Ram-Leela: Engaging but endless

The film is a visual treat but fails to create an impact in terms of narrative.

Rafay Mahmood November 18, 2013
The film is a visual treat but fails to create an impact in terms of narrative. PHOTOS: FILE


Inspired by William Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram-Leela is sweeping, sensual and highly-stylised epic about two young, star-crossed lovers Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone) who hail from two tribes that have been at odds with each other for the better part of half a millennia. The plot of the film is no mystery if one is familiar with Romeo and Juliet’s sad tale. What is left for the viewer to look forward to is not what will happen, but when and how it will come to pass. A 21st century adaptation of such a well-known story is a daunting undertaking, and Ram-Leela does not definitively fail to do so in an interesting manner.

The film is a visual treat, boasting a kaleidoscopic array of colours, dazzling costumes and grandiose dance performances that keep one enthralled despite the predictable storyline. One thing which is quite unconventional in Ram-Leela is the length of the takes during the dance sequences. The song Takkada Takkada  — a catchy number with aggressive moves and traditional beats — doesn’t rely on the usual snappy editing techniques that result in a fast-paced, visual-savvy dance number. It displays the true skill of the dancers by keeping the camera rolling for quite some time.

As far as the lead performances are concerned, Ranveer Singh looks the part of a macho Indian-Romeo  — with his long hair, six-pack abs, and strong arms yearning for a lover to hold. However, he fails to translate the essence of the multi-layered character on screen. It is the same monotony of dialogue delivery that cost him Lootera which makes his portrayal of Ram flat and unconvincing.

This failure proves why the good old days of the 90s were much better in terms of talent, the time when Bollywood was producing real heroes and not young boys playing at being leading men. It was the rare combination of masculinity and skill that made the likes of Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor stand out as icons. Ram-Leela’s lead character required a masculine archetype to elevate the film to an interesting level, which has become a rarity among the new lot of actors. In other words, Ranveer is simply not man enough to carry the film on his (albeit strong looking) shoulders.

Deepika Padukone impresses with her dexterity in the dance sequences and the ease with which she transforms herself to fit the provincial character of Leela. Having said that, we have seen Aishwariya Rai do all of it before unforgettably, in Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. Padukone’s Leela is equal parts daring and innocent, but the unfortunate comparisons to predecessor Rai will mean that her portrayal sadly won’t bring her the recognition she truly deserves.

For a film that heavily relies on the intimacy between the two leads, one genuinely misses an actor like Emraan Hashmi, who has mastered the craft of creating chemistry on screen. It is an effortless approach towards such scenes that is missing between Ranveer and Deepika, despite what one might have seen in the trailer.

The music is melodious and the songs by Shreya Ghoshal are heartwarming lyrically, but at times unremarkable because of the stark similarities to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’s music. The biggest disappointment of the film is Priyanka Chopra, who fails to create any impact on the big screen in her dance number. Priyanka’s sex appeal is undeniable, so it might be a shortcoming on the part of the stylist and choreographer that they fail to make her look captivating as an item dancer.

Bhansali’s attention to detail results in a film that certainly teaches a lesson to aspiring film-makers, even if it is not necessarily the most important one. The film ultimately suffers from a triumph of style over substance. The ‘slow motion’ effect is one often used in film-making to emphasise the impact of a moment in time upon the viewer, and the technique generally succeeds in doing so. However, when used inappropriately, it is a sheer waste of the audience’s time and the film-maker’s resources. Ram-Leela’s gimmicky use of slow motion is to be expected from a rookie director, and not one of Bhansali’s calibre. It drags what had the potential to be an engaging film into a two hour and 45 minute long extravaganza that becomes a chore to sit through. While Ram-Leela had all the ingredients it needed to be a great film, it ultimately suffers from too much seasoning.

VERDICT: The vibrant visuals offer a stunning cinematic experience. Apart from that, it is unnecessarily slow and clichéd story-telling at its best. The feel is quite similar to Bhansali’s earlier films, so if you are a fan then get your ticket now. For everyone else, sitting through the film can be a very trying test of patience.

Score: 3/5

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lolz | 8 years ago | Reply

So this is what the homeless humanity of India escapes to, before heading home to an even more meaningless, fake life. My source: every rabid Indian reaction here.

Hamid bhai | 8 years ago | Reply

shhh. no. dun talk about indian movies. later mubashir uncle will get angry and talk full sense in his talk show. pls watch zakir by heart naik. try to under how to reach allah fast

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