all of them firing together he’s just signifying how determined Dev is to get rid of Veera.


  12. Nicely written. Here is my opinion.
    First of all, Vikram can portray well the rawness expected of Veera. AB Jr. is unable to shed his smooth exterior in that very role. Having said that, I think you’re being a little too charitable in this review. True that the cinematography was breathtaking, but one must admit that Mani did not have to do the same old clichés. Does every outlaw hate the police because some policemen raped his sister? Unbelievable cliché. The parallels drawn to The Ramayana need only be subtle. There is no need to tug at her nose just to make it clear that she is Soorpanakha!
    The only redeeming quality of the movie was the conflict that Mani tried to show. They grayness of there being no pure good or evil. Christopher Nolan handled that conflict much better in The Dark Knight. Also, Ragini’s character could have had much more layers as she could have been the audience’s representative within the movie. Her hatred/dread of Veera changing into curiosity and ultimately some form of affection would have been shown well had Mani Ratnam not chosen to hamstring himself with the limited histrionic scope of Aishwarya Rai.
    All in all, a one-time watch in Tamil, but a mess in Hindi!

    Adi: The casting surely was the key difference between the two versions. And am not sure how well the rustic setting worked in Hindi.


  13. You write so well that you raise the curiosity to watch even a mediocre movie ! Did not mean to say that Raavanan or Ravan is one .But after reading several bad reviews this one certainly presents a very good perspective to the movie. Yet to catch up with the film but will go with an open mind !

    Adi: Do watch it! And watch the Tamil one.


  14. I was hoping it wouldn’t be a negative review because I trust normal people’s reviews more sometimes. So, it’s cinema this Sunday. Thankee for a good review of Raavan. It was nice to read yet another rant against it.

    Adi: Yet another rant? You meant to say “not to read” right? Whats up drenched? Age catching up with you? :P


  15. Adi, you know I went to see Raavan on the first day and I dunno why I was so disappointed..! Some told me that it was because I saw the Hindi version and that the Tamil one is better…but I couldn’t even try watching it after that melodramatic Hindi one. Santosh Sivan’s work was excellent.. but I was wondering if the story-line tries too hard to stay within the limits of the Ramayana you know…eg. the nose-pinching n all that..

    The movie for me was like – Ok but not ok – Haha, if that makes any sense. :)


  16. Didn’t watch the Tamil version, which I will soon, but you’re right on about many things.
    I especially LOVED the way the “proposal” comes out – the spinning of the coracle/boat – is such a vivid description of his mind spinning.. lovely.

    I had no idea Suhasini wrote thsoe dialogs. :|
    I hated how there was no spark in them… sad.


  17. Agree with you on the Suhasini being the weakest link part, and the coracle scene. I saw Raavan, and somehow love the coracle scene, something tugging about it. And yes, the dialogues were as pathetic in Hindi as well.
    And though I loved the climax, I wish it was made better… Baby B didnt quite do the climax well enough!


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