The low-caste Beera rules the forest in Raavan, Mani Ratnam?s richly atmospheric adaptation of the Indian epic The Ramayana.
Though the film takes place in the present, Mr Ratnam?s forest remains an appropriately primeval place for mythic doings, full of fog and mists and rain and Beera?s mud-painted followers (shades of ?Apocalypse Now?).
Raavan (Ravana in Sanskrit), as every Indian knows, is the demon in The Ramayana who kidnaps Sita, the wife of Rama: king, deity and model husband (as Sita is the model wife).
Early on in Ratnam?s film the question is asked: Is Beera (a gleefully hammy Abhishek Bachchan) Robin Hood or Raavan? He?s both ? and more a hero in this telling, set on his turf, than is the Rama character, a cop called Dev (Vikram), who matches Beera in brutality and cunning, but not in heart.
Raavan has Bollywood glamour aplenty, with the lovely if occasionally dramatically challenged Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Abhishek?s wife, playing the Sita stand-in.
The real star, though, is Ratnam, a talented visual storyteller who directs action crisply and fills the screen with striking images. (One, of Bachchan?s falling body landing gracefully on a tree branch, is so good he uses it three times.)
Artful but not arty, Ratnam, whose films include Dil Se and Guru delivers the goods: There are songs and dances (A R Rahman of Slumdog Millionaire fame did the excellent score), and an eye-popping climactic battle, between the bad-good Beera and the good-bad Dev, on a teetering suspension bridge. And that, folks, is entertainment.
This film has been designated as a Critics' Pick.
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