A Raavan by any other name…

10 Jul

This is not about dissing Raavan… though it made me irritable as I watched (and more irritable after). It is not about criticizing the writing/story/plot since the vigil idiot (www.thevigilidiot.com) has done that in style… It is certainly not about making fun of anything in the movie… the comments by various people trying to save face and defend near and dear ones were funny enough (and went a long way to prove exactly the opposite of what they claimed!)

the promos promised way too much!

...it could have been...

It is about a rather more serious issue! It prompts the question that William S first seemed to have asked – Naam se kya fark padta hai, meri jaan?

…RAAVAN…

We, fortunately, live in a society that is more or less tolerant of anyone questioning, re-interpreting our cultural pillars and scriptures etc. (except for the hate-mongers of course) But with great power, said one American mythological character, comes great responsibility. That is to say, if one wants to offer an interpretation, one should make it count! It should add to the canon… it should provoke/deride/re-energize/redress or even just plain entertain! Undermine the institution if you wish… Now the question is… are you able to… do you really have something to say?

But do let’s give credit where its due. The fact that such a project was concieved. That stars were roped in to do the do (actually that cuts both ways, with performances being what they were). That that much money was spent on an idea like this and taken to the masses. That the visuals were what they were, that such a world was created. For some of my friends, just that Raavan was thought of, and that it reflected at least sparsely, the great ideological clashes that plague the understanding of our mythology and literature, would have been value for money. But who else (apart from our insignificant minority) pays or cares for the thought? Execution is what has separated Mani Ratnam from other filmmakers in the past, and will continue to do so in the future, I’m sure.

Now to my main point… the name itself…

…Raavan…

Like my Mother said, “Why has he used such a heavy mythological name?”, unmindful of the weight of her words on the shoulders of the filmmaker, “A simple ‘Beera’ would have been fine!” There is more home grown wisdom behind this epiphany than Mother would care to analyse…

Just – if you will indulge me – imagine this movie with the name ‘Beera’. Imagine that the film was not publicised as being a Ramayan interpretation. If the film’s PR will argue back that they did nothing of the kind, then imagine that the publicity had no Ramayan overtones, no references, no articles in newspapers speculating whether Abhishek and Aishwarya were playing Ram and Sita! No whiff of Ramayan at all…

Just a thriller about a powerful, charismatic brigand, who stood up for the rights of the downtrodden and his precocious, and perhaps honourable, battle to bring the attention of the haves to the plight of the have nots, overcoming his urge for personal revenge because he fell in love on the way (having being struck by the courage and strength of his abductee) … His life is doomed to tragedy, but also, he is validated, martyred, emancipated…

Now imagine the references in dialogue… ten voices in my head, can’t decide what’s right, that leads me to rage, I am filled with self-confidence, bouyed by the righteousness of my cause, their women are women, our women not worth respect? my sister was wronged and so I will abduct one of their women, so they will know how it feels…

The references in story… and you’re thinking… Hey, its like the Ramayan man! Wow that’s cool! Not that we could have ignore all the flaws… but still… I feel that the similarities to the Ramayan would have been hailed, and the writer/filmmaker credited for such subtlety, and the dissimilarities or inanities resulting out of twisting the original structure of the Ramayan, and the poor analogies, forgiven, to a certain extent, because there was no claim of similarity to the Ramayan in the first place… That’s the key – no claim in the first place… While this still may not have rung the box office cash registers, it would certainly mitigated harsh words from critics… and perhaps encouraged discussion on the issues touched upon in the film as well as led to some re-examination of the epic itself among some viewers…

…So why was I irritated? Why is this a serious issue?

No matter denials like who said it was based on the Ramayan etc. The fact that your film is named Raavan…the baggage this brings with it… the weight the film is already carrying before it even begins… was perhaps too much…

…And then when one comes across genius in bits and pieces… for eg. when Beera asks…

Had you not been married, would you have stayed?

 … as he moves round and round on the basket-like boat, the twitter of children about him, swiftly turning his head again and again, transfixing her with his, at once, stoic and love-filled, gaze…

…would you?

The descent into the forest… so sublime… a journey into another world… but whenever Dev opens his mouth, I want to drown… (I’m sure its not his fault entirely).

Too many sparks but nothing to hold them together – nothing that ould be called a well told story.

I have not read/heard a single person talk of the Ramayan after having watched Raavan… It was either ‘visually superb’ or ‘bakwaas, but visually superb’. Maybe Mani Ratnam just picked a jaded topic… What with the name of Ram being used to perpetrate all sorts of nefarious activities… everyone’s had enough….

And that’s just the thing. As it is our appetite for serious debate is all but extnguished… it has to be funny, derisive of somebody, and done in 3 mins… and then its fit for consumption… So what little space we keep for rigorous debate on mythological subjects has been occupied and ruined… at least for the near future. It queers the pitch for those who actually have something to say. The audience have their ears full, their walls up, and their wallets firmly shut…

I’m up for the next Mani Ratnam film though… funnily enough, even more eagerly after Raavan… His comeback is going to be awesome, I feel…

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