Prakash Jha's Rajneeti and Mani Ratnam's Raavan draw heavily from the two epics Mahabharata and Ramayana

Two recent films have drawn heavily on the two epics- The Mahabharata and The Ramayana.

Prakash Jha's Rajneetiwith the power struggle as mainstay catches two clans fighting for supremacy and electoral victory in a modern day Mahabharat. With a big star-cast, shot mostly indoors it captures political machinations and the Machiavellian strategies.

The Karna episode, finds reflection in the caste conflict, an inseparable part of the political landscape, and the friend, philosopher and guide of the Pandavas, Krishna, all find place. Mani Ratnam had taken up the Karna episode earlier in his Dalapati, though not on a political template. Rajneeti follows the epic text closely with a repeat of the classic situations. Ranbir Kapoor is a scholar-turned- killer without a trace of moral compunction as he battles it out under the guidance of the political Krishna, Nana Patekar.

Mani Ratnam's Raavan, on the other hand, explores the underbelly of the manifestation of extremism and its root causes. The characters are few, the canvas the huge forest expanse and the conflict narrows down to two characters with the kidnap and police action.

The epic situations are, however, not faithfully followed but reversed. The Stockholm Syndrome talked about so much after IOC official Doraiswamy's kidnap on which Mani Ratnam's first major film Roja was based comesfull circle.

The romance of snow-capped mountains in Roja gives way to the waterfalls and the backwaters.

One is no doubt where the sympathies and finally the heart of the kidnapped Ragini lay. The denouement is not as much the climax as the values it underlines. The film is titled Raavan in Hindi and Tamil and for some inexplicable reason Villain in Telugu. He is not the khalnayak but pratinayak (anti-hero).

The ‘villain' loses the battle with dignity. The victory is hollow.

The film with a powerhouse performance by Vikram as ‘villain' is a cinematographic marvel. Vikram who shot to fame with his Sivaputrudu and Aparichituduis portraying not a personality disorder but the focus is on a more deep-rooted malaise in the system. The incidents could happen anywhere in any part of the country and have actually happened. Going by the subtext of the film one is tempted to ask though a little ungrammatically not who is Raavan but what is Raavan.

G.V.Prasada Sarma


Landslide victoryJune 17, 2010

Weak script plays spoilsportJuly 2, 2010