June 18, 2010 Y. Sunita Chowdary
Cast: Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Prithviraj, Karthik, Priyamani and Others.
Action: Sham Kaushal, Peter Hein.
Banner: Madras Talkies, Reliance Big Pictures.
Cinematography: Santosh Sivan, V. Manikandan.
Choreography: Ganesh Acharya, Brinda, Shobana, Astad Deboo.
Editing: Sreekar Prasad.
Lyrics: Veturi Sundararama Murthy.
Music: AR Rahman.
Producer(s): Mani Ratnam, Sharada.
Screenplay & Director: Mani Ratnam.
Release Date: June 18, 2010
It's Mani Ratnam's Ramayan revisited, the only difference being glorification of Raavan. The first thought after entering the theatre is to book tickets to see the Ash-Abhi chemistry come alive again, but that would be a foregone conclusion.
To put it in a nutshell, a tribal outlaw Veera kidnaps Ragini, a dancer and wife of the local SP Dev (Prithviraj) as he has taken upon himself to root him out. The title is Raavan because the nicer qualities in a raw personality have been highlighted and the baser instincts surface from a sophisticated SP. The entire story is set in Veera's settlement, in hostile terrain, woods, hills and water falls and we are shown Ragini following him.
Sometimes she is tied to a tree, sometimes handcuffed, blindfolded and left between hills. Dressed in thick rags, she suddenly appears in a neatly stitched blouse and raw silk saree. Aishwarya looks ethereal, just an eye candy, what you get to see of her is her numerous rock climbing and trekking skills.
What Veera speaks is gospel for the people, his path is trajectory and like the ten heads in the mythology, he has ten facets to his personality. Karthik has just put on little weight and looks good, he is personification of Hanuman and comes with a missive to the SP's wife. The opinionated woman questions why her husband has sent him instead of he being present there. She is so strong willed and full of pride, that in her opening scene she jumps from a precipice anticipating her end.
The artistes who shine through this film are Vikram and Priyamani, they actually strike a chord with the audiences and the psychological realism is confined to both the characters and is convincingly handled. Her dialogue in the police shirt before her death, the motivations, emotions are precisely captured. The remaining relationships look superficial. The dubbing is substandard, one can't understand half the Telugu that characters speak.
Prithviraj is good in one scene when Aishwarya Rai questions him if he had come looking out for her or to capture Veera. Prithviraj's gaze is focused on his goal. Vikram slips into his role with ease and has justified his presence in the film.
This film is a sublime accomplishment for the cinematographer Santosh Sivan. Right from showing Aishwarya falling onto the crackling tree to the picturesque, chilly and oppressive woods and to the lady's eye ball in a close up..every frame is striking and fascinating.
Strangely, this forest has no wild animals, reptiles except for a lone eagle. There is a gruesome scene of Veera chopping of his brother-in-law's hand and he coming sliding down with his body part ensconced safely. The songs except for the title one doesn't make for good listening.
In Villain's case, Mani Ratnam's genius doesn't lie so much in its content, as in it's presentation. If you want to see Villain or for that matter any vernacular version, go for the cinematography, his visual poetry and yes Vikram's performance and Aishwarya Rai's kinetics. Villain ends up as a boring film, something that doesn't require serious meditation.