RAM-LEELA

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is out once again to win us over with his colourful tapestry of a romantic tragedy. After working with black and blue, this time his palette is multi-coloured both in terms of ambience and emotions. He loves to create a spectacle, where extravagance often comes in the way of expression of emotions.

Here, in the opening sequence, he establishes that he is taking us to a fanciful world where ‘free for all’ rules and he lives by it as the film progresses.

Drawing from the Bard’s Romeo and Juliet and his own roots in Gujarat, Bhansali has set the love story in the midst of two warring clans. The tragic romance has been replicated so many times in Hindi cinema that the only way you can generate some respect is by flaunting Shakespeare’s name.

What we look forward to is the treatment, and to his credit Bhansali has been able to imbue a couple of unexpected twists. There are passages in the first half that ignite the imagination as we get to experience the fire of youthful passion and the melody of melodrama when playful turns tragic without notice.

Bhansali has been able to explore the depth in Deepika Padukone’s talent. For a change, her feisty persona is not urban and for the most part she manages to sail through the tide.

It is less personal than Bhansali’s previous works, but the indulgence is palpable.

Once again in an attempt to mount an epical love story with mythical metaphors, Bhansali stretches the script beyond its elasticity and ends up delivering a picturesque, but overwritten postcard.

Ram-Leela looks visually appetising with his interplay of light and shadows, but begins to feel staged after a point.

The costumes and choreography look more seamless than the screenplay. Be it the pathos or passion, there is a lot of posturing. There are scenes where we are more interested in appreciating the background rather than the conflict in the front. Priyanka Chopra’s item number is enchanting as a music video, but in the film it only slackens the pace.

Arms have never been his ammunition. Here Bhansali bites the bullet, but somehow the maverick fails to keep anything raw or subtle. As he gets hold of both guns and roses, he goes for the overkill. Instead of filling us with fear, the shootouts are reduced to delectable works of choreography. As for the between the lines stuff, Bhansali fails to justify his steps towards embracing the new wave. For a change the spirited girl called Leela (Deepika Padukone) makes the first move here, as Bhansali shows how love begins with physical attraction. The bravado is cosmetic as after planting a kiss on an unknown boy’s lips when Leela creates a chance for the next step, knowing fully well that Ram (Ranveer Singh) belongs to the rival faction, she ends up breaking into a safe dance number.

Also, all that talk of Ram standing up for the safety of women sounds pretentious because the film first celebrates the flirty attitude of Ram and then suddenly turns him into a saviour, conveniently forgetting that this pacifist Ram earns his bread by selling pornography. Is it not violence on women? One is not asking to be straitjacketed, but dealing with conflicting ideas germinating from the story is important.

The intrinsic logic is baffling here. Here a corrupt police officer chooses X-rated films over hefty bribe and the matriarch’s (Supriya Pathak) attempts to marry her daughter Leela to a joker seem straight out of a glossy romcom.

The use of rhyming words in scenes of pleasure and pain sounds refreshing, but soon Bhansali goes for the excess.

In the second half things get increasingly muddled as Bhansali aims for a tearful crescendo, which never really comes because we miss the heartbeat beneath the layers of colour and costume.

The Gujarati accent comes and goes. The role of Ram required the freestyle ways of Salman Khan and a few years ago he would have been the ideal choice for the role. Ranveer does unshackle himself, but the charisma to behold the audience when the writing begins to slack is missing. Six-packs can’t do the talking all the time! Pathak shows how to chew the scenery as she dons shades of grey with conviction. Similarly, Gulshan Devaiah looks promising from the sidelines and Richa Chaddha impresses in the limited frames she has as she nails the accent.

There is more lilt in the Ravi Varman cinematography than in Bhansali’s music, who rehashes some of the timeless melodies from his own films.

Deepika’s charming presence and the way she serenades Ranveer could well hook teenagers to this brash Leela.

RAJJO

Courtesans are a diminishing species in Hindi cinema. Here, director Vishwas Patil attempts to show that the red light area in Mumbai have pockets where mujra is still a reality, where there is some finesse left in the flesh trade. Patil has drawn from an interesting story where the son of a bhajan singer gets attracted to a hooker because he is impressed with her dancing talent and music. It is an interesting bond to explore, but what we get is a simplistic portrayal riddled with clichés that we associate with films set in a similar milieu. A dwarf helper, a parrot in the brothel and a eunuch who helms the affairs, it all seems dated.

Here, a 21-year-old boy Chandu (Paras Arora is ordinary) is eager to experience the pleasures of the red light area, but when he gets the opportunity to meet the star attraction of the brothel called Rajjo (Kangna Ranaut) he comes across as a naïve teenager from another world. How the platonic relationship takes the shape of love and marriage forms the rest of the story.

It is a kind of film where the concept looks promising on paper, but is marred by a heavy-handed approach. There are unexplained jumps in screenplay and convenient shift in locations. Kangna looks out of sync with the character. Never a great dancer, here her movements fail to justify her passion. Perhaps that’s why in the climax she gets to wear a costume where her figure becomes the highlight rather than the steps. Despite talented names like Mahesh Manjrekar and Prakash Raj, the dialogues are just mouthed and not felt.

You don’t care for the plight of the girl nor do you fear for the boy. It pans out like a television serial where the conflict never comes to the boiling point and the tension seldom permeates through the screen.