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RayDVD, Rs. 5992004, Universal PicturesDirected by Taylor HackfordScreenplay by Taylor Hackford and James L. White Starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, C. J. Sanders and Sharon WarrenRay is the story of the one-dollar bill man who goes on to rake in millions.The blind pianist, singer and composer went from abject poverty to become one of America's most celebrated musicians. It is also the tale of a heroin addict who couldn't handle his success and turned out to become a callous lover and a cold-hearted friend.Though the film is over two-and-a half-hours long, it does manage to hold the viewer's attention. Lead actor Jamie Foxx's virtuoso performance is well complemented with superb performances especially from C.J. Sanders as the young Ray, Sharon Warren as Ray's mother Aretha Robinson, and Kerry Washington as Ray's wife Della Bea Robinson. Others who put in top-notch performances include Regina King (Margie Hendricks) and Harry Lennix as the successful Ray's suave manager Joe Adams.
One big drawback is that the DVD released in India does not have subtitles. Without them, it's often difficult to catch the nuances in the dialogues, especially because the black American's style of speaking is hard to follow. Apparently the DVD contains two discs and only one was sent for the review. The film's focal point is to depict Ray's sharpened sense of sound. In one of the long bus journeys with Lowell Fulson's band playing across cities in America, Ray tells the bus driver his ears have become his eyes. He hears sounds that a normal human being would overlook. When he is courting his wife-to-be, Della Bea he tells her of the sound of the humming bird and only when Della shuts off all other sounds she is able to hear the bird outside. This gift of extraordinary hearing is what makes Ray a superb musician.Ray's success is largely due to the entrepreneurship of Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, who were the bosses of Atlantic Records. Ertegun makes Ray evolve his own style instead of being a wannabe Nat King Cole. Ertegun's lyrics in the song "Messing Around" is rendered in Ray's own novel style and the hits keep flowing after that. America swings its hips to the numbers "I Got a Woman" which mixes gospel and foot-stomping stuff. The new style has its detractors as one couple accuse him of "making money off the Lord" but his fans far outnumber the detractors. Jerry Wexler rechristens `race music' to `rhythm and blues' in an article in the Billboard magazine and very soon Ray crosses over from a predominantly black audience to include `honky' fans gyrating on the beach to his smash hit "What'd I Say". Other smash hits that find their way into the movie are " Unchain My Heart" (which Joe Cocker sexed up in the '90s version) and "Georgia on My Mind" which went on to become the official song of the State of Georgia. Ironically it was in Georgia that Ray openly came out supporting the black cause by cancelling a gig he was scheduled to do.It may seem inappropriate to review Ray two years after it was released, but as his second death anniversary is coming up (June 10) it would be fitting to pay tribute to the incomparable genius now. Taylor Hackford, who directed the film, stresses repeatedly in a commentary that the movie is a musical. In reality, the music comes off second best in this visually powerful film. Particularly brilliant is the camera work of Pawel Edelman who captures the outdoor locales magnificently. The scenes that deal with young Ray's life are the work of an ace craftsman. Every flashback scene is sheer artistry and adds so much to the film.D. RAVISHANKAR