Rang Rasiya: A sketchy portrait

A scene from the movie  

Genre: Biopic

Director: Ketan Mehta

Cast: Randeep Hooda, Nandana Sen, Paresh Rawal, Jim Boeven, Ashish Vidyarthi

In a film industry constantly looking for macho heroes, painters and scientists seldom become subjects of biopics.

Seasoned filmmaker Ketan Mehta breaks the norm by putting Raja Ravi Varma’s life on the canvas. While the intentions are noble and the message timely, the treatment is inconsistent.

The narrative lacks the dramatic pull to bind the concerns of Varma.

A complex character, the much feted painter democratised art by giving face to the gods and brought them out of the temples through affordable calendar art. One of the first to wed technology with art when he started a printing press, he turned god into an affordable commodity for the untouchables who were not allowed entry into temples. His influence in higher echelons was unmatched. A cultural ambassador, the saris that his muses wore in his paintings became a fashion statement for the rich and famous but the erotic element in his art became a matter of controversy as the puritans saw him as a destructive force.

Based on a Marathi novel by Ranjit Desai, Mehta brings all these issues into the narrative in a rather straight fashion.

In turning Varma, the champion of free expression, somebody who stood against the censorship of art, he glosses over the making of the artist.

How he developed fondness for the female form, the influence of European academic art in his works…. He comes across as a calculative soul who would develop physical intimacy with his muses for his paintings. The explicit nature of his affair with Sugandha (Nandana Sen), which is marketed as the highlight of the film seems rather forced in places. We miss his bond with the canvas, colours, oil and the brushes. Varma’s commercial outlook towards art and religion is debatable and Mehta does hint at the element of coincidence in his legacy but then conveniently pushes the imperfections aside creating incoherence. Perhaps, a flawed hero in a period film is still some distance away.

Randeep manages to convey the playful and manipulative side of Varma but when it comes to the craft and the inner turmoil of the painter, he flounders. Nandana has the classic beauty to present the right blend of the divine and the erotic but her stilted dialogue delivery comes in the way of the romantic interludes. Similarly, British characters speaking accented Hindi sound false.

Bottomline: Engaging in parts, the lack of material on the subject and the contemporary relevance of the points it raises makes us ignore the flaws in storytelling.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 11:17:40 PM |

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