I have just got back from Mani Ratnam Raavan
and I am still in shock.
It was amazing
- brutal, bleak, gorgeous, passionate. Like a dark, fevered dream you have and are half-sad, half-grateful to wake from.
Raavan is a modern-day take on the story of Ramayana - it starts when, in a nameless lawless South province, a local thug leader named Bheera (Abhishek Bachchan) kidnaps Ragini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), a wife of the local police inspector Dev (Vikram), setting forth a cycle of violence and revenge.
First off, this is probably the most visually arresting movie I have ever seen - the colors (black, grey and yellow for Bheera, red and ochre for Ragini, kahkee and green for Dev), the visual images, the contrasts. It really does not even need a story or performances, it is that amazingly shot.
But luckily for me, it has both. The three leads - Abhishek, Aishwarya, and Vikram, ably supported by secondary characters' actors, all hit it out of the park. Abhishek's Bheera is the center of the story - violent, unhinged, magnetic. Just as Ragini, I was repelled and drawn to him simultaneously. I don't think Abhishek is a good traditional Bolly star - he doesn't have the wattage Hrithik Roshan or SRK can provide with a single smile in the most barebones movie. But I think that he is a very good actor
when given the chance - and that chance is there for him in Mani Ratnam movies (or Ram Gopal Varma ones). I could not tear my eyes from him in this role (and could not imagine more traditional Bolly stars in it at all). He takes a character which is rather extreme, in some ways more animal than man (though it becomes slowly apparent in the second half that he was not always like this and we see him in extremis) and makes him as one you ultimately root for.
If Bheera is the center of the story, Aishwarya's Ragini is its soul. She has always been beautiful, but here, wet, disheveled, bruised, with minimal make-up, she shines. More importantly, her character is fierce
. I can totally understand why Bheera ends up falling in love with her - she is just as fierce and fearless as he is. More. And her chemistry with Abhishek is insane. I have always thought that Abhishek was one of the very few actors Aishwarya had chemistry with (just as well, as they are married :P) but I have never seen it quite like this before - the screen almost pulsated with it - I was never sure whether they were going to kill each other or have ridiculously hot dirty sex right there in the rain and mud.
I have never seen Vikram in anything before (I am not that familiar with Tamil movies), but I really want to watch more of him now (starting with Raavaana - the Tamil version of this, in which he plays Abhishek's role). He is magnetic and scary - so scary - just as Ragini, I started the movie rather loving his stern but righteous inspector/loving husband combo (ha!) and ended up disgusted and terrified. ( More of my review/thoughts. Here start spoilers )