The mother of all good vs. evil mythologies is back again, in probably the biggest canvas and, on paper, one of the best crew in the country having half a dozen movie directors associated with it. So is the outcome as volcanic as another of the epic adaptation released a few weeks ago, or it is too many cooks? It falls somewhere in between…
Lal Maati ka saint sinner Beera Munda (Abhishek) is a rebel against the system and has humongous people following. His brothers Siddharth (Ravi Kishan) and Hari (Ajay Gehi) are his shield. Encounter specialist cop Dev Pratap Sharma (Vikram) is on a sole mission to destroy Beera’s empire. But Beera & bros have other accounts to settle with Dev and his brother and deputy Laxman (Nikhil Dwivedi), which relates to gory past atrocities involving their sister Serena (Priyamani). Beera kidnaps Dev’s newly wed wife Ragini (Aishwarya) and dares Dev to locate and take her back.
Ragini is a courageous woman, who does not break down while in custody and also observes multiple faces of Beera’s characteristics – angry, revengeful, humane, pure at heart and well behaved. She also understands that his motive to keep her captive is not to harm her in any way, and slowly she develops a soft corner for him. Dev and his team get help from suspended forest guard Sanjeevani (Govinda) who knows the jungle inside out. He succeeds in locating Ragini and brings Hari along with him to Dev to settle for a truce. But cunning policeman bumps him off, thus leading to counter attacks and bloodshed…
The plot is designed around a number of key aspects during Lord Ram’s exile in the Ramayan. These aspects are extrapolated, some in line with the original epic and some given different shades, to create the complete storyline. This integration does not seem convincing and seamless, and that is where the writer Mani Ratnam falls way behind the director Mani Ratnam. The production design, cast, action, cinematography, choreography – each aspect is handled brilliantly, yet the final product is far from being cohesive and one hardly sympathize much with either of the main protagonists. Dialogue are major let down, as they lack the depth and intensity needed for such adaptation. Instead of Vijay Krishna Acharya, Mani should have brought in Vishal Bhardwaj or Gulzar to write the lines, the skill both are masters of and are well versed with the northern belt dialect.
The movie is brilliantly shot across southern, western and northern states of the country, but the story canvas, songs, get ups, mannerisms overall tilt it to be more southern than original northern background. Interestingly, characters which are supposed to be protectors of law and society do have negative shades, and the others who are on the wrong side tend more towards humanity and core values. There are direct translations and character mapping from the original epic – Sita Haran, Jatayu, Hanuman, violation of Shoorpnakha, AgniPareeksha, critically injured Laxman and deceptive Raavan Vadh, some of them are actually well shot. The writer / director didn’t get the courage to show Sita’s end after Raavan’s end though.
Of the crew, Santosh Siwan & Manikandan, Sham Kaushal & Peter Hein, Samir Chanda and Gulzar provide the best in their respective departments of cinematography, action, set design and lyrics. Editor Sreekar Prasad tried his best to contain it within a little over two hours, but couldn’t do anything to make the first hour any better.
Performances: Priyamani, Ravi Kishan and Nikhil Dwivedi excel in their small but important roles. Both Priyamani and Vikram make decent debuts in Hindi films. Aishwarya does her part earnestly and looks divine as a strong woman of substance, but at places she is let down by the writing which doesn’t allow her more than screaming her lungs out. Maharaja Govinda needn’t have adopted the monkey tricks ditto, while playing modern Hanuman, and for a change, his comedy doesn’t work a bit. The only comic scene I found in the movie was Ragini’s group photo shoot with Beera’s gang. Finally, Abhishek tries hard, too hard, to create a ten head throughput by being angry, subtle, loudly comic, happy etc all with different face packs, thereby hams like never before. His characterization and lines unfortunately don’t help him at all to make this magnanimous role alive. Sadly, this will be a big opportunity missed for him.
Music: The songs “Beera Beera”, “Ranjha Ranjha”, “Behne De” and “Thok De Killi” are well written and composed by Gulzar / Rahman. Still a couple of shades lighter as a complete album than Rahman’s previous work in “Delhi–6”.