The trouble is that the master craftsman, whose films used to work due
to its offbeat storyline and unique presentation, has changed his
focus to Hindi cinema.
In the process he has lost touch with his roots and ends up making a
film which does not have strong Tamil nativity or flavour.
But having said that, Raavanan is good in parts, an off-kilter
cinematic experience. It is technically the finest movie made in
recent times, superb camerawork of Santosh Sivan and Manikandan, never
seen before stunning locales (in India) and crisp editing.
The major plus is the actors Vikram, Aishwarya Rai, Prithviraj, Prabhu
and Karthik are very good and keep us engrossed, but the story and
screenplay by Mani Ratnam and Suhasini are a big let down.
The story is wafer thin and Mani has based it pretty much on Ramayan,
with a cop, and the Robin Hood story set in a forest with some twists
Veera (Vikram), a Robin Hood-like guy also known as Raavanan, and his
elder brother Singam (Prabhu) live in a tribal village somewhere near
Ambasamudram in Tiruneveli. They mete out instant justice and run
Kattapanchayat, but are loved, respected and feared by the locals.
Dev (Prithviraj), the Ram character is the Superintendent of Police.
He is on the hunt with other cops and a forest guard (Karthik), a new
age Hanuman, for Raavanan, who has taken his wife Ragini (Aishwarya
Rai,) the modern day Sita, as hostage.
Veera has a personal score to settle with Dev and the cops whom he
believe is responsible for his sister Vennila’s (Priyamani) custodial
rape and subsequent suicide.
Meanwhile, Ragini, who initially abhors Veera and thinks he is a
brutal beast, later discovers that her god like husband is no saint
and has dark shades in his character, too.
All this leads to a riveting climax on the cliffs.
The highlight of the film, as mentioned earlier, is the technical
wizardry. Mani’s choice of lush locales fits in with the realistic
sets and props erected by art director Samir Chanda, and captures the
ethos and milieu effectively.
Water is the main motif throughout the film – the waterfall, the
characters having long conversations as it rains continuously, the
song and celebrations in rain.
You can feel and touch the greenery, the moss in the forest as Santosh
Sivan’s camerawork is pure magic and his use of natural lighting gives
the film that raw, colourful, serene look.
The climax fight between Vikram and Prithviraj on the bridge is
extraordinary, with picture perfect top angle shots and camera
However, AR Rahman’s music and Mani’s song picturisation and
placement, for which he is famous, is pretty ordinary. Songs act as a
speed breaker and is not needed, but has been thrust in for commercial
In fact, during post interval, two songs come back-to-back within a
span of five minutes. The particular song has been introduced to show
Veera’s love for his sister, Thangachipasam Mani style!
Vikram as Veera towers above all. He brings a primal mixture of
beauty, affection and savagery to the character. You can feel the
earnestness of his intentions and the wetness of his tears, especially
in the climax. He adds the little touches that make all the difference
to his character and you can’t take your eyes off him.
Armed with the film’s best-written role, Aishwarya Rai has made a
sensational comeback as Ragini, whose fear and hatred for Veera gives
way to a sneaking admiration for her captor. She is mesmeric and has
come out with an award-winning performance.
Prithviraj is the ideal foil for Vikram, and is good, especially in
the final subtle showdown with Aishwarya.
Priyamani does her best in her cameo appearance, while Prabhu and
Karthik are hilarious and make a mark.
The film lacks the Mani Ratnam touch in the story and screenplay
department, and has a wobbly first half, where the story just does not
move. The last 10 minutes are the best part of this 2 hours 7 minutes
film. Mani Ratnam is better off doing straight Tamil ventures than
making such hybrid variety films that fall between two stools.
Raavanan will never feature among Mani Ratnam 10 best films.
Nonetheless, it is not to be missed.
Verdict: Above Average