After watching ‘Ravanan' play out on the screen and a chat with Vikram and Prithviraj, who play the lead roles along with Aiswarya Rai Bachchan, one wonders about the eternal right vs wrong debate with reference to the epic and Mani Ratnam's magnum opus
Ram/Ravanan and Ram (Vikram who dons two opposing roles in the Hindi and Tamil versions as the modern day Ram and Ravanan and Prithviraj Sukumaran, who plays Ram in Tamil) sat joking and chatting, fielding questions with light hearted banter during the exclusive interview with Metroplus at Kochi.
Sometimes getting serious, recollecting the memorable shooting days of ‘Raavan' and ‘Ravanan' and sometimes trying to shake off controversial questions in a polite teasing way, the two made a chummy pair at the penthouse of Dream Hotel.
Mani Ratnam's latest cinematic offering in three languages (in Telugu it's called ‘Villain' and it's the dubbed Tamil version) is certainly eye candy and beauty in its unalloyed version is seen in all three, via Manikandan's and Santhosh Sivan's camera. It's one long visual delight. Period.
Vikram has achieved a hat trick of sorts, his unforgettable ‘Anniyan' role will be eclipsed by ‘Ravanan's. And Prithviraj has proved that his arrogance matches his talent, and the road is all clear for his way to Numero Uno, provided directors use him well, and he polishes his dancing skills. When and how soon is the only question. Prithviraj as Dev, the SP whose wife Ragini is kidnapped by Veerayya, has made sure that he does not falter even in one scene. “His Tamil is really good,” chips in Vikram. “Oh no, it is still a ‘foreign' language for me,” Prithviraj says, trying hard to be modest. For Vikram, who got a plum plus opportunity playing both hero and anti hero, it is an opportunity of a lifetime, to display his histrionic skills and body. Which role is better? “Dev is the star and Veera, the actor,” he puts it, very diplomatically. So he got to be the ‘star actor'! Reliance Big Cinema releases it and it's Mani Ratnam's own production.
All those stunts were really risky, Vikram and Prithviraj point out. “Sometimes, we would ask Aiswarya whether the bruises were make-up or real,” says Vikram. Aiswarya's dubbing in Tamil is not bad at all, but she has very few dialogues, actions speak louder. It is to her credit that though nearly a decade older than Prithviraj, she makes a handsome pair with him. She also did the risky scenes very boldly, according to Vikram. “There was just a single wire as back up to support us and an accident can never be ruled out,” Prithviraj feels. Vikram chose to skip the controversy over the dive at Hogenekkal, but he said his dive (a very beautiful one, when the movie begins) was done by the proxy, Balram. One wonders whether the dive, in a long shot has to be done separately for both versions. Maybe. The scenes on a wooden bridge at the fag end of the movie do make you sit up and it's a very edge-of –seat type sequence, and they are nothing short of excellent. Most of the scenes are in dim light and dominated by water, when it is not the forests. One misses a few daylight sequences thrown in between just to highlight the other scenes.
Prabhu's Friar Tuck kind of image, Karthik in a Hanuman avatar, Priyamani as Veera's sister, put up good performances. Mani Ratnam has made allowances for the hated demon king, down the ages and given him the benefit of the doubt, long overdue. It is a truly human angle that needed to be explored. The grey between the white and black is often missed in real life. So, whether Dev or Veera is the real Ravana is debatable, in the modern Ramayana Mani Ratnam has crafted. While creating parallels to Sita, Ram, Ravana, Hanuman and the other puranic characters, Mani Ratnam perhaps had to compromise on the plot, for it lacks the finesse of say, ‘Kannathil Muthamittal' or ‘Roja', the subject of which is also kidnapping.
Too much of a good thing, that's what the visuals are. Also, visuals plus good acting don't necessarily make a film good, if something is lacking in the plot or there is too much of background score. The viewer looks for a break from it all. Vairamuthu's lyrics are tuned by A R Rahman. The songs are okay.
As for the Hindu version, Vikram says he had to practise the dialogues hard. “And they say it is Hindi, all right,” he jokes, as Karthik, the Vikram Fans Association guy in Kerala, comes to tell us that they have to leave for the theatre for the film's promotion just before the afternoon show.