I tried hard to like it. Especially with expectations at rock bottom because of bad reviews, I thought that the only way to go is up. Well, to put it mildly, I didn’t find much elevation.
Raavan is a reminder that even with all the technical brilliance in the world, you can’t salvage a poor screenplay. Films are about telling a story effectively (for me, at least). Good story telling is not the same as a good story. Good story telling is about maintaining a thread. About going about with a preplanned structure to the proceedings. Gradually invoking that mood and ambience in your audience with your characters. But what you see in the first half is snippets of 1-2 minute images and songs without firm connections to the preceding or succeeding scenes for almost an entire hour. You see Beera and Ragini staring at each other. Then you see Dev in some segment of a hunt. Cut to Beera breaking into a song. Then back to Ragini shrieking at Beera. And so on. May be Maniratnam was trying to be innovative here. But it didn’t work.
I was trying to think, why didn’t this film satisfy me? I think it is the lack of emotional impact. Only place where Maniratnam got a little of that ‘Anjali’ magic working was with the story of Jhamuniya. The main problem is that the relation between Beera and Ragini, which is supposedly the back bone of the whole story, does not get the patience and attention it requires in terms of writing. Here the improbable love between two widely disparate characters occurs in quick fixes.
I see a backlash of reviews in the net trying to establish Raavan as having mysterious layers which the reviewers missed. May be it has, or may be its just those rings you start to see after staring into the sun for a long time. But the point is, if the text doesn’t excite you, who cares about the subtext? (if it exists).
One thing that can’t be taken away is the innovation in depicting some sequences. Songs and background scores have been put to use in a way never seen before (And at times the innovation grates). Camera and editing have pushed the limits. Raavan may still be the best film to come out in the last few months. Having said that, it is sad what low standards we are trying to set for ourselves.