A circling cue in Raavanan

(continuing a theme from my older piece…)

It is not symmetric inversion that Rathnam treats the Ramayana tropes to as much as a turning of the circle or re-perspectivization keeping intact the basic parameters of the story. This has been missed in much of the critical commentary so far. Imagine a circle split in two with one half being Rama’s, the other half being Raavana’s and Sita being this line that cuts across the circle or the ‘non-space’ at which the two worlds of the two male protagonists meet. An imaginary line really. Where Rama’s reign ends and where Raavana’s lair begins depends on Sita. She sets the limits either way. To ‘write’ an alternative Ramayana is to often invert the central value systems of this universe. But another way to do it is to simply operate from within Raavana’s lair and to examine how the world seems from this vantage point. Rathnam’s film is not really ‘about’ Raavana, it is about what happens in Raavana’s kingdom. It is in essence about Asokavanam (rumored to be the Tamil title at one point) and about what happens at Raavana’s site. It is not really a biographical fiction revolving around Raavana. In much the same way it is not meant to be a reconfiguration of the Ramayana as much as it a ghosting of this epic (which is hardly ‘one version’, not even one ‘canonical’ version). The latter is a backdrop against which this contemporary tale takes place. The film introduces cracks in the body of tradition, the film is a compendium of such interstices. Which is why it has to be compact and oblique, even perhaps opaque. And it is a story of Raavana and Sita inasmuch as only the latter can truly enter Raavana’s lair. Only she can see the world through his eyes. Everywhere else the canonical domain of Rama reigns.

A key scene in the film establishes all of this. Following the cue of the Tamil version one might call this the ‘koodathu’ scene. Veera is standing on a boat which is being spun around on the water. As Veera keeps turning with the boat he suddenly notices Ragini on the river-bank dressed for the very first time in tribal clothing or for the very first time distinctly marked by the ethos of Asokavanam. Veera admires Ragini, is attracted to her but here perhaps for the very first time he can imagine her as a ‘native’ or naturalized to his world. But we never get a clear stable shot of Ragini because the camera like the boat keeps doing a 360. Never completely. Because half of that 360 movement focuses on Veera and half of it on Ragini. The ‘twinning’ completes the circle. Veera is always comfortable on water, whether on boats or swimming in commanding fashion. The film introduces him with a spectacular dive. The movement into the abyss and eventually into water is what his character’s arc is about. Where the fall does not involve water at the other end Veera cannot survive. Dev and his gang on the other hand wade through the water and sink deep into it as they try to seek clues to Veera’s whereabouts. This scene in any case involves a whole cataloging of what should not have happened. It begins with Ragini’s cue and Veera then delivers an alternate history stitched together with these ‘should not have’ exclamations. The history that Veera struggles with and the one that should not have happened because it happened ‘inappropriately’ (the Tamil verb also carries the lexical charge of something inappropriate or unfitting). But Veera is not merely arguing against ‘events’ but also a certain ‘writing’ of those events and a certain ‘remembering’ of the same. For Ragini to then understand Veera and his world or to ‘write’ him is to gain access to his memory and his way of looking at the world. Notably as the film progresses Veera’s ‘should not have’ moments keep converting into ‘what if’ ones. He cannot quite imagine his ‘pair’ with Ragini except through the prism of an alternate future. Part of his own journey then involves rescuing Ragini from these alternative futures (and of course the ‘older’ one where he had planned to kill her) and giving her over to her present.

The traumatic flashback ends and an exquisitely timed tear drops from Ragini’s eye offering confirmation that she now comprehends the meaning of Asokavanam authentically. She can never be ‘against’ Veera after this point. She is happy to finally encounter Dev but she must head back to that no man’s land that divides her between Dev and Veera. This is not an inversion. Dev and Veera have not switched places but Ragini is now marked by Raavanan’s space more than she is by the coordinates of her original Rama world. Notice the opening montage. Veera’s hull crashes into Ragini’s smaller boat, interrupts violently her tranquil ride (she seems very much like a classic movie star of another age with the sun-glasses and the posture before the ‘real’ intervenes). Appropriately the kidnapping happens on water where Rama’s and Raavanan’s ‘borders’ cannot be mapped.

The film therefore also ends with the question: who does Ragini belong to? Rathnam will not tell us but nor will Ragini. There can never be any real erotic charge between Veera and Ragini, only the hint of one. This too is never ‘decidable’ when it comes to Ragini. When the film ends she has not yet said ‘yes’ to Veera but she will also henceforth never say ‘yes’ to Dev… the circle turns.

[The two complementary film versions also follow this logic. Two polarities. North and South. The twin hegemonic halves of the nationalist imagining. Eternal contest between the two. A tale of Hindi and Tamil. Migration from one to the other with Aishwarya at the center. It is a pity Abhishek did not take up Rathnam’s challenge to do the Tamil Dev part. The symmetry here would really have highlighted some themes in unique fashion]

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259 Responses to “A circling cue in Raavanan”

  1. One of the most insightful pieces of commentary I’ve read on either film…especially given Ratnam’s proclivities towards shooting swirling 360s across different axis, points of perspective, in a number of his films, (Iruvar has plenty of examples) the idea of “circles” here works very well.

    In fact the shot you chose for this piece is preceded by an extraordinary set of extreme close-ups (in both films) where you have Beera/Veera attempting to “circle” Ragini’s face which seems to be fighting the urge to meet his gaze, fighting the urge to meet him half way even as she promises to join his world.

    “The film therefore also ends with the question: who does Ragini belong to?”

    I’d amend this to say, especially given this is a question of place (perhaps) as much as people – “Where does Ragini belong?”

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    • very very true.. I would love to steal your rephrasing of that line.. neglect on my part given everything I’d said prior to this.. I shall however let this stand with your ‘correction’..

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    • On the “where does Ragini belong?” point, recall that this is in fact the question poetically posed in the Kattu Siruku song — just as Ragini picks up a weapon to rush toward Veeraiya (the lyric in Hindi says nothing of the sort; the Tamil one works better). i.e. something along the lines of whether she belongs to the forest or is “maaya”…

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  2. One thing that’s especially awesome in this regard is the way the climactic showdown begins…as Raavan turns the tables on Ram and takes the fight to his doorstep, the very moment the two worlds crash together, Ratnam turns the frame on its (vertical) head and back again.

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    • true.. also how much more comfortable Veera seems being in that position of suspension as opposed to Dev. The former really comes across as a trickster figure here actually enjoying the fight barely showing an consciousness of danger. Also that final moment before Veera rescues Dev he actually knocks out a plank below him in cheeky fashion, let’s Dev fall only to hold on to him at the end, making Dev dependent on his assistance, the one thing that is probably anathema to the latter more than anything else. Again the ‘writing’ bit comes in here as well. Using this marvelous visual trope of a bridge and two opposing forces struggling on it there is the question of what is said on the bridge. Dev’s narrative differs from Veera’s. If the film operates on the former’s side of the equation the bridge also burns down on one side and ceases to be one as the two fight and of course Veera himself has started this destruction even before the fight has begun. In this sense Dev though he enters Veera’s lair he is really not in the jungle or in all of that claustrophobic, uneven rocky terrain with or without water when he finally fights Veera. He is appropriately on a bridge as I just said but also at the very end Veera is in a relatively open space suggesting much greater ‘clarity’ for want of a better word.

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  3. mksrooney Says:

    unique.. astouding reading 🙂 a pleasure to read..

    “The film therefore also ends with the question: who does Ragini belong to? Rathnam will not tell us but nor will Ragini. There can never be any real erotic charge between Veera and Ragini, only the hint of one. This too is never ‘decidable’ when it comes to Ragini. When the film ends she has not yet said ‘yes’ to Veera but she will also henceforth never say ‘yes’ to Dev… the circle turns.”

    ,my reading.. she now belongs to neither beera nor dev.. but to beeras land.. like an alien she came and she will forever become one in the land of Beera. I felt it was also coming of age story of ragini (sorry though it sounds stupid) i felt that in the middle of chaos we often find our trueself, and so did ragini the fact that she had left dev in that train meant she had left him, (bait or no bait) and that she ended with blood of beera somethin which belongs to the BEERA WORLD, i felt she was married here.. and that she finds herself at home here..

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    • thanks much Rooney, and your take is precisely the point I was trying to make.. you formulate it in more domestic terms which also makes great sense..

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  4. Why_so_serious Says:

    Koodathu – As in Kodam? Pot? As in the effect of it twirling inside a well?

    Just before the climatic showdown. We see Dev asleep, but the frame is upside down – the Opening shot of Willard in Apocalypse Now is strongly felt. Considering the recording, the photographs suggests a strong semblance to AN. And significantly the shot is used on the protagonists in Welles’s films, “The Trial” in particular comes to mind. In this very shot, Dev senses a dissonance (just as the audience at this point) and wakes up. Then we cut to kettle slowly letting out its steam, Govinda brushing & about to gargle across the lake, the first bomb strikes off-guard as it disrupts the tranquility.

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    • thanks for the interesting note.. yes as in koottum.

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      • Why_so_serious Says:

        koottum -as in crowd – also gives the proper imagery. thanks.

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        • yes that’s the crowd/cluster image as in Rojakoottum or koottatthil. But that’s not the one used here though.. I mean in this scene..

          I guess I should have been clearer.. koodaathu comes off a verb which I believe is no longer used but which is spelt just like the noun you’ve been referring to.

          But this also opens up an entire academic debate about whether some negative modals in Tamil are really derived from archaic verbs or are of the nature of suffixes.

          a very lucid book on all of this.

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    • on that note the Hanuman figure is also a very ambiguous one in the film. I thought Karthik here was more fluid than Govinda but neither actor quite brings the level of performance this role needed..

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      • One of the issues I had with the film was it takes a few interesting characters like Govinda/Karrthik’s and Prabhu/Ravi Kissen’s and sort of abandons them at the end of the film…not that one needs to know what happens to these people (educated guesses are welcome) but on retrospect you do feel the loss a bit.

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  5. Why_so_serious Says:

    What’s also interesting in this regard is that the young kids circle the boat as Raavan ‘dances’ in it, exchanging looks to Ragini – that mirrors the Killi Re/Kalvare song with Raagini’s (in her ‘tutelage’) looks to Dev..

    This backs GF’s reading a bit more…

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    • Why_so_serious Says:

      And Dev switching Beera/Raagini photo so swiftly as if they both ‘combine’ to form a singular image with similar ‘boundaries’ – which finally ends static with Beera’s. And of course earlier, Dev holds both the photos together (and slides Ragini’s to show Beera’s) as he investigates the tribe. Beera standing behind Raagini’s yellow salwar (as if he is in her attire in the frame) in Dev’s refuge..

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  6. “This backs GF’s reading a bit more…”

    As does, I think, the following, actually:

    Here we have a superb film-within-a-film song sequence from Iruvar:

    Here we have a (unfortunately truncated) Khili Re from Raavan:

    In both instances, we have a married couple (though the Iruvar couple isn’t quite there yet) where the woman is a classical dancer showing off her stuff to a rather stiff, if vaguely playful, man.

    Now Satyam elsewhere mentioned that it would be interesting to see what kind of marriage Dev and Ragini would now have following the film (as in probably not one to speak of!) and if one uses the Iruvar moment and the resulting relationship as an analog, that earlier film depicted its “Dev and Ragini” as, ultimately, a “failed” (although never openly so) marriage. Never the “true” love that Anandan had for Pushpa or even the flawed relationship with Kalpana…note that late in “Raavan/Raavanan” when Beera/Veera asks Ragini if she loves Dev, she never answers….

    An auteur’s films often speak to one another, as I’ve once said elsewhere. On that basis, I see a continuum here…events replaying, scenes commenting on their predecessors and “parents”…

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    • nice juxtaposition…

      “note that late in “Raavan/Raavanan” when Beera/Veera asks Ragini if she loves Dev, she never answers”

      key moment…

      On your last bit yes I remember the Mann piece very well where you said this..

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  7. Why_so_serious Says:

    Oh that’s useful too. Interesting.

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  8. I watched Raavan again today. I really enjoy it the more I watch it and I’ve really appreciated reading everyone’s reviews here.

    Though one thing I’m really interesting in hearing other sopinions.
    Why do you think Mani chose not to give too much back story to Ragini and Dev? Seems we needed more than Khile Re to portray the depth of their relationship. Even there he didn’t show the entire song! Understanding that Mani is so well known for those relationship moments in his film he must have his reasons for not showing too much.

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    • One tantalizing bit that you just can’t get at all from Hindi (but is specifically mentioned in the Tamil version) is that theirs was an arranged marriage…

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      • Whoa, I must have missed that in the Tamil version. Here is an other insight from the backstory that’s simply left out in the Hindi version. Again, I don’t think one necessarily needs it, but it’s interesting how Ratnam has almost used the Tamil film to cast new light on the Hindi version.

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        • Yup, I am now unsure which exact scene that was but I remember sitting up straight when I heard that…

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          • It is the scene when they are in bed talking. I remember being surprised that it was an arranged marriage.

            But is does explain why Dev may not feel as much as Ragini in terms of their marriage.

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          • Thanks, yup that’s the scene. Exactly, in Hindi they had the bandook/biwi dialog instead (which isn’t there in Tamil)…

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  9. “But is does explain why Dev may not feel as much as Ragini in terms of their marriage.”

    And vice versa…as I noted above, when Ragini is explicitly asked by Beera/Veera if she loves her husband, she never answers.

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  10. A Rangan response from his blog”

    “That song fits perfectly in the Hindi version (behne de, being swept along…), but the lyrics in Tamil express the infatuation very explicitly (usure poguthey…) and that’s a tad too much emotion for that point, which makes it look like yet another love-at-first-sight in a Mani Ratnam film. Also, even literally, the slide from wet rocks into the water, that rush of being swept along is what behne de is about.”

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  11. Satyam, can I post here? I think I did that once before but I can’t now. Or am I getting confused? Anyway… wrote something about Raavan at my blog… http://everyflavourblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/ratnam-remixes-ramayana.html

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  12. Iamthat:

    Mani reacts to Amitabh’s remarks
    IndiaGlitz [Friday, June 25, 2010]

    In what can be seen as a sharp reaction to the remarks made by Amitabh Bachchan on ‘Raavan’, director of the film Mani Ratnam has said he is not making movies to get marks from Amitabh.

    “That is his opinion. I am not bothered about it. And I am not here in the industry to get marks from Amitabh Bachchan. We have made a film after two years of hard work. Anyone can comment on it,” the ace filmmaker told a Tamil weekly.

    Writing on his blog recently, the Big B expressed unhappiness over the film’s editing, which, according to him, ruined Abhishek’s performance.

    “It’s sad, in the edit you only see the after-effect of that thinking process, hence inconsistent. In the edit, all the visual heads got cut and you see a confused Beera expression and wonder why?” Amitabh wrote.

    “Lot of merited film edited out, causing inconsistent performance and narrative. Abhishek’s erratic behaviour was due to symbolic 10 heads visually appearing and each giving him different attitudes to adopt for a situation, he would then finally shake them off and decide,” he said.

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    • Bachchan shouldn’t have said it to begin with. Can’t blame Rathnam for his reaction. I also disagree with him on substance,. The film wouldn’t have done much better nor would Abhishek have got much better reviews if those parts had been left in.

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      • Agree, this shouldn’t have been said to begin with. And once said, it should have been an easy fix between Bachchan and Ratnam “out of court” so to speak. One wonders if the former has even made an attempt to reach out to him.

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        • I don’t think Amitabh will explain to Mani. He may stick to his opinion. That’s the best way to do at this time. He would not have started the debate with Pillai. Bachchans knew very well about filmfare and how they bias towards Kjo and SRK. Why should he reveal his views in twitter publicly?

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        • why is amitabh bachchan hell bent on ruining his son’s career??!! as it is ppl are always critical on abhishek..nd then..mr. b steps out nd either praise him too profusely ( eg. guru ) or then defend him aggressively( in case of raavan)..!! it just makes ppl more repulsive to abhi..!! y can’t he just keep his views 2 himself sometimes..?! just bcoz this is his son’s film doesn’t give him any right 2 criticize d vision of a director who has worked so hard on d project for 2 years..even if he has to..y do it publically on twitter nd d blog..do it in person!! then he gives all sorts of explanations CLARIFYING his stance in these stupid subhash k jha’s intvu’s which again seems like a defence mechanism!! dont forget that this is the same guy who gave your son 2 breakthrough performances in yuva nd guru..!!
          has abhishek come out nd said anything about d film’s failure nd blamed anybody for it?!! did he tweet all d gr8 glowing foreign reviews on twitter ala hrithik?!NO..HE HASN’T..he has handled it so fantastically well..his tweets after d failure of raavan have been few..but very balanced nd dignified..nd i appreciate that..!!
          i m sorry to say this if i hurt anybody’s sentiments here..but amitabh bachchan’s behaviour is really putting me off nd m beginning 2 dislike him!!
          as much as i love abhishek..his father is becoming a bit irritating..nd it would help if he could learn a bit from his son..coz smtimes child is d father of man!!

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          • IAMTHAT Says:

            Agree with most of it…to sum up it in one entence, i go back to our mythology and find “Dhritrashtra” blinded by the love of his son….. same here…

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          • Re: “has abhishek come out nd said anything about d film’s failure nd blamed anybody for it?!! did he tweet all d gr8 glowing foreign reviews on twitter ala hrithik?!NO..HE HASN’T..he has handled it so fantastically well…”

            Agree completely. I also would like to believe Abhishek had a good teacher (at home) on this sort of thing.

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          • yup..4 sure..but the student is showing far more maturity nd grace than d teacher in this situation..!!

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          • Apologies for lapsing into Urdu, magar Akbar Allahabadi (not 100% sure, but I think it’s his) ka ek sher yaad aaya:

            “Hum aisi har kitaab qaabil-e-zabtee samajhte hain

            Ke Jin ko padh ke bete baap ko khaptee samajhte hain”

            [Prose translation: “All those books deserve to be confiscated, after reading which sons think their fathers are crazy.”]

            Wish Rocky was around…

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          • par qalandar ji…yahan beta to baap ko khaptee nahin samajh raha..woh to hum (bete ke fans) sirf itna keh rahe hain ki baap ko thoda sa discretely aur maturity se behave karna chahiye nahin toh nuksaan to unke bete ka hi hoga!!!

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      • This has almost become a routine now. BigB says something about someone. Media picks it up, then that someone responds. Then BigB says media overhped it, says good things about that someone, says taken out of context.

        He should keep his mouth shut atleast to avoid public insults. Popularity/respect for the man has gone down several notches in past few years he started opening his mouth about anything and everything. Maybe he does not care about himself but junior, who anyway has limited acting talent, will bear the brunt of this. I don’t think mani will ever work with him again.

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      • I am surprised by the aggressive stance adopted by Mani who is well within his rights and is probably more snesitive after film’s failure. No one likes second guessing.

        Re: And I am not here in the industry to get marks from Amitabh Bachchan.
        That sounds very defensive and unfortunately tow half-wrongs dont make a right.
        It would probably have been better to say something like – I am disappointed by Mr. Bachchan’s views but I stand by my film.

        Amitabh has already tried to make amends after his initial poorly thought out outburst and made reconciiatory remarks.

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        • why_so_serious Says:

          Mani isn’t nearly “defensive”. You should only see his interviews or press conference. Only seen him looking on like a spectator in these promotional events, he is hardly ever interested in promoting himself. Least of all, sensitive towards others opinion of his work. In fact, he is way too self-critical of his own work to be “smug” or “Aggressive” about it. In fact, I have seen him breath uneasy whenever asked to ‘explain’ his work. And let me also say that the promotion of his Hindi films are so wild that it’s amusing. All the Tamil films by Madras Talkies put together wasn’t “promoted” as much as Raavan was.

          And I think he very much stands by his films both positives and negatives. I think he very much recognizes Amitabh’s is a “personal opinion”..

          P.S: I’m not nearly a Mani fan.

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        • I agree Rajen. As per media from South, Mani is upset with results of raavan. It seems he is after Surya for his next movie.

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    • I’am a bit Sad at Mani sir’s response. He could have used a different tone.
      And honestly, Amitji might have summarized the “Marks” of the audience which Mani would care for. Beera’s character was not developed up well enough, that being the central theme of the movie.
      That being said, media is taking advantage when both may be agree to disagree on a softer tone.

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  13. there have been so many discussions on raavan now.. LSD was one of thoe most riveting experiences I had had in the past 5 years or so.. I wonder if any one you can share your thoughts

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  14. IAMTHAT Says:

    Open Magazine take on Ravaan and Mani

    Stay South, Mani Sir

    http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/art-culture/stay-south-mani-sir

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    • This article is pretty offensive: anyone can make a flop film — but when Mani rathnam does so, it is because he only knows the South! Well, what explains flops directed by Bollywood veterans like rakesh Roshan then? This sort of thing speaks volumes about the writer’s own condescension and biases — “go back to your place, where you belong”, the message seems to be, and it’s pretty distasteful. There is a way to criticize, maul, whatever Raavan without indulging in these kinds of shoddy culturally essentialist arguments.

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    • This is complete garbage.

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    • not reading it.. due to pathetic title.

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    • ideaunique Says:

      ridiculous…..i m from North but staying in South at present….and with due respect to all the directors NORTH/SOUTH/EAST/WEST – as far as the storytelling and intricate creative aspects of film-making are concerned – MOST OF THE SOUTH DIRECTORS and FILMS are WAY WAY BETTER THAN NORTH/WEST/EAST – that is my personal opinion – and yes Bollywood has wider reach and more hype,gloss to support their films – amalgamation of South directors with North actors can and has worked wonders….Ghajini, Wanted are examples…..even the other way round like Ek Duje Ke Liye, Sadma…..has worked fine…..so Mani Sir, pl. work for SOUTH, NORTH,WEST, EAST…..anywhere u like….even if u give flops or hits, we luv the creative person in u….

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    • oldgold Says:

      Disgusting article.
      I have several places in mind where he should go to.

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  15. This perceived “southern feel” stuff is just puerile and worthless criticism. How did Ghajini and Wanted manage to evade this? Simple. They were hits at the BO. No one brings out these specific critical measures when everyone has lapped up the film in question. But when it’s clearly not a success at the registers, these guys get a free pass to basically dump on it for all sorts of absurd reasons.

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  16. thats not harsh – thats offesnive.. the person’s work should be criticized if you dont like a film; not the person himself

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  17. why_so_serious Says:

    Tamil cinema is always willing to grab him back with open arms..

    Even if Iruvar and KM didn’t do all that well for a Mani film. The respect didn’t diminish. Critically also, the reviews weren’t this ‘scathing’.

    Why such hostility towards filmmakers like Mani. Masand giving it 1.5 stars or Raja Sen giving it as much, as against a “higher” rating to Kites, is taking the cake. Making an “aag” out of it is NOT ON !

    At least I have never seen such nonsensical critical approach by Tamil reviewers (the fact that majority are bland and unimaginative, and not nearly cineastes doesn’t matter) towards any Mani film vis-a-vis Thirupachi or Aegan..

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    • Agree completely. There is definitely this sense of resentment/irritation against an “outsider” who refuses to get with the (Bollywood) program. One can’t help but feel that an industry where “southerners” were once upon a time routinely seen only as caricatures in films, is having trouble accepting the frame inversion — in the sense that with mani one doesn’t just have a Tamil director, but one who has inverted the frame such that “the national” is seem through the prism of his (imagined as) “regional” lens. The charges of superficiality are telling — whether or not he is superficial in his treatment of serious subjects, how can those who did not raise that charge with respect to Rajneeti, Satta, Corporate, Life in a Metro, ad infinitum, raise this charge with respect to Kannathil Muthamittal, Dil Se, or Guru?!

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    • Re: “At least I have never seen such nonsensical critical approach by Tamil reviewers (the fact that majority are bland and unimaginative, and not nearly cineastes doesn’t matter) towards any Mani film vis-a-vis Thirupachi or Aegan..”

      Exactly: I have read many people say less than great things about Raavanan or even pan it. But everyone was at least aware that a different “frame” was required than for Thambi!

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      • why_so_serious Says:

        In this respect, Tamil cinema has definitely improved. They always treat Sasikumars, Ameers etc with more respect, and entirely different approach is taken to review their works. And of course in this regard, Mani, Bala, etc are on a higher pedestal. Regardless of box office. The critics (despite their lack of cinematic sense) will write interesting aspects to get their audience in. I don’t see “Naan kadavul” being made in Hindi “mainstream” cinema or being awarded popular awards like the recent Vijay awards (which awarded kancheevaram best actor, Naan Kadavul best director, Nadodigal best film, Pasanga best ensemble cast etc as well as giving ‘public choice’ awards for favorite hero, heorine, etc that likes of Anoushka, Vijay, etc received)..

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    • Incidentally Tamil Nadu has the best critic in India as far as I’m concerned in Baradwaj Rangan.

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      • even among the very “popular” reviewers, Balaji is way > the analogous Bollyreviewers…

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        • Absolutely, Balaji is a dependable voice.

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        • Qalandar,
          Who are these “analogous Bollyreviewers?” Balaji publishes his film reviews on the web. (I think some DVD rental company struck a deal with him to use his reviews on their website, but he still writes just for his own blog.) So, if you’re talking of bloggers, I know several bloggers who write fantastic stuff (including the folks in this very blog!) on Hindi cinema as well.

          Where Balaji trumps almost all other online film reviewers is in the sheer breadth of films he covers. Now that is something.

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          • I was comparing him to the prominent Hindi film reviewers, whether in print or online (e.g. Rediff). I agree Bala’s work is online, but in approach and tone, he is clearly a popular reviewer — in the sense that one could imagine his work appearing in a newspaper without much/any change. [One could not say the same for, e.g., GF’s piece on Raavan]. Stated differently, he is online, but IMO not for the reason that there something about his approach that renders him incompatible with the newspaper audience…

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          • Oh I see. But then I guess there are a lot of people who write online not for the same reason as GF! There are very many bloggers who write fairly regular-format reviews (like Balaji) and a lot of them write reviews of Hindi films that are worth reading.

            Anyway, why don’t we take the specific example you mentioned: Rediff. It’s not like Rediff reviews Hindi films, is it? Have you read the Tamil reviews of Pavithra Srinivasan? Give me Raja Sen any day.

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          • Correction: It’s not like Rediff reviews only Hindi films, is it?

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          • why_so_serious Says:

            Raja Sen started the whole RGV ki Aag thing. And his review was miserable IMO.

            Haven’t read Pavithra’s review though..

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          • Why_so_serious,
            Just to be clear, I’m no fan of Raja Sen at all. All I’m saying is he’s still better than Pavithra Srinivasan who writes the reviews of Tamil films for the same portal.

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          • why_so_serious Says:

            But I’m guessing it’s ambivalent or plain modest or mildly critical. But that’s preferable than the hysterical dementia that likes of Raja Sen often indulge in.

            Like

          • Why_so_serious,
            True as it might be, the crucial difference is you’re “guessing” it. While with Raja Sen, (I assume) you’re actually familiar with his writings.

            I don’t at all mean to say I prefer this sort of hysterical views over pliant reviews that offer nothing. But there’s an occasional Raja Sen review that I find interesting, but with the Tamil film reviewer, it’s forever about whether the film is realistic (I can think of at least 4 to 5 films where the review title was of the form ” is realistic”), the screenplay is logical and so on.

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          • Just to clarify, when I say that as a “crucial difference,” I mean to refer to how seriously you seem to have taken the Tamil film reviews at Rediff vis-a-vis the Hindi film reviews.

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      • Not the best… the only one!

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      • But hey, the obvious irony here is that he doesn’t review Tamil films. So, if anything, all one can say is that the best film critic in India is a Hindi film critic!

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        • he was doing both until very recently.. he has tons of Tamil writings..

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          • Yep. And “writings” is the key word because it’s more than reviews, Rangan has been a consistent (as much as can be expected) writer on Tamil cinema – whether in interviewing its personalities, reviewing its music or occasionally doing an obit or some kind of feature story focused on the industry in some respect.

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          • Of course I know that he has been writing on Tamil cinema regularly!

            My point was specifically that he doesn’t do proper review pieces anymore and is not the official reviewer of Tamil films for the paper. Otherwise he does write about new Tamil films in his “Between Reviews” columns.

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          • My understanding had been that it was his paper that determined he couldn’t review Tamil films for the most part. I think someone asked him about this on the blog.

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          • Yes, I’ve indeed read that comments exchange where he was asked about this. See, that proves my case. He isn’t (at least, as I understand it) considered “suitable” for reviewing Tamil films. And if I’m not mistaken, he has also expressed some sort of reluctance in doing that (write official film reviews for his paper).

            Hope these comments/perceptions don’t come off as my disapproval of either the paper or Baradwaj Rangan. I’m only trying to highlight the sort of sheer ‘incompatibility’ his reviews have with other Tamil film reviews.

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      • why_so_serious Says:

        Unfortunately, he doesn’t do prime time NDTV or CNN-IBN 5 minute video reviews like certain undeserved ‘critics’, who get to decide for sizable amount of multiplex audience. Duh!

        Once again you realize why power is given to irresponsible set of people.. I’d much rather do without it !

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  18. I’ve to say I somewhat disagree here. I certainly agree that there’s a complex about a southerner having his way in making Hindi films critics have what the complex. But the reason why Raavanan isn’t being trashed at all as Raavan clearly is, is simply because there’s a sense of history of respect for Mani Ratnam in Tamil film world. I seriously doubt if one can extend this to comment on how better the Tamil film critics are than their Hindi counterparts.

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    • But I’ve never seen Tamil critics create this kind of hysteria over a Tamil film..

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      • Yes, agreed. I was going to touch up on this in a follow-up comment. The thing here is the Hindi film reviewers have now joined the Hollywood bandwagon in some sense where every reasonably big film is a huge media event and there’s a lot of tension built around a film’s critical reception, box office status etc. As I understand it, this is how a sense of hysteria comes about for these big films. These critics have also come to determine (or in more charitable terms, enable) the fate of the film at the box office, so they somehow come to think they must show greater responsibility with greater power!

        In complete contrast to this, there’s hardly any polarized viewpoints among the critics on any reasonably talked-about Tamil film. The views of any critic is pliant and moderate on either sides (good or bad) to say the least. In this framework, a Mani Ratnam film is almost always appreciated in some way or the other, simply because he can’t go so wrong. (There is also a sense of elitist politics at play here.) The whole point here is that the critical reception mostly doesn’t matter at all. (Most widely read reviews don’t even bother to mention the author(s).) Though sometimes good reviews does help little films with no big names (e.g.: Sethu) to have a better fate at the box office. But even here, what’s more influential than the good reviews is the general good word-of-mouth. In fact, I’d even argue that it’s the latter that gives way to a good review. In that sense, I do think the critics are actually “behind the curve.”

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        • why_so_serious Says:

          I completely agree with the point you’re making.

          But seeing that some hindi “critics” are “Dangerous” to likes of Mani, don’t you think it’s better to be ‘behind the curve’ – why at all give power to these ‘critics’ ? Actually I’m willing to make an argument on lines of Hindi mainstream cinema critics to have done more bad than good to the industry.. Let’s face it, we will never reach ‘hollywood model’ in Indian mainstream cinema. Even if Hindi cinema tries its best to pretend as one..

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    • why_so_serious Says:

      You will struggle to find proper ‘criticism’ in India, let alone Tamil cinema. There are only pretenders..

      And I was glad Vijay awards got the most esteemed guest to present the award to Bala! (and Not “Favorite” awards to Vijay, etc) Unfortunately Rajini couldn’t make it. So was awarded achievement award personally and his recorded speech was played..

      And everyone spoke ‘sensibly’ and none of the nonsense like Farah-Sajid or SRK-Saif buffoonery (although I grant the Vijay tv host could be better) I personally point out to Shankar’s (even if over-the-top) comparison of writer Jeyakanthan to Bala’s work in cinematic medium, and the ensuing reaction by Bala (who is very grounded from what I’ve read from his own articles – the reaction was of ‘undeserved’ compliment – it was a class apart). And of course, the exchange between Bala and Kamal, latter also touched on another writer Jeyamohan.

      I’m unsure we will such exchange in Popular Hindi mainstream cinema awards. Or at least I’ve never seen. They are, well, will reserve my judgment.

      It’s also important to note that whole industry, the likes of Kamal, Mani, Rajini, etc always speak in unison, encouragingly of filmmakers like Bala, Selva, Balaji Sakthivel, etc when they first came up and keep giving compliments to likes of Gautam, Ameer, Sasikumar etc also. This gets transferred to the whole industry and the press also get that immediate sense of “respect”. Invariably, positive (even if vacuous in its engagement with the film) reviews in popular media/press helps different type of filmmakers to exist in commercial format.

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      • why_so_serious Says:

        Sethu, Kadhal, thulluvatho ilamai, Subramaniyapuram, etc had good reviews plus WOM. Anyway I’m not saying there’s a clear distinction between the two, or which preceded the other..

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        • Some things just aren’t relative: Tamil film criticism that I have seen suffers from the same impoverishment of film culture that bedevils Hindi film criticism, BUT is clearly better: the impoverishment is somewhat reduced, and the critics don’t suffer from a god complex (nor do they convey a sense of resentment against celebrities such that they relish mauling them for the sake of mauling them). Third, they seem less caught up in aspirational self-image: a movie is a movie, not an opportunity to make claims about progress/how modern/advanced “we” are etc., which leads Hindi film critics to privilege certain kinds of films as if these incarnated OBJECTIVELY “positive” values, etc. Finally, they don’t suffer from a sense of entitlement such that, if you make a film that confounds expectations, you are to be punished for your presumption (the box office might punish you, but that’s a separate issue).

          I can’t read Tamil, so the above refers to English-language reviews.

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          • “Some things just aren’t relative: Tamil film criticism that I have seen suffers from the same impoverishment of film culture that bedevils Hindi film criticism, BUT is clearly better: the impoverishment is somewhat reduced”

            I never argued that it is all relative. I simply don’t see how Tamil film criticism is better in any way. What do you mean when you say the impoverishment is somewhat reduced? Who are the film critics you are keeping in mind when you say this? See, this is where my point about Baradwaj Rangan ultimately being a reviewer of Hindi films is important. One simply can’t include him in the Tamil film critics group and exclude him from the Hindi film critics group. Anyone else?

            “and the critics don’t suffer from a god complex (nor do they convey a sense of resentment against celebrities such that they relish mauling them for the sake of mauling them).”

            This is absolutely true. I completely agree on this, and have talked about the same in my earlier comment responding to Satyam. And I agree with your third and fourth points as well. But here, the ‘qualification’ offered for the Tamil film critics are about the wrongs they don’t do, not the rights they actually do.

            Actually, I’ve a much simpler question, and I mean it sincerely (to understand where you’re coming from). Which film critics are you actually talking about?

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          • I’m thinking of Balaji and the reviewers I read in the newspapers like the Hindu and Deccan Herald, and online on sites like Sify, but even behindwoods…

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          • But some of these newspapers (at least The Hindu does) have Hindi film reviews too (not only those written for Tamilnadu readers, but the various reviews that appear in prints all over India) too, and they carry the same sense of modest tone as that of the Tamil film reviews in Chennai edition! Likewise, I think Sify has Hindi film reviews written too. And they’re nothing like the ballistic television reviews one would see on prime time television.

            Anyway, if you’re wondering what my point is: I basically sense a tendency to ‘exoticize’ the Tamil film world here as having a more evolved film culture because one is overly familiar with the usual trappings of the circle of popular Hindi film critics. 🙂

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          • Zero, I don’t disagree with that point on Hindi reviews being better in Southern publications. I do resist your other charge though. Yes there is a lot that is corrupt about the Tamil media as well. Various journalists and outfits in the camp of one star or the other. But overall there is still a more sensible ‘film culture’ there. Much as it was more sensible in Hindi once before the ‘Joharization’ (and in my view the ‘ravagement’) of everything. Let’s take a quick example though. When you have a Rathnam who revolutionizes your industry there are certain consequences. When your chief spokesman in many ways is Kamal (at least for many years) there are consequences. For many years now the best talents in Tamil cinema have been engaged in more serious work one way or the other. If you put up a list of top 10 Tamil directors and then their counterparts in Hindi the first list would have mostly authentic voices whereas the second would having barring a very small percentage ‘fakes’ and ‘pretenders’. So all of this becomes a symptom of a healthy film culture or the lack of it. Rathnam’s counterparts, younger or older, might not like Raavanan but they’re not likely to scoff at him. However this is precisely what happens in Hindi. I have no sense that Johar even has any understanding or appreciation of what Rathnam is about. And there are many like him. ‘Bollywood’ is just a bankrupt industry in every sense and its film culture corresponds to this. Yes you see a few worthwhile films every years, most of it is pretentious junk trying to be ‘serious’ or ‘alternative’ or whatever. But these people are constantly engaged in self-congratulation as are their audiences. All of this is not to ‘valorize’ the Tamil industry but there are good reasons to prefer it infinitely (as I do) to Hindi. I have actually reduced my Hindi viewing quite a bit. I watch very few films every year. I don’t feel I’ve missed anything because when I then go in for some of the other stuff I am left horrified. It’s just total bankruptcy in Bombay. Very few genuine films. Very few filmmakers who dare to take genuine risks.

            I have a perverse fantasy after Raavan. What if Bala had made Naan Kadavul in Hindi and Abhishek had done Arya’s role? The media and audience response would have made Raavan look like a birthday party! Incidentally this is a film I like a lot.

            But I’ve made these politically incorrect statements for years and let me do so again. Unless it’s for cultural reasons one could pretty much skip all of Hindi cinema over the last two decades in favor of the Tamil, perhaps a bit longer. Until 1980 or so the reverse is true. One could skip all of Tamil cinema unless one were doing so for cultural reasons. Not dissing ‘cultural reasons’ here. Just saying that there isn’t anything ‘objectively’ on offer that is not bettered by the other industry. And I believe in every department of filmmaking. Of course there are always exceptions. Some Hindi films could be chosen from the 90s or from the last decade. Similarly some Tamil films could be chosen from the decades before the 80s. So on and so forth. In the 80s I think Malayalam cinema easily beats both Hindi and Tamil. Of course Kamal has a lot of good work in this decade, there are Rajni’s masala triumphs, there is of course Rathnam, some others, in Hindi there is still Bachchan’s ‘one man industry’ phase, the cinema of J P Dutta, maybe a few others but in that sustained sense nothing to beat the riches of Malayalam cinema (and I have only touched the tip of the iceberg here). I only say all of this to again argue against the exoticization charge though it’s fair to bring it up.

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          • Satyam, just a quick note of clarification. My argument here is against the exoticization of the state of Tamil film criticism in particular. Like I said, I don’t see how essentially the critics are any better than their Hindi counterparts. I don’t mean to criticize (!) the larger audience here. Quite the contrary, in fact. Like I said earlier, I think the critics are actually “behind the curve” with respect to the general audience.

            That the Tamil film world is drastically different from the Hindi film world is scarcely debatable. A Bala or a Selvaraghavan would have no place in today’s Hindi cinema, and in any case, the economies of their films in Tamil is unimaginable in the realms of Hindi cinema. This is a different debate (and I’d like to discuss how I beg to differ on some counts) and definitely requires a greater rigor on our part.

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          • Zero, ah alright I misunderstood you though I still think the critics are better.. at the very least a film is not torn into shreds as sometimes happens in Bombay..

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          • That was also to clarify that the exoticization charge was only with respect to the Tamil film criticism culture and not not Tamil films in general.

            [It’s already early morning here. I got to go to sleep now! Actually I’ve also been meaning to catch up with some of the Raavan(an) pieces/discussion here, should hopefully be able to do that over this weekend.]

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          • Re: “But here, the ‘qualification’ offered for the Tamil film critics are about the wrongs they don’t do, not the rights they actually do.”

            Yes, that’s my point — i.e. I say they are better not because they are good, but they seem to me to be less bad… I would like to believe that parries the “exoticisation” charge, but I do admit I am hardly the best judge of that (on the other hand, it is generally a hard thing to disprove). With respect to song lyrics, for instance (although I know you weren’t talking about that subject) Raavan/Raavanan was not the first time I ended up preferring the Tamil lyrics, and (e.g.) Rangan the Hindi lyrics. See. e.g. HERE.

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          • “at the very least a film is not torn into shreds as sometimes happens in Bombay..”

            Satyam,
            I’m afraid that’s all one can say about this. Of course, I agree that this sort of trashing never happens in Tamil film circles. Also, the crucial word here is “sometimes.” It’s not just about the Southern publications. I think there are a lot of film reviewers whose tone is nothing like that of Raja Sen or Rajeev Masand. Do you think a Shubhra Gupta or a Nikhat Kazmi have the kind of hysteric tone you’re talking about? I think it’s unfair to lump all Hindi film critics together as being hysterical.

            Qalandar,
            But I disagree with the point that they are better because of this. This is hardly a valid reason to exalt them as having a better and more evolved film culture. I do agree that it’s a hard thing to prove or disprove, but the dearth of film criticism in Tamil cinema should be fairly obvious to anyone who’s familiar with the kind of reviews that get written in newspapers, magazines etc. I’m not saying Hindi film critics are essentially always better, but the least you can say about them is that there’s a variety of voices there.

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          • Zero, I didn’t all of them were like that. But the vast majority become part of the hysteria even when their own pieces might not necessarily be hysterical. I think a critic has ‘responsibility’ that extends beyond the reviewing of a film. When one notices a general hysteria and if one does not share it one should perhaps write one’s negative review (assuming this is the case) differently. So if I wanted to say something negative about Raavan I would also want to make sure that my views were not absorbed into the overall set of hysterical reactions.

            Ultimately though, and leaving aside critics who write pieces in anticipation of the box office, and those who are cynical or compromised in other ways, the greatest problem and as a film culture (here one could include all Indian critics barring the redoubtable Rangan) is that critics tend to have an ’emotional’ response to a film and then pen reviews accordingly. There are films that we enjoy beyond their merits or sometimes in great disproportion to the latter. When we review such films this ‘gap’ should be adequately represented in the piece. The same goes for the ‘negative’. I might be horrified by certain kinds of cinema but my review shouldn’t just be about this kind of ‘response’. So for example in the recent Anti-Christ (von Trier) there are scenes of female and male genital mutilation, the male protagonist ejaculating blood, this is addition to some graphic depictions of sex which too are unpleasant. This can never be a film I ‘like’. I don’t have a taste for the director anyway (barring some gorgeous visuals in Europa) but I have to at least try and comprehend what the film is about. Perhaps this kind of visceral emotional response is ‘intended’ by the director.. In any case I have a certain ‘responsibility’ if I am writing on this film.

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          • I do agree with all of this. My only disagreement here is about exalting the Tamil film critics circle simply because they don’t produce such hysteria. Otherwise the ‘identifiable’ voices in Tamil film critics circle are just too few to make any meaningful difference. Most films get reviewed in more or less the same way with hardly any difference in viewpoints. Negative reviews are uniform too (and yes, never as harsh as in Raavan’s case). That’s my point. And that’s why I also asked if you could mention some film critics you actually like.

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  19. Theskeptic.. I saw some of your more recent remarks on Raavan and your criticism.. excuse me for saying this but you’re trying too hard.. I have always had respect for your views, even when I’ve violently disagreed with them, but to be brutally honest on Raavan you’re simply not credible. It beggars belief that one could characterize Rathnam and the film the way you have here. And I’ll repeat the criticism isn’t ‘legible’ in your own terms.

    I will object to another point though.. the idea that Bachchan is a ‘layman’ unaware of the distinction between two notions of editing is beyond plausibility. Having said that I think the word ‘kinetic’ is often confused (purposely or otherwise) in your vocabulary.

    Again there’s a lot more I could argue with as I have before but I am actually quite disappointed with your statements on Raavan. NOT AT ALL for the negativity but because it is characterized in a way that very candidly would make me suspect your understanding of the medium if I didn’t know you better.

    I also believe that much as you love RGV he shouldn’t block your access to other filmmakers. One is always partial to a certain kind of cinema or a set of directors. This does not mean that the others don’t know how to make films.

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    • incidentally if Abhishek wanted he could have some important Tamil directors right away.. actually the view down South (and I can’t name anyone here) is that Bombay does not know how to make films with him! And it is to be persuaded by Bombay plasticity to think that one should be the completely athletic type. In the South any and every hero does action! Abhishek is responsible too because ultimately he has to be that invested in such a project. Not one film here and there but a larger project. The prabhudeva film is very much on and was never supposed to begin before later this year. But it’s being planned as a big one.

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      • I don’t know if he could or could not work with them, but I was very happy to hear about the Prabhudeva film — since the remake of the Tamil “Run”, I have wanted him to do this sort of film, not saying every film needs to be like it, but surely one every four or five wouldn’t hurt.

        Another director who, I suspect, would be able to use abhishek’s persona to good effect is Gautham Menon. Actually, I would love to see Menon make a slick action-er in Hindi starring abhishek (hopefully others too). Heck wanna see him do that in Tamil too…surya + maddy in the same film would be great!

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        • For Abhishek, I want to see him working withRajaMouli from Telugu. His movies are hero dominated, elevates him to great performances and he has no commerical failure so far.

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    • fiddler Says:

      “From Bunty Aur Babli, we assume that Shaad Ali is this kind of director, and that he’ll make this kind of movie that will entertain us in this fashion, and when Jhoom Barabar Jhoom confounds these expectations, we turn hysterical to a ludicrously disproportionate extent that belies the basic fact that this is, at the end of the day, just a movie. If it doesn’t measure up, just shrug your shoulders and head home, instead of foaming at the mouth as if the filmmaker had wooed the wife away from you and subsequently decamped with your pension funds. And Twitter, along with the blogosphere, only makes it worse. Within seconds, your followers know about your runaway wife and your gloomy retirement, and they pick up cudgels on your behalf, and soon, the rabbits begin to multiply until the burrow explodes.”…..hilarious stuff

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  20. Why_so_serious Says:

    Speaking of near-circle shot choreography (not necessarily of the same point of axis and angles), Recollect the part where Gurukanth goes to ask for Sujatha’s hand. As he enters the house in bicycle, she’d be making circles on the ‘rope swing’ (in a seemingly sombre state) near the door end of the front-yard while Guru stares from the gate end. Just as she notices , the camera does few sectors, close to semi-circles on Guru. Anyone else recollect?

    Qalandar,
    The Arranged marriage angle was interesting in Tamil version. Not without context. It especially alludes to Ram-Sita’s astrological compatibility (a rich commentary on astrology in the epic), the “poruthams” if you will. Ragini clearly mentions her mother sanctioned Dev after matching so many kootas/porutham (10 poruthams I think Ragini says). Ragini playfully ponders why they didn’t look over ‘palmistry’ of his rough palms – to which he says, it’s a Policeman’s hand and therefore rugged. Ragini’s following line is double layered, asks if his hand is pure or impure – the Tamil word ‘suttadhu’ also stands for hand that had ‘pulled the trigger’ – to which he moves his hands to her crotch, to which she flinches. Apart from being a parallel to ‘bandook/biwi’, this serves to remind that ‘spousal relationship’ doesn’t reside in astrology but it’s (domestic bliss) in this man’s hands (that had trigged the gun)..

    I personally thought Prithviraj’s Dev didn’t suggest an “overt” chauvinistic demeanor as Vikram’s (sensual parts in kill re song didn’t save Vikram’s one-noted feel). In addition to the dark coolers/shades symbolically ‘blinding’ this character, the narcissistic, youthful anxiety-ridden persona gave more credibility to Prithvi.

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    • Very interesting reading here WhysoSerious. Certainly Prithvi grew on me as the film progressed (although in terms of pure physicality he is always less than very persuasive in that part). I always “missed” Vikram as Dev, but that’s also because I have a Cheeyan-addiction as far as his screen presence goes.

      SPOILER!!!

      On your main point, in the first scene where Ragini has any dialogs, she says to her husband he is an encounter specialist, so why doesn’t he shoot/kill Veeraiya? There is no explicit parallel to this dialog in the Hindi version, and it is a nice twin to the scene you mention — underscores her own complicity in/easy acceptance of a society where extra-judicial killings are regarded in a cavalier manner, AND, since we know the story, ironically reminds us that the very violence she is advocating can easily turn against her. (And, of course, that is what Dev does at the end: he is an encounter specialist, so he shoots. That’s what he does.)

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      • “in the first scene where Ragini has any dialogs, she says to her husband he is an encounter specialist, so why doesn’t he shoot/kill Veeraiya? There is no explicit parallel to this dialog in the Hindi version, and it is a nice twin to the scene you mention — underscores her own complicity in/easy acceptance of a society where extra-judicial killings are regarded in a cavalier manner”

        Qalandar,
        Ragini does ask the basic question (to the effect of “why don’t you finish off Beera?”) in the Hindi version as well. The lines about Dev being an encounter specialist and that the “common people” (like herself) trust him to do this as his duty of sorts are not there, but the dimension you’re talking about is brought out clearly.

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        • Definitely (hence I said there was “no explicit parallel”)– but “encounter” has such a specific valence (even more so in Hindi films, which have featured a number of valorizations of “encounter killers”; Tamil has Kaaka Kaaka, but I feel it is less common in the specific police context) that it’s interesting it wasn’t used…

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          • Yes, I did think you were aware of it and that’s why you said there’s no “explicit parallel.” Just wanted to point out that the dimension you speak of is brought out in the Hindi version as well, with less dialogue. I see this too as part of the general scheme of the Hindi version having more sparing dialogue.

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    • “youthful anxiety-ridden persona gave more credibility to Prithvi.”

      I wouldn’t really characterize his performance this way…Prithvi’s just not capable of suggest any real depth…

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      • Why_so_serious Says:

        I am not sure it’s just his performance, but his age/looks helped.

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        • I guess it’s a subjective point (and not one you’re necessarily arguing) but I’ll just add that I far prefer Vikram (beyond the fact that he trounces Prithvi as an actor in general) because the former brings a Leone-like performance where it’s sparse, about what’s not said, about an economy that contrasts the wildly expressive counterpoint in Veera/Beera.

          Prithvi of course has the same role but doesn’t bring the same sense of the man to the table. There’s arguably “more” to Prithvi’s performance and that just didn’t work for me, as didn’t his general sleaziness in presence. Dev is arguably a far less likable actor in the Tamil version because of this last point, actually, and confirms my belief (if one were to believe Ratnam’s intent here is to blur lines between good and evil) that the Hindi version is more in line with what he wants to acheive with this film.

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          • Why_so_serious Says:

            Hmmm, okay. Seems what worked for me, didn’t for you. And vice-versa.

            ” the former brings a Leone-like performance where it’s sparse, about what’s not said, about an economy that contrasts the wildly expressive counterpoint in Veera/Beera.”
            Ho, that howling and one-noted “feel” was wildly expressed in Vikram’s Dev too. I didn’t buy Vikram, even if he was to be a cardboard…

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          • We’ll have to agree to disagree here as well. Aside from the obvious fact that I don’t agree with the one-note bit, Vikram to my mind only really “exploded” in a wild, Beera-esque way during the climactic showdown, and entirely appropriate given it’s only here that the two finally share screen space.

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          • Lot of people liked Prithvi in Tamil compared to vikram in Hindi. As per reports from media from South, even tamil one is not faring as expected. Suhasin has started protests against piracy..

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          • Why_so_serious Says:

            Alrighty GF.

            Germany got 4-1 up. I’m busy now..

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          • yeah they’ve humiliated Eng.. this German team is really looking very dangerous.. in fact I think that when on song the best teams so far have looked to be Germany and Argentina.

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          • agree completely with everything that’s been said here..

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          • Ted: but at least the big opening in Tamil counts for something. Even apart from the opening it is not a disaster in Tamil by any means the way it is in Hindi. I am scared to say more lest Zero accuse me of exoticising the Tamil audience!!!

            Sorry zero, couldn’t resist that 🙂

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          • Why_so_serious Says:

            As for wildly expressive – I’m not necessarily talking about the climatic showdown, or that he did badly there. Vikram manages to be wild without too much effort, the way only he could be. But his “wilderness” easily shows up in his performance if one is not careful – even in the quieter moments. As someone who regards him as a talented actor, I felt bad for him. I think he didn’t manage to completely come out of Veera in his Dev performance. Right from the first shot with the walkie-talkie, you sense there’s a beast waiting to pounce (also note I watched Hindi before Tamil!). Prithvi manages to bring it out as and when the situation warrants, even if he hardly matches up Vikram’s Veera in the showdown, especially without gun in his hands. But in hindsight, be brings out the bruised ego there (sparseness doesn’t add up to the director’s vision in this regard IMO), but also with the imposture posed by Veera that had to be vanquished. My post below touches this – And Vikram’s Dev hardly brings out the nuance of such situations. Vikram’s Dev is a near-T1000 and I don’t think this film needed that effect.

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          • Qualander, I am not denying the fact that tamil one got the opening. It is Mani’s Tamil version released after long time. Guru was dubbed, not strainght version. Vikram is popular.

            As I’ve mentioned earlier, whoever appreciated Raavan (from abhishe’s tweets), most of them are from South. The critics hysteria was not as bad as Hindi. Evn in South, people started posting bad reviews for raavanan/Villian after Amithab made that comment. Mani has giot taht much respect, they were not dared to say anything against. Now they are bashing him(atlease andhra media).

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          • Why_so_serious Says:

            Who is bashing Mani in Tamil media?

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          • I vastly preferred Vikram’s Dev to Prithviraj’s Dev in general — but I think the latter is more effective at evoking a sexual charge/anxiety. Vikram’s Dev does not suffer from any anxiety, he is more like a “wronged deity”. In that sense, I think the difference is deliberate — in each case Rathnam is staying true to the star’s signature — but I have a slightly greater taste for the fraught nature of Prithviraj’s Dev’s predicament.

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  21. but I have to at least try and comprehend what the film is about. Perhaps this kind of visceral emotional response is ‘intended’ by the director.. In any case I have a certain ‘responsibility’ if I am writing on this film.

    satyam,this is what ahppened to Akshay films like KI,BLue etc.the critics have no responsibility.You did not object then.You now know what the crtics are doing to films.Why dont you support Akshay as no1,and akshay fans will be sympathetic to Abhishek.The language that rajeev masand used against Ki is not accpetable.Not just him,bit others as well.

    Like

  22. These wonderful pieces have enriched my understanding of this wonderful film and it is absolutely tragic that a film this authentic has not succeeded.

    BTW that Amitabh comment is quite imbecilic, at least he should not have been swayed by idiotic critics.

    Like

    • A very thoughtful call for greater responsibility. The real shame is I don’t see anyone heeding the call.

      Like

      • Very sensible call for some sanity. Unfortunatey, will fall on deaf ears. I think a lot of hysteria atleaSt at the medai level is driven by petty politics and a penchant for sensationalism. For the rest, some just like sticking pins in voodoo dolls.

        Like

  23. Satyam – Outstanding write up yet again. I sincerely wish AB sends yours, Q’s and GF’s thoughts to Rathnam. On another note, I think Twitter was quite instrumental in shredding this movie at the outset ,especially by the likes of abhijit majumdar and Co. I wish this movie got progressive publicity instead.

    Like

  24. Why_so_serious Says:

    In Tamil version, Prithvi’s Dev looks/speaks disquietingly with some concealment, ‘I’ll not be done by Veera’ (not in verbatim) to Vennila’s boyfriend, whose “hands” are severed and “wedded” to the Scarecrow, clad with Ragini’s dress. Dev sees this cowardly guy as a personal imposture, imposed by Veera, that has to be vanquished by his action. Note how much Vennila’s groom “looks” like Dev, the clean shaven face and metrosexual appearance . Look at Veera and Singarasan treating their maplai as ‘outsider’, and sanctioning him only for Vennila.

    How Dev would decipher the “wedded” image of a coward with his wife’s figure? He puts into context how he too left Ragini unguarded to be ‘abducted’ by Veera’s men (just as in Vennila’s groom fleeing the place, leaving her alone to be abducted by police). Therefore one needs to consider Dev’s male psyche. This anxiety reveals why he shot Sakkarai and the subsequent predatory howl. And why it is absolutely necessary (to have earned his ‘spousal’ symbol – note my post to Qalandar above) to kill Veera. This, IMO, lays the actual perspective of Dev’s character..

    And Ragini/Vennila as a double couldn’t be more concise. Apart from Ragini falling down to stay alive in the “open falls” vis-a-vis Vennila’s dead body raised from “confined well”. Ragini’s tied-up hands losened as against Vennila remaining in handcuffs in station. Vennila ‘blinding’ herself in Police station as against Ragini’s blindfold being removed. The police’s verbal assualt (also of Vennila’s newly wed husband as a coward) as against the lack of it in the tribe. Physical abuse of Vennila through her nosed being pulled. Her honor relinquished by gang rape in police station – the very symbol of order and jurisprudence. Place that v/s no danger of such sort posed to Ragini in this ‘free society’. Vennila brought home in backside of cart like a livestock (the overhead shot of wounded Veera provides a similar imagery) as against Ragini climbing out of her well, and like a leporid, (the lack of regard to this tribe and the perceived image of Veera’s clan is of “animals”. Explicitly said at many places, Vennila’s groom specially puts to Dev, Veera is a barbaric animal) burrows out Hemant…

    There’s a reversal in treatment of Women. The ‘societal forces’ is very much antagonized while the ‘tribal design’ is far more ‘cultivated’ (than the presupposed notions). This seems to be the underlying message, and the pattern is very rigidly followed.

    Like

    • Why_so_serious Says:

      For a change, Mani paints a bold representation of the established order (its inherent failures here) and tilts towards the Marginalized society. And it does that with main focus on these three characters and the film is aptly named after the character, not the faction or its place..

      Like

      • Why_so_serious Says:

        I’d describe this whole hysteria to be “late reaction”, of unclear ‘representation’ and charges of inauthenticity. Because this shouldn’t come as a surprise from Mani (on the other hand I did raise this charge before the film released in one of the threads and in fact, got surprised by some refreshing boldness to take sides here) and it comes from the same quarters who went over the top about him..

        Like

    • RE: “There’s a reversal in treatment of Women. The ‘societal forces’ is very much antagonized while the ‘tribal design’ is far more ‘cultivated’ (than the presupposed notions). This seems to be the underlying message, and the pattern is very rigidly followed.”

      Agreed. But I don’t agree that “For a change, Mani paints a bold representation of the established order (its inherent failures here) and tilts towards the Marginalized society.” — i.e. this isn’t the first time, he did that in Dil Se as well, when he showed in the flashback that Manisha Koirala had been raped by Indian military personnel when a child. In general, up until that point there had never been a commercial film that sought to depict the terrorist/separatist in such a light — the likes of Fiza etc. were all post-Dil Se. That being said, I do agree that Raavan/Raavanan — both versions — go further. But then, Mani is often going where other commercial directors follow (e.g. Yuva/Aayutha Ezhuthu was by no means the first multiple narratives film in world cinema — but in India, it has clearly had an impact, with Salaam-e-Ishq, Life in a Metro, etc. all following in its wake.)

      Like

    • WSS all this is clear but in the end I think it’s often a question of dialogue versus presence between the two Devs. Prithvi’s Dev in a way has more information to work with since there’s a good deal more expositional dialogue in the Tamil version. This coupled with his general sleaziness gives him a presence that’s intriguing but never as compelling as Vikram’s more subdued, less “written” character. And the T-1000 bit you mention above is probably true, but I’d rather take this kind of bold quasi-antagonist over Prithvi who despite the depth you seem to accord him never adds up to more than a traditional, smarmy, Gaston-like villain. The latter might be appropriate given Ratnam in some ways fashions a Beauty and the Beast-like fairy tale with this film, but Prithvi’s Gaston is more easy to dislike than the more guarded, man-of-action that Vikram represents.

      Like

      • why_so_serious Says:

        Something about that Gaston reference and sleaziness that you sense – reveals to me that you couldn’t stand Prithvi’s persona. I know he isn’t one of the likable people around.

        About man-of-action, that’s exactly what Vikram was like and I don’t think he was able to make enough of the non “action” moments. And Prithvi seemed more ‘guarded’, Vikram was always in ‘control’. That even if Beera had let go of Dev’s hand, this Dev will climb back and kill Beera.

        Like

  25. IAMTHAT Says:

    Oops, posted it twice

    Like

  26. IAMTHAT Says:

    27th is Pancham’s 71st birth annv……

    We Missed it……………………

    Like

  27. mani ratnam blamed by ibos http://www.ibosnetwork.com/newsmanager/templates/template1.aspx?a=22132&z=4

    This is bound to happen.The bachchan camp will denounce mani ratnam now.He is no longer the prestige director.

    Like

    • Bhalo_Manush Says:

      LOL…

      “You don’t name a movie Raavan by accident Mr. Ratnam. Raavan is not a common name, nor one you created having thought of it one fine day randomly. And there is no such thing as ‘Raavanan’.”

      why did not IBOS raise this question before the release of the movie???

      Like

    • IBOS is attacking Rathnam because it is run by a xenophobe and a communal fellow: this chap is fair in his right-wing extremism, he attacks everyone if the film falls on the wrong side of his (extremist) agenda: be it a Hrithik film (Jodha-Akbar) or an abhishek film (Raavan). In the latter instance, he is clearly outraged that the Ramayana story was played with at all. Plus, the fact that a “South Indian” is behind it probably outrages him too.

      Like

      • Ibos is part of the Bahchcan camp.Its opnions are opinions of Amitabh.I think now even satyam will stop saying mani ratnam is prestige director.And you,gf also saying it.
        Just like rakesh mehra is no longer talked about as great or prestige director after Delhi 6.

        Like

        • yeah they’re part of the Bachchan act which is why they’ve been ripping apart Abhishek rather ruthlessly..

          On Mehra I’d love for Abhishek to do another film with him, I just don’t find the Milkha sing project interesting..

          Sunil, even a clown’s act should be funny..

          Like

        • Sunil: I have been and will continue to say what I have been saying about Mani Rathnam. Your problem is you assume everyone is as blindly obsessed with his/her favorite star as you are (the notion that one might esteem a director even more than one’s favorite star-actor is evidently foreign to you; mercifully, it is not so foreign to Rathnam-fans, as I hope you have gathered from all the favorable commentary on Dil Se from people not known to be SRK-fans; as for Delhi-6, IMO it was one of the best Hindi films last year, and when Mehra makes another film, you can bet your last dollar I’ll be watching it on the big screen). If what you’re saying is right, please explain all the threads/comments about rathnam since it has become clear that the film is a flop. In short: you are lying about me.

          Like

        • Re: “Its opnions are opinions of Amitabh.”

          wow, never knew amitabh was so negative on his son. He really fooled me for a while.

          It has been clear for quite a while that IBOS is run by a right-wing extremist. Nothing in Amitabh’s life suggests an affinity for these views, even in general, let alone in such an extreme manifestation. IBOS would attack Amitabh himself if he had done Jodha -Akbar or Raavan (just as the presence of the bachchan bahu and son did not prevent him from mauling the film). It is amazing that your star-centrism is so extreme that you are oblivious to what is really going on at IBOS: right-wing hysteria (he routinely refers to B’wood as being run by “jihadis”; apparently the proof of this is the fact that a film like Jodha-Akbar or My Name is Khan was made).

          Like

    • Satya Vachan-

      Re.-Because to reinterpret The Ramayan Mani Ratnam, you have to understand it first.

      PS- my name is Rocky and I am not a right wing xenophobe and a communal fellow.

      Like

      • Who said you were bhai? You know me better than that (and if the suggestion is that I am saying one is communal just because one has issues with the Ramayana-interpretation in rathnam’s film, that is grossly unfair too)… But you cannot deny that chap is.

        Like

      • Ha ha !! I just wrote that PS for the effect Q.
        did not mean anything against you.
        but the remaker of “Khalnayak” should have been more careful.

        Like

        • Re: “..the remaker of “Khalnayak” should have been more careful.”

          Ouch! A more effective barb than anything IBOS has been able to summon 🙂

          Like

  28. IAMTHAT Says:

    Ash: I will Do it again

    Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on Raavan, Abhishek Bachchan and Mani Ratnam

    Raavan has been a gruelling experience for you?

    Why just me? Everyone in the film has gone through an equal amount of hardships to create a film we all believe in. There we were, getting drenched in the rain, and Mani Ratnam, Santosh Sivan . ..everyone was there facing the weather. We were all friends in the project. Everyone was there for one another. We could joke and say it was like an adventure sport, or a video game while we were making our way through the most impossible conditions. But we knew what the truth was.

    Were you prepared for the severe hardships when you read the script?

    It was still a bit of shock and surprise when we had to face the climatic conditions in the jungles. On top of that Mani loves to make on-the-spot changes. He improvises all the time. He doesn’t want to strictly follow the written word. He’s a master of creating magical moments out of the seemingly ordinary. What he does is incredible. Just the pleasure of working with him again (after Iruvar) was amazing.

    But for a lady to be climbing those slippery rocks ….

    Really (laughs), we didn’t know how slippery those rocks would be. There was this huge waterfall where we shot a lot. One never thought one would leap down those heights in and around the waterfall. Of course we were wired. But once you’re going down there’s no control. The rocks were so mossy, we had no control over our movements. We were climbing so close to the waterfall we could feel its power. It was the power of Nature in all its glory.

    How could you focus on emoting while doing such dangerous stunts?

    That’s magic of the camera, the magic of cinema. As for getting the emotions right, you know Mani Ratnam. Do you think he would relent until he got the emotions he wanted? We’d go through the most incredibly impossible scene. Then he’d come up to us and say, ‘I’ve got a better idea. Let’s do the whole thing again.’ I was like, ‘Are you for real? Do you know what we’re doing? And we’ve another version to capture before the light fades.’ I’d do it in Hindi and then do it all over again in Tamil.

    Was the scale of your emotions higher in Tamil?

    I haven’t seen the Tamil film. No time! The nuances alter from one language to the same. But the emotions were the same. Some of the lines were changed to show a difference in culture. What would seem theatrical in Hindi is natural in Tamil. But I didn’t consciously move into a different zone in the two languages. Our camereman Santosh Sivan was so innovative. The changes in lighting and mood were done by him. He was having a party while we were trying to get it right in two languages. He doesn’t only create fabulous images. He creates a magic in the language of the film. You can be sure that Mani and Santosh will together bring it all together finally. You know, Manikandan was doing the cinematography earlier. But you can’t tell where and when Santosh took over.

    You actually dubbed your own lines in Tamil?

    Oh yes, as far as dubbing is concerned I’ve come a long way. I remember during my first film Iruvar in Tamil, I panicked at the language. Now of course I am far more confident. But two films simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil meant pressure full-on. Until we were on the sets none of us knew what pressures we were getting into. After a while Mani was giving me scenes on the sets. Then he’d humour me saying, ‘Come come let’s do it.’It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I’d be standing there, having just completed a harrowing scene with Abhishek, and then without a minute’s pause I’d have to do the same scene with Vikram. We were all passionate about the project to the point of being obsessive. Everyone in the crew was there in the jungles throughout. We would tell one another that we were on a picnic or a safari adventure. But we knew what we were going through.

    Would you do it again if you have to?

    While we were shooting Raavan we felt the situation was impossible and we didn’t know how we’d get through it. But now that we did …yes, I’d do it again! Just before the film’s release we all met up and we kept looking at each other thinking the same thing. ‘Is it all done already?’ And we kept saying, ‘We can do it any time again.’ And Mani was like, ‘You guys are crazy.’

    You feel ill with serious viral infections during the film?

    It just got widely reported. Even Abhishek and Vikram fell ill. These things happen when working under tough conditions. Mani got it. His wife Suhasini visited us. And she too got it. Such things do happen specially when you have to remain drenched from head to toe. During childhood we were taught to keep our head dry. And here I was getting drenched from early morning till late night. There was no point in drying myself because I was soaked in seconds.

    Curiously you shot with two of the finest directors Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Leela Bhansali almost simultaneously, Mani completely outdoors and Sanjay fully on the sets.

    And both so fulfilling in their own way. Let me tell you, I consider myself blessed. I’ve worked repeatedly with both. And both have taken my acting abilities seriously.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bollywood/news-interviews/I-would-do-it-again-Ash/articleshow/6094653.cms

    Like

  29. jayshah Says:

    Watched Raavan yesterday.

    It’s really hard to lean one way on it for me. I did not find Abhishek poor here, I am surprised by the hyperbola surrounding his performance. Indeed at times it was OTT but those were brief moments. More then anything I think the structure of the film is a tad confusing and some characters are poorly written. Aishwariya is good but even like Abhishek she has some “loud” moments.

    Of course the plus points is the wonderful backdrop of the movie. Ratnam created a haven here, its beautiful. The last 30mins nits the film in nicely with an entralling climax. The fiery scenes between Beera and Dev are a highlight.

    The film has clearly been butchered by the poor word of mouth and response. I watched it amongst not more than 30 people in a 400 person capacity theatre on a saturday night show.

    Overall I found it a rather radical film in treatment. There were some insane moments which sometimes worked and sometimes did not.

    Like

    • Why_so_serious Says:

      “I watched it amongst not more than 30 people in a 400 person capacity theatre on a saturday night show.”

      why city, which state..or rather which country? 😉

      Like

      • Jay is in the UK…

        Like

        • Why_so_serious Says:

          Ah, okay. What are the norms for Indian films there. they run for max. two weeks, right?

          Like

          • Don’t know about UK, but that is pretty much true for NYC. But the big films (featuring SRK or aamir) can run for longer — caveat is that because there aren’t very many screens, even big films that are doing well can get replaced if a new film is released.

            Like

          • jayshah Says:

            A film which catches the fancy of audiences can run for weeks if not months.
            For example big new releases in my local can have up to 12-15 shows per day. There is a huge Indian audience catchment. KKHH ran for 6 months.
            Raavan still has 6-7 shows per day in second week and that is a rejected film.

            Like

          • Why_so_serious Says:

            Thanks Qalandar and Jayshah..

            Like

          • wow jay, can’t think of anything in Hindi that runs for 6 months these days in NYC…

            Like

          • jayshah Says:

            Only few films have done that here. But films like 3 Idiots or MNIK or OSO etc would be in a few cinemas for around 2-3months for sure. And something like MNIK would have 20 shows daily in first week.

            Like

          • Why_so_serious Says:

            Not that surprising for a country like UK where tandoori food has pretty much become a staple diet!

            Like

          • jayshah Says:

            Indian curry is the fav takeaway and practically now a national dish !

            Like

    • glad you finally got to see in Jay.. and thanks for the comments..

      Like

  30. IBOS is the biggest joke on this world’s blogosphere.

    Does that kind of Propagandist Commentary deserve more bandwidth than where its located, is up-to discretion.

    Like

  31. Satyam, your remarks about TS are pretty “Strong” as he/she him/herself is pretty big supporter of Abhi/Mani. Heck many times have been myself/others been bashed by him/her in support for Abhi/Mani.

    Also Abhi is not the best Star-Actor of his generation.

    I very much liked him in Yuva/Guru, and those belong among my top 5 performance last decade. Raavan he was not good.

    As a Star he is not in top 5.

    Like

    • Depends how stardom is defined.. if he can keep signing some of the choicest projects over and above his peers some ‘shifts’ will have to be introduced in how this definition comes about.. No one would disagree on the box office aspect.. but all the box office in the world will not get most of his peers those projects. This means something.

      Like

    • On TS my remarks are pretty strong because I see his/her remarks on Raavan as pretty incomprehensible to be quite honest.. specially since the person in question knows something about these matters and ought to have ‘known’ more here.. there is something even anxious on at least all the comments I’ve seen on Raavan.. plus I think he/she relies on this RGV/Rathnam ‘twinning’ (which itself is meant to paper over the foundational anxiety that RGV is hardly Rathnam though as an adherent one would wish to see him in such a role.. ) that colors a great deal of judgment in this regard.. again she/he doesn’t have to like Raavan.. but some of the statements as I keep saying are not ‘legible’ on TS’s own terms..

      Like

  32. So Raavan is reportedly dead meat. So what? There are many Bollywood superstars out there who have given more than two flops in the last two years and who are still getting big money from producers.

    The same goes for Abhishek Bachchan. Rumours (no one in Bollywood ever talks money, they only drop huge hints) have it that Junior B has just reportedly been offered Rs.7 crores for a film with Raj Kumar Santoshi to be bankrolled by a film corporation. Actually, the full rumour goes like this. That Raj Santoshi will make a film with the Bachchan family — Amitabh, Abhishek and Aishwarya.

    And the fee earmarked for Abhi alone is Rs.7 crores. Incidentally, Raj Santoshi is also making another film with his current favourite Katrina Kaif with whom he gave that hit Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bollywood/news-interviews/Abhis-offered-Rs7-crores-for-next/articleshow/6098207.cms

    Like

  33. Bhansali full of praise for Abhishek’s acting
    June 28th, 2010

    Raavan may have crashed at the box office and while critics feel that the film failed due to Abhishek Bachchan’s unconvincing performance, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is all praises for the actor. According to sources, Bhansali has never worked with Abhishek but has worked with Aishwarya in two films, and with Amitabh Bachchan in Black. In fact, Bhansali’s next film, Guzarish, has Ash in the lead role.

    However, Bhansali liked Abhishek’s performance more than Aishwarya’s in Raavan. He even called Abhishek after he saw the film and applauded his performance. Abhishek, of course, was on cloud nine after getting such a call from Bhansali, especially since he was disappointed with the film’s lacklustre opening.

    Like

    • wonder if there really is something in the works here! Again unless it’s something author-backed like Black I really don’t see Abhishek as a good fit for Bhansali’s world..

      Like

  34. IAMTHAT Says:

    Abhi’s offered Rs.7 crores for next!

    So Raavan is reportedly dead meat. So what? There are many Bollywood superstars out there who have given more than two flops in the last two years and who are still getting big money from producers.

    The same goes for Abhishek Bachchan. Rumours (no one in Bollywood ever talks money, they only drop huge hints) have it that Junior B has just reportedly been offered Rs.7 crores for a film with Raj Kumar Santoshi to be bankrolled by a film corporation. Actually, the full rumour goes like this. That Raj Santoshi will make a film with the Bachchan family — Amitabh, Abhishek and Aishwarya.

    And the fee earmarked for Abhi alone is Rs.7 crores. Incidentally, Raj Santoshi is also making another film with his current favourite Katrina Kaif with whom he gave that hit Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Entertainment/Bollywood/News-Interviews/Abhis-offered-Rs-7-crores-for-next/articleshow/6098207.cms

    Like

    • IBOS have been on an ideological tear ever since Raavan has released. They’ve put up an extraordinary number of articles on it really tearing it apart and relishing the flopping. This incidentally confirms something I used to say earlier when JA released and when some tried to portray it as a pro-Bachchan thing or whatever. And the evidence is right here. JA is introduced into the discussion. The logic is clear — whoever is ‘disrespectful’ with Hindu tradition (read: the right’s definition of such!) will be hurt at the box office and that star’s career will be destroyed. are we to believe that Kites flopped for this reason?! I’m afraid they will be quite disappointed in this belief. Amazingly the obvious lesson hasn’t be drawn from political history. If that sort of sentiment represented the majority we would have seen the BJP in power forever! Even the heartland of UP is a distant dream for the BJP, let alone anything else! Even the examples offered (Aaj ka arjun vs the present) are so unbelievably silly! The idea that multiplex audiences across India are not watching Raavan because they’re offended is a stretch to put it mildly! Isn’t the truth the opposite? People wanted even more of Raavan and a real Raavan-Sita romance! In all the hysteria surrounding Raavan, all the unfair characterizations, the one objection that I have NOT heard is precisely that Ram did not have enough of a role or that he was portrayed a bit negatively or whatever. No one even talked about it except to the extent that they commented on Vikram’s performance. Ideology can be a very dangerous thing.

      I am though sometimes amused to see some people otherwise on the right rather horrified with the IBOS political commentary. They should embrace it with open arms. This is really the ‘truth’ of what they believe and more or less express directly or indirectly in other contexts. But when such a wordlview confronts them rather nakedly they recoil. What is notable about the piece and others like it from IBOS on Raavan is the ‘desire’ that the flop be attributable to what is seen as the attempt to subvert Hindu practice. Right after Guru Abhishek had a disaster in JBJ. What was the problem there?

      Like

      • Satyam if your hint is towards me, I have never shied away from what I think is Right.

        I have not seen raavan yet and I am a big fan of Abhishek but deep down when I read about the lie detecter test , I wanted this movie to not be accepted.
        because I was afraid the commies are going to write a new Ramayan.

        I openly embrace this …… Koi Shaq ??????

        Like

        • I wasn’t hinting towards you at all Rocky… I say things openly when I have to.. I was just pointing to a certain mindset..

          there is NO lie detector test in the film.. but there is a suggestion and it’s a very interesting one.. that also makes perfect sense within the film the way the plot unfolds..

          ‘Commies’..?! Let me know when you run into a real one!

          Like

          • Re.Let me know when you run into a real one!

            Ha ha- Naam loonga tau Badnaam ho jayenge !! LOL

            PS- I am very much relieved to read that you were not hinting towards me,Thanks.

            Like

          • Ha!

            How could I dare hint at you?!

            Like

          • If the film ACTUALLY susbtituted agnipariksha with a lie detector test, it would have been as ludicrous as the reviews (falsely) suggested. But yeah, it’s really just a passing line in the film and it’s the conversation as a whole between Ash and Vikram that’s really important and tensely played out here.. The moment is also expertly staged and “lit” by Sivan/Ratnam in a way that recalls Manisha and SRK’s cloak-and-dagger conversation in Dil Se… where a door kept opening and shutting between them…the strategy might be even more effective here–filled as this scene is with a sense of uncertainty and deception.

            Like

          • true, one doesn’t really know what’s going on here.. and isn’t the final section of the film crucial in terms of really subverting the Ramayana? In other words to the extent that one might look for Rathnam to play with the canonical plot it happens right here in this segment.

            Like

          • Essentially Ratnam actually puts Ram to the test here, not unlike Raj Kapoor’s own “trial” for the character of Ram in Awaara.

            Like

          • Re.-How could I dare hint at you?!

            Don’t dare to hit at me either !! LOL!!

            Like

        • we’ve seen frightening ‘commies’ in history and equally frightening ideologues on the right.. if one did a body count for the 20th century I’m not sure who would win! But in the world we live in today the left has ceased to be a seriously threatening force in this sense of the word. The right has the victory in a certain sense. Most political debates in democracies anywhere in the world really take place on the right or center-right with the left offering merely the ‘administrative’ option. The right always runs the danger of appearing extremist and the left can always paint them as such given the right environment but there is no real ‘extreme left’ in any politically important sense to tar one way or the other! Which is actually why you see those Naxal attacks!

          related point here:

          https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/why-did-raavan-failed-at-box-office%E2%80%A6-i-don%E2%80%99t-know-if-it-has-but-experts-are-negative-about-its-future/#comment-57630

          Like

  35. IAMTHAT Says:

    Quite an interesting article on Passionforcinema:

    Plagiarism vs Inspiration- Lets draw a line!!!

    http://passionforcinema.com/plagiarism-vs-inspiration-lets-draw-a-line/

    Like

  36. Satyam, did Abzee write a review for Raavan or Raavanan? Was hoping to read his views.

    Like

    • Don’t believe so.. did have his initial impressions here.. said he vastly preferred the Tamil to the Hindi.

      On that note I saw the Hindi again yesterday.. I’d seen each of the other two versions once before.. this film just grows with each viewing.. and much as I love both versions I too give the edge to the Hindi version and its lead performance..

      Like

      • Abhishek’s been unfairly piled on over his performance. He was really strong for me.
        Maybe it was the strange mannerism’s Mani had him do but its there in the Vikram version too. I’d guess most who have seen the Hindi haven’t seen the Tamil. Honestly I thought most of those bak, bak, bak moments worked better with Abhishek. At least for me they did.
        Those crazy moments – the scene when Ragini threatens him – Beera outside on the rock with his gun while Ragini is tied up inside – the tent scene when Dev’s brother is captured- the end after Ragini mocks his bak bak bak and Beera says it back.
        Abhishek had that crazy look his eye which worked better for me. I also preferred Abhishek’s performance for the bridge scene and all the scenes afterwards.
        I think for many Vikram’s very powerful Veera worked better with Aish’s Raagini. I think one of the best moments was during Kotta Poatta when Veera eyes Ragini. There was an intensity there that Abhishek didn’t give. So they are preferring the Tamil version for moments like this.

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        • Kassam, I agree with you. I’ve watched raavan three times. I would feel bad for Abhishek. He excelled in second half.

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          • i agree with u guys..ted nd kassam..i saw raavan yesterday!! nd although i found d movie only decent..(like i didn’t love it nd i didn’t hate it..but somewhere in between..) but for me..to be honest abhishek bachchan nd ravi kisan were THE highlights of the movie..they abs. rocked!! infact i found abhi’s performance vastly superior to ash’s!! i loved d way abhi captured d wildness,,madness nd unpredictability of beera!! also loved d moments with his sister priyamani..!!
            now..when i have seen d movie..i feel quite surprised that how some critics have panned abhi’s performance nd said dat he has “hammed” in d film..i thought he was quite magnetic here..!!
            p.s. nd one last thing VIKRAM SUCKED!! he was quite aweful in d movie…he single handedly spoiled a lot of scenes in d movie..atleast for me!!

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        • I agree almost completely here, and specially having seen the Tamil sandwiched between two Hindi viewings. The Abhishek performance might be fairly judged ‘over the top’ at points as it has been by many but it is so by design and not really (as much of the criticism has suggested) about an actor not in control of his character’s unhinged streaks. Because all those moments operate very much within a certain range and Abhishek always pitches it within this range. So there is certainly control even in these moments. I think what many have also not been able to grapple with here is the fact the character is not ‘explained’ enough or ‘psychoanalyzed’ enough for their liking. The film perhaps offers clues. Beera does not seem to have these over the top moments in the flashbacks. Could it be that the sister’s traumatic event opens up this schizoid side in him and unhinges him? one does not in my view leave the film with any mystery about what Beera has been (though he is enigmatic for sure) about but one might have wished to ‘learn’ more. Vikram’s Veera is a far less enigmatic character and this is fairly obvious even in the first half hour or so. I have earlier talked about how the Tamil Raavanan or certainly Vikram’s interpretation of the character while authoritative is not as ‘radical’ within the contexts of that industry or that star’s history. But the more important point here is that Vikram makes Veera less enigmatic, more comprehensible and by virtue of this perhaps more accessible (to the extents that his motivations might be a bit more obvious). In an odd sense the ‘greater’ Vikram performance is the Dev one in the Hindi version because here Vikram does display a certain economy, his character again is in tune with the Hindi version’s greater ‘opaqueness’. Dev in Raavan is also more enigmatic than Dev in Raavanan.

          It is always an obfuscation to think that the very same story is being told twice, just with different actors. Because actors alter the text of the film. The experience of each film becomes different. These films are complementary in the best sense of the word. But the Hindi version intrigues far more than the Tamil. I wouldn’t mind seeing the latter again at all but I don’t have much of a sense that I could ‘discover’ something new here via the performances unlike the Hindi where I have the opposite view.

          Vikram makes Veera much more ‘rational’ than Abhishek. One could add with just a touch of exaggeration that Veera is Beera played straight. yes he does have many of those mannerisms and psychological ticks but they’re kept more restrained. Again the opposite is true here. Given Veera’s character his over the top moments even though more restrained seem less consistent with his character than Beera’s with his.

          watching it a second time I would even go so far as to say that I think this performance compares very favorably with other important Abhishek ones and one could even prefer it to everything else as a few reviewers have. Beyond this I’d add that Abhishek’s physicality is just remarkable to behold on screen every time. Not just the shots that work with his height but also the closeups. I’ve said this before also. In Hindi cinema his closeups are unbeatable. Perhaps elsewhere too (I would include all stars in Indian cinema who’ve debuted after Bachchan or Mammootty and so on) I. Which is partly a reflection on his abilities but also his ‘face’.

          All of this again doesn’t mean that I have a problem with Vikram at all in any sense. I’ve already said much about this. I am just trying to counter a great deal of the criticism here. I incidentally also agree that there is a certain impish quality in Beera at times. This goes back to Rathnam’s desire to have many ‘faces and sides’ to Raavan. We see in Beera the ‘many moods’ that we don’t get in Veera. But it is not as if it’s completely different character in each mood. It is the very same guy. And again a second viewing persuaded me more in some ways about the ‘consistency’ of Abhishek’s performance.

          This film and this performance will have a better afterlife than currently seems imaginable.

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          • In an odd sense the performance that Abhishek’s resembles most in some ways is Bachchan’s Agneepath (not because they’re the same ‘kind’). The latter film too took its time finding it’s audience. For a contemporary younger male audience especially this film and role are like Deewar (don’t think there’s any comparison between the films), touchstone moments. At the time many film simply found Bachchan hard to take in that film. True, he didn’t get such reviews but in India no one gives such reviews to an actor who’s been at it for a long time let alone a legend like Bachchan. The voice change of course attracted great negativity (today it’s hard to separate the performance from the voice). Again more in the media and bourgeois audiences. I am unpersuaded it was the same for everyone. In any case this performance could be judged over the top as it was by some. But surely that is the ‘point’ of the performance. It doesn’t necessarily make my list of favorite Bachchan performances but it is a very unique one in his oeuvre. A performance of ‘risk’.. and important precisely because it risks so much. Abhishek’s Raavan falls in that category. There are just very slight hints of this Agneepath ghost in certain portions in the second half of the film, in some of the more restrained moments where Abhishek nonetheless uses a somewhat hoarse voice.

            There is another link too. For all the Deewar structure Agneepath’s Vijay is very different from that of the older film’s. Because in Agneepath the entire family history and trauma and tragedy do not quite seem to account for this (also slightly unhinged) character. Which is why I’ve located this role in a Lawaaris genealogy in the past. Vijay is what Heera would have become if his father had not embraced him at the end of that film. A very bruised character become hellish.

            All of this by the way is another reason to worry for Johar’s Agneepath. If it’s Hrithik or someone else in it one might as well start calling it a spoof. If it’s Abhishek I think he could do interesting things with this character but the radical nature of the latter should be preserved. It will have to be another performance of risk. But of course this will never happen in a Johar film much as his production house should be the last to even touch Mukul Anand’s visual grammar in the grandly operatic original. But I’ve always felt that audiences couldn’t quite connect to Vijay in the film which is why it didn’t work. This is not a failure. Mukul Anand rightly understood that Deewar couldn’t simply be repeated. Today younger audiences simply read it as ‘gesturality’, a great collection of such moments. They equally miss the encounter with the film. The one thing that Johar might not have realized though is that I’ve never had the sense that even today younger female audiences are as enamored with this character as their male counterparts. Yes the film has enormous prestige but it doesn’t quite reflect the dominant demographics of the multiplex economy.

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          • Satyam I agree with nearly everything here but I’ll take it a bit further. I enjoyed both the Hindi version and its lead performance far more than the Tamil version. I’ve of course seen the Hindi version more than the Tamil but I honestly think the latter suffers a bit from the enigmatic shadow of its companion….things are a bit too spelled out in Raavanan and Vikram’s performance sticks close to the script without introducing anything particularly interesting, especially given his screen history.

            I do think he does something new and interesting (and enigmatic as you rightly call it ) as Dev in Raavan though….

            “This film and this performance will have a better afterlife than currently seems imaginable.”

            Assuredly.

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          • also..i wanna say that we all talk about moments where abhi is loud nd ott..nd in these moments..abhishek definitely was convincing..but lets also not forget d subtle innocent moments that he shares with raagini.. where raagini tells beera in d end..”main yahaan ruk jaoongi”..nd then beera reacts..”tum yahaan pe reh jaogi..” something like that..i thought abhishek was so charming there!! the vulnerability nd humane-ness that he displays amongst all d madness is very charming!!
            also how can one forget that brilliant scene where beera sees her sister lying nd finds out that his siter has been raped..the way abhishek reacts there..with a lill tears..nd remorse,,sadness nd helplessness on his face..i thought that was one splendid acting moment..u just cant take ur eyes off him..!!

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          • Re: “Not just the shots that work with his height but also the closeups. I’ve said this before also. In Hindi cinema his closeups are unbeatable. Perhaps elsewhere too (I would include all stars in Indian cinema who’ve debuted after Bachchan or Mammootty and so on) I. Which is partly a reflection on his abilities but also his ‘face’.”

            Personally the close-ups of Vikram where Ash was also in the frame/nearby in Raavanan worked better for me, but even apart from this I am not sure I follow. i.e. are you referring to “the gaze”, or an expressivity of face, or something else?

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          • I can’t say that I preferred Vikram in any of the closeups.. but I am willing to concede the point on one specific moment or another.. I mean all of the above.. he just holds the camera very well in those shots.. but also juxtapose this with something like the two Sarkar films (where I otherwise like Abhishek, specially in the second one) and you see the difference.. because here an element of performance is also being called into play as opposed to the shot simply focusing on an actor not having that much to do.. Bachchan for example (Sr) could have been much more effective had his closeups been reduced as well (much as in a different context RGV could have made better used of either Bachchan’s physicality than he does.. there is some of it here but not enough.. in fairness to him the claustrophobic interiors and tight shots he works with often limit these possibilities.. he does well nonetheless in some regards..).. in another sense Rathnam never wastes a closeup while RGV often uses it simply to enhance the effect of what already is.. Dutta did a lot of closeups as well but it seemed to be much integrated into his worldview even when it sometimes bordered on the excessive.. again we can go through other Rathnam films in this regard..

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          • On Agneepath, you encapsulate the paradox quite neatly: audiences couldn’t quite connect (or couldn’t immediately connect, which is perhaps the more relevant consideration where the box office is concerned) with Vijay Deenanath Chauhan. Karan Johar is trying to address this very failing, not realizing that to succeed in addressing it (with no matter which actor) is swap out this character for an imposter. For Chauhan is precisely he with whom one cannot have empathy.

            There is a telling scene in the film that used to puzzle me as a child. In one of Hindi cinema’s oddest propositions, Chauhan shows up at Madhavi’s house and suggests they should get married because she is, after his mother, the only woman to have seen him naked (Madhavi was the nurse who treated Chauhan after he was shot) — almost as if this is an acknowledgment of vulnerability that has to be neutered by re-incorporation into an economy of family relationships. As a child, I found it odd that a man in his mid-30s in Chauhan’s position should be a virgin, and at the time thought this was a nod to bourgeois sensibilities that wanted even gangsters to be good boys. Now, although I’m sure those sensibilities were pressure to some extent, I am less sure if that completely accounts for the scene. i.e. Chauhan’s celibacy is in a sense, while completely unrealistic, more consistent with this monument-sized character — he isn’t super-human so much as other than human, and can form no new bonds with the merely human (the one with Madhavi is the result of an accident; one gets the sense he might have proposed to any nurse who happened to treat him!)…

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          • Qalandar, that is probably the single best comment I’ve come across on Agneepath. Fantastic!

            “not realizing that to succeed in addressing it (with no matter which actor) is swap out this character for an imposter”

            Johar just wants a hit and he’ll take all the impostors he can to make this possible. We live in the age of impostors of course. Don was one (the sequel is meant to convince us of the authenticity of the impostor! Isn’t this itself a spoof-like take on the script possibilities of the original?!) and sadly Bachchan himself associated himself with another even worse one in Aag.

            With Agneepath the only thing sadder than a flop here might be a hit. Unless Johar’s assistant surprises me which would be a bit like waiting for Godot!

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          • That’s kind of you, given that my comment was derivative of the rest of this discussion.

            Can you imagine the Agneepath remake prefaced with the usual Dharma theme music of “Tum Paas Aaaye” with Lata going “aaa aaaa aaa aaa”? The mind is boggled.

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  37. Off topic, For you Satyam……..

    Billboard Blockbusters

    http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/voices/billboard-blockbusters

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  38. The following is a classic example of the sort of ‘unthinking’ criticism we’ve seen with this film and performance:

    http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/the-cultrespectability/399493/

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    • why_so_serious Says:

      “But come face to face with the person himself and this is what you see: Bachchan throwing his facial muscles out of gear by curling his lips and snarling as fiercely as he can (which is not very fiercely), or making grunting noises that suggest a truckload of phlegm stuck in his throat, or shaking his head violently and mumbling “Bak Bak Bak” while the camera jump-cuts all over the place. This last gesture is presumably meant to convey Beera’s tortured state of mind, but in the scenes where he glares and babbles at the captive Ragini (Aishwarya Rai), the impression I got was of a 10-year-old boy trying really, really hard to be psychotic… while his slightly bored girlfriend watches from the sidelines, trying really, really hard to be impressed.”

      LOL. Did Jai Arjun Singh and his friend Rangan watch it together?

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  39. I’ll also say this…I think if Ratnam continues to do the bilingual in the future (he sadly probably won’t given the critical and commercial “step down” from Yuva to Raavan in every sense) he really should consider shaping both sides of the equation into something more distinctive. I agree with Satyam’s assertion that this isn’t the same story twice and is colored by distinct adjustments to dialogue, casting choices and the like but I honestly think it would have been even more interesting here if we had a few different scenes (ala AE) or a few unique moments for either film…

    In a way by electing to do a scene-by-scene equivalent, Ratnam falls into the same trap that he set and that we saw play out during the promotional phase – each new trailer for the Tamil version wasn’t given too many moments that didn’t exist in the pre-released Hindi trailers, and so there wasn’t anything particularly distinctive to chew on here…the same could be said (in a broad structural sense) about the films…

    I recall that in viewing the Tamil film, I shot up in my seat whenever I saw a shot that wasn’t included in the Hindi version…

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    • I agree completely with that.. I know there were probably logistical challenges to doing it this way but Rathnam should really have shaped the story somewhat differently in both versions.. really given it a very different ‘sense’..

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  40. Also, in a gesture that I find close to my concerns in many ways, and perhaps the most radical gesture in a film which is so concerned with the Ramayana tropes of purity and so forth, you have (I’ve touched on this before) Beera’s sister who is gang-raped by presumably upper caste police officers (there is a caste reference in the film), the question of ‘sexual possession’ is also what haunts Dev from time to time in terms of his wife’s kidnapping and it is certainly introduced cheekily by Govinda’s character at a couple of points (incidentally this too is an ambiguous character that is I believe not played right by either star even if I prefer Karthik for certain reasons), but the one danger that ‘Sita’ never quite faces in Raavan’s kingdom is precisely the ‘sexual threat’. It’s not just Beera, even his brothers never even come close to approaching that line, let alone crossing it, nor anyone else. One often sees in other such situations that obligatory character who does something terrible and who’s reprimanded or beaten up by the rest. Even that doesn’t happen here. Now there is a Ramayana trope to preserve here of course — Sita really does remain ‘pure’. But the larger political point is that this flies in the face of everything one might expect Beera and his ‘community’ to do given popular representations both in the media and in cinema. All those ‘heart of darkness’ films where people get kidnapped, shot, raped or whatever at the drop of a hat. Note how also in the very same urban bourgeois imagining it is always the socio-economically disadvantaged other who does the same ‘within’ those urban areas. The same kind of schema could also be read in caste terms or using an ethnic template, sometimes even a religious one, on and on. Is the Raavan/Raavanan ‘picture’ an exaggerated one in this sense? Are women who are held in captivity more likely than not to be sexually ‘appropriated’? The answer perhaps is yes in each case. But the question here is hardly one of realism or even naturalism. It is about the precise political point Rathnam chooses to make. Here’s a guy whose sister has been gang-raped. He could very easily have exacted a similar revenge on his captor but he chooses not to. The deal always involves killing her, never anything other than this. Beera is sophisticated in other ways as well. As the film develops one also realizes that he does not really hate Dev in the deepest sense. He knows that Dev has not personally been responsible for what happened to his sister. As he develops a relationship with Ragini this truth that he has perhaps suppressed to a degree to kidnap the latter starts coming out. He keeps putting himself and Dev on the same level, engaging in all sorts of comparisons but there is usually not much bitterness directed at Dev. On the other hand we see what he does with the other police officer who is presumably castrated (the Tamil makes this more explicit but there is more than a hint in the Hindi also.. Govinda says ‘he does not have honor anymore’). We see him exacting brutal revenge on the brother-in-law who runs away abandoning his wife. So he is capable of great violence but he (or his clan) are not ‘violators’ of women.

    and of course there is also the question of testimony, allied potently in this film with that of purity, a wonderfully insightful decision on Rathnam’s part. How do we know ‘Sita’ is pure? The Ramayana has a ‘supernatural’ test for this but this is hardly a response most others could work with! What happens in the film? Dev offers Ragini one bit of testimony, Raavan another. Note how by this point she believes one more than the other much as when she first learns about Beera’s testimony she is not quite able to believe it. When offered the counter-version she immediately does. Because she finds it closer to the Beera she knows. And yet this entire contest between Dev and Beera is finally reduced to this testimony. Beera too awaits a different kind of testimony from Ragini which he never quite gets formally in the film but perhaps does obliquely by the end. As he’s falling it is Ragini’s outstretched hand that he cannot grasp much as earlier she has tried to shield him from her husband.

    Whether a woman is ‘pure’ or not is strictly speaking ‘unknowable’. But surely it is also Rathnam’s aim here to unsettle the very notion of the ‘pure’. It is Raavan’s sister who has been ‘defiled’, not Ram’s wife. But also isn’t Beera the purer character inasmuch as his testimony always turns out to be dependable. Unlike Ram who can use it in instrumental ways to achieve his goal. Who can doubt his wife’s ‘chastity’ even if in make-believe fashion to get to his enemy? Do we really think more highly of Dev when we discover his ploy? In a sense isn’t this even more objectionable?

    I don’t believe that Rathnam intends an inversion in this sense or elsewhere between Ram and Raavan. The point surely is that Ram’s violence which is to say institutional violence or that of the orthodoxy or that which is ‘authorized’ never reveals itself as such. We often talk about this here but it is also the difference between state violence which is never defined as ‘terrorist’ even when it is the worst kind and that of individuals or individual groups which can be quickly stigmatized as such. This is not to excuse any kind of violence but there must be equal recognition of all kinds. And I get back to an older point. Naxal/Maoist violence is of course extreme but it doesn’t arise out of thin air. We choose not to see the violence the Indian state inflicts because we are ideologically complicit in the project of the state. To frame the example a bit differently when we read headlines like ’85 die in UP in caste violence’ we are obliged to look deeper into it and at least get beyond the abstraction of the state and media in this regard. It is not something like ‘caste violence’ that is ‘out there’ somewhere. It is two (or more) definable groups with specific political ideologies engaged in a contest or war. There is nothing primeval or atavistic about it. In the same sense certain labels like (in this case) ‘commie’ and so on are really old games (developed by colonial masters.. Britain and the US in this instance) to play the game of the state. One can call them Naxals or Maoists or ‘commies’ or whatever, really anything. The question still remains: why are they attacking army or police all of a sudden? In the narrative of the state these are extremists who just don’t want to live ‘happily ever after’ in the nation-state. We should have the intelligence and/or the ethics to reject such idiotic simplification and insist on more explanation. Find it for ourselves. But of course we are often ‘not interested’ or (and worse) ideologically implicated in the same sort of program. Notice how often certain urban types attack the Laloo Prasad Yadavs of India while celebrating the Narendra Modis on the other hand. And ironically those who are adherents of the latter are all indignant when the latter is cast in such terms. They insist that we have a more complex, nuanced view, that we do personal ‘on site’ investigations, on and on. In short all the very elements that they quite happily discard every single day when ‘pronouncing’ against the likes of Laloo Prasad Yadav.

    If we were able to go and live in that ‘Maoist corridor’ for a while we would look at the world with new eyes. We would become like Ragini..

    This is Rathnam’s wager.. and it goes beyond any simple reading or inversion of the Ramayana..

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    • Satyam: this piece ties into some of what you are saying:

      http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?265964

      [Warning: the image is disturbing and graphic.]

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      • thanks for this excellent (if horrifying) piece Qalandar, hadn’t seen it before and it really neatly dovetails into the discussion..

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      • why_so_serious Says:

        In her careful analysis of sexual violence during civil war, the political scientist Elizabeth Woods points out that while it was common in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, sexual assault was less frequent in El Salvador, Sri Lanka and Peru. In the latter cases, the vast majority of rapes were committed by the government or paramilitaries, this also being a primary reason why women were motivated to join the insurgents. The rebel armies—who carried out other violent acts, including the killing of civilians—almost never committed sexual violence, including against female combatants in their own ranks. In Mizoram, women recalling the regrouping and search operations of the 1960s described only rapes by Indian soldiers and none by the Mizo National Front. One said to me, “It is as if the vai (outsider) army was hungry for women.” Today, despite government claims that the Maoists sexually exploit young women, the distinction between insurgent and counter-insurgent is clear for the women of Dantewada. They are safe from one army (the PLGA) but not from the other (the Indian paramilitary and SPOs/police). And in any war to win hearts and minds (‘WHAM’), surely this is not an unimportant distinction.
        ————–
        Very relevant piece

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        • Yes. BTW, the author has written a very important book on Chattisgarh (specifically the old “native state” of Bastar) called “Subalterns and Sovereigns” that I highly recommend. I wish all the journalists who blithely speak of maoists and naxalites etc. also read that book.

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    • Extremely well stated Satyam. Certainly dovetails with some of what Q and I talked about a couple of days ago:

      https://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/more-pages-from-dantewada-qalandars-piece-in-outlook/#comment-58233

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      • thanks for pointing out this very useful exchange.. I’d missed it earlier..

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        • “In the narrative of the state these are extremists who just don’t want to live ‘happily ever after’ in the nation-state. We should have the intelligence and/or the ethics to reject such idiotic simplification and insist on more explanation. Find it for ourselves. But of course we are often ‘not interested’ or (and worse) ideologically implicated in the same sort of program.”

          Absolutely. And Ratnam’s insistence on two things really lends your commentary here a lot of cred. One of course is the ecstatic emphasis on ten heads, broad gestures, a complex personal identity for Beera, giving a “concept” such as (a state’s) “Raavan” not just a face but a myriad of faces, a purposefully complex character-construct.

          The second is the fragmented nature of the narrative. You mention here that we should be intelligent enough to reject oversimplification within a state’s narrative, that we should seek out the truth ourselves. Ratnam would probably demand the same with regard to his film…there is a purpose to constructing things as he has here.

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          • excellent point here GF.. Raavan has many identities and all of these cannot be reconciled.. in this sense Rathnam resolves the impasse of Dil Se by going over to Manisha’s side of the equation.. that film works in its own way because we access the ‘terrorist’ and consequently her world pretty much through SRK and therefore this remains always enigmatic and even inscrutable for us.. the problem though is that the ‘normative’ perspective Shahrukh’s character introduces is ‘ours’ of course but it can never get to the truth of the ‘other’.. so even as Rathnam remains astute in this sense his film has to necessarily lead to an impasse (the ending which I once thought less of also works in this context..).. but Raavan ‘completes’ Dil Se.. the true ‘nature’ of the marginalized and de-voiced indicates a degree of derangement.. because if one is ‘opposed’ to the violence of the state, one necessarily has to be a little deranged, a bit unhinged.. there is yet that aspect of Raavan which is formed by the state as certainly as the colonized owes something to the colonizer.. these voices are in conflict within Raavan..

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          • Enjoyed reading everyone’s analysis.
            Can I ask you guys where you would rate Raavan/Raavanan with other Ratnam movies?

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          • I would also say like GF that it’s too early to be definitive on Raavan. I would be more comfortable commenting on its visuals values where it seems one of the director’s peaks. In terms of what my favorite Rathnam films have been for some time now (which is not necessarily what I think are his very best) I’d say in no order Mouna Raagam, Iruvar, Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Muthamittal. Those that intrigue me the most are Iruvar, Dil Se, Kannathil Muthamittal and Raavan can probably be added to this list. Perhaps the Rathnam I love the most is Alaipayuthey. The one I rate the highest though is Iruvar.

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          • Incidentally I really like the first 50-60% of Bombay after which it goes downhill for me.

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  41. My next two films in the theater will be Inception of course but also Predators (ha!).

    as a gesture of kindness to someone I might possibly end up watching IHLS at some point. I’ll console myself that I’ve made the sacrifice for Sonam. But in any case this is why Johar wins!

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  42. “Can I ask you guys where you would rate Raavan/Raavanan with other Ratnam movies?”

    For me Raavan (not Raavanan) is climbing the Ratnam ladder fast. I can’t responsibly make a call of this kind until some time has passed and one gets over the initial euphoria of having encountered a film that’s immediately striking…for now the Ratnam hallmarks for me are Iruvar, Kannathil Muthamittal (those two are the “greats” for me as well as personal favorites) Mouna Ragam, Nayagan, Dil Se and for pure entertainment, Thalapathi and Agni Natchithram. Iruvar remains the Ratnam masterwork. Don’t think he will better this film.

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    • And barring Dil Se (which is not surprisingly the Hindi movie that haunts one as much as Raavan) this is easily Ratnam’s best Hindi film…as pure narrative Raavan is certainly “tighter” but Dil Se’s got so much in it, feels more dense in some ways than many of Ratnam’s movies, that one can’t simply brush it aside for a new favorite.

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    • Pretty much agree with your picks. And Dil Se and Raavan are my favorite Hindi movies of his as well. I still don’t rate Yuva very high other than the Abhishek and Rani track.

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  43. Alex adams Says:

    Interesting point thee about the insinuations of sexual violence by the indian army. Just wondering why this is being made without any proof . Even dreaded proven criminals caught on CCTV like Kasab are give. A fair rial. Why Indians in general and enlighten people–like some on this blog- don’t give the same benefit of doubt to people(army) protecting Indians at the Borders and elsewhere for measly salaries!
    By the way, I was away after being put off by the way raanan underperformed and th way it was mauled critically and commercially– when u see a diametrically opposite, read crap film like houseful being quit, u loose interest in films and film analyses. That’s what happened to me( briefly)…..I am happy to acknowledge that— it was a sort or setback and a sudden dip in interest in Hindi movies, in general.
    Also I think it will be a watershed event in the life and times of bachchans ESP abhishek. Mark my words—hope it is not like that, but life wont be the same for abhishek from now on— and it. Better not be the same—nobody can be allowed serial failures in projects as good as d6 and raanan WHATEVER he cause may be—really bitter with abhishek—think the problem is hat he has had things too easy

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    • ya easy to get discouraged when one sees good films being so rejected, especially the way critics went after Raavan when these same critics give a pass to junk like MNIK.
      But have appreciated reading many blog and forum reviews from folks who have appreciated the film.

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      • the struggle must go on!

        In a sense we all blame Abhishek for the wrong reasons.. he clearly has the capital to be able to take more risks than his peers and carry on with his narrative despite some very high profile failures. I of course have a different reading of why he keeps getting these chances than many of the detractors and so forth. But whatever the reasons for that ‘capital’ might be doesn’t it actually show commitment to not go for the low hanging fruit? In other words even with capital most stars don’t take these risks. In this sense it is always a bit amusing to see people associate him with not being driven enough or taking it too easy or whatever. I think there are easier ways to make a living as an actor that do what he did for Raavan in that terrain! Leaving aside again the detractors who’ll be after him no matter what he does (we see the Aamir analogy, when Aamir got the critical attention he was sometimes attacked for not having the biggest hits, when he got the biggest hits he was called a sellout by the same crowd!) even some fans and those who are relatively neutral sometimes follow this line of reasoning. What lies behind it is really a ‘new India’ ethic where the worst thing is always failure. The one thing that no one can be forgiven. Hence what they really mean is that they don’t want him to fail but they then connect it with a certain sort of ‘managerial’ work ethic where one puts in a great many hours and ensures results. It doesn’t work that way in any creative field! I am not suggesting that there aren’t grounds to criticize Abhishek, just that people almost always choose the wrong reasons. There is no one working harder than him in his generation because no one has as much volume and certainly no one has the challenging parts that he regularly takes up. If this guy isn’t working hard not sure who is! And I’m not sure what’s so ‘damnable’ about choosing to take risks with the right directors. It’s obviously not the best strategy if one wants to be the biggest box office force around but when has Abhishek expressed such a wish? If anything his ambitions lie far more in another direction. Yes he obviously hopes to get a lot of success out of what he’s doing but even when things haven’t worked out he hasn’t exactly abandoned his creative ambitions.

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    • Alex: what do you mean “without any proof”? Even in a court of law, allegations by people who say they have been raped DO count as proof. [If the army personnel in question deny the charges, they also are rebutting proof.] In any event, charges of sexual abuse in a variety of theaters of conflict have been made far too credibly for anyone to seriously believe that these are the only cases, or that none such cases occur. And, even apart from Naxalite conflict, adivasi women have been especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation over the decades (forest department was notorious for this, among other things).

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    • Alexadams, dont bring housefull into this discussion.It was an entertaining film and the audience liked.Raavan is a terrible film.Dont blame abhishek for this.This was one terrible film which would have flopped with anyone.
      So Abhishek is not affected.What affects him however is drona,delhi 6.
      Until drona he had the oppurtunity to be a top star.But he lost it with that failure.
      That showed his bad script sense and not being able to judge a film.
      And also it did not get to a respectable total,and that showed he didnt have enough stardom.Delhi 6 had a higher gross,but his acting is not so good.A lower budgeted film could have been better.Raavan does not affect him,so the next film is khjjs.If he can get that film to a respectable total he is not affected.

      Propagandists should know that Akshay is the No1 star since 2007.Trying to downgrade Akshay will not be of any use.

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      • sunil,
        we all know how crazy you are about AKKI,
        in a sense it is partly true that Akshay is the No1 star since 2007,only akki fans are claiming that. SRK undoubtly been no 1 until ghajini and 3I.
        If Amirs dhobi ghaat becomes another 200cr block-buster then who knows

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  44. Alex adams Says:

    A v empathetic post by qalAndar on amtabhs nudity and madhavis nurse character— a subtle point picked up correctly– agree about his presumed virginity–maybe he didn’t get time for anything naughty!
    To add I will continue to be harsh on abhishek till he undoes the damage he has inflicted upon himself and on bachchanism thru raanan! Don’t find Mani too guilty on this account except the last half hour! Hear mani is now trying to revive kanji and trying to work with ran if– what irritates is that mani started these attempts or sending feelers even b4 raanan released- maybe he knew better

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  45. Rajni’s standing ovation to ‘Raavanan’
    23 Jun, 2010 12:51 pm IST

    The south Indian living legend Rajinikanth couldn’t stop himself by singing praises for Mani Ratnam’s ‘Raavanan’. The mega star watched the film on Thursday evening at Devi Sridevi Preview theatre and was so awed by its presentation and cinematography that he couldn’t stop himself by giving a standing ovation as the end credits rolled in.

    Rajinikanth had special word of praise for Santhosh Sivan’s cinematography and recollected his previous experience with Santhosh as they had worked together in Mani Ratnam’s yesteryear blockbuster ‘Thalapathi’.

    The mega star also sung praise for Mani Ratnam’s vision and Vikram’s acting.

    Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will be coming together in the mega blockbuster ‘Endhiran – The Robot’.

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