Utkal on Ram-Leela

Normally I come back from a film, make myself a cup of tea without milk or sugar, and write about it furiously while the adrenalin is still high. I like to write like a lover than a critic. But It has been more than 24 hours since I saw Ram-Leela and I still haven’t got the nerve to write about it. There was so much happening in the film, visually, aurally, in terms of narrative, in terms of character, with allusions to so many myths, so many traditions, with such wild experimentations in choreography, with spoken words; throwing up so many ideas, about love, about war, about gender-politics, about power; that it was impossible to take it all in one viewing, let alone write about it. But I have wrapped up all pending work, made myself large cup of Kashmiri tea, and I am going to give it a try.

Let me put it this way, it is not only the best Bhansali ever, by miles, I haven’t seen another film since Gangs of Wasseypur that has left me so totally overwhelmed. Let me also start out by saying that the only film of Bhansali I have liked in the past is Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Khamoshi was overwrought, Devdas had moments, but failed totally to capture the soul of the novel or the protagonist, Black was good while it was restaging ’ The Miracle Worker’, but went overboard with the introduction of the a Alzheimer-stricken Amitabh, Saawariya was an unwatchable mess, and Guzaarish was neither here nor there. But with Ram-Leela, everything needs to be forgiven, since Bhansali has managed to pull off what he has been trying to do all these years…create a stylistic masterpiece that captures some essential human truth and therefore connects with the audience…tell a real story in a language of heightened melodrama.

The film gets off to a frenetic start with the policeman in a gun market, the chase of the little boy taking a pee from the terrace, and all hell breaking loose. We know we are in the machismo land and this is reinstated by the most audacious hero-entry in Indian cinema ever. I knew Ranveer was a kickass star right from Band Baaja Baaraat days, but he was born to play Ram. As I said, you won’t see a more unabashed celebration of beefcake in a Hindi film any time soon, but where Bhansali shows his true mettle in painting the background with full-blown details. The reactions of the ladies watching this icon of male desirability, some of them literally fainting, is akin to what gopis felt listening to Krishan play on the flute, I guess.

What follows is even more breathtakingly beautiful – the first meeting of Ram and Leela. The urgency, the intensity and the surging passion of young love has been captured rarely if ever as tellingly as here .. and here I am talking not just of Hindi or Indian cinema. Bhansali’s stylistic excesses are very much in order here. ‘ Mohabbat aisi traz hai jo har saaz par chheda nahin jaata’ some shayar said long ago. Let’s face it, not all of us are tuned to play out passionate love. Those who do are strung in a higher key.. and when they find the right person…the right wavelength on their antenna…call it pheromones call it meeting of souls…call it whatever… the pyar ki ghanti rings. The world goes topsy-turvy… man , and woman.. does wild things unmindful of the consequences. ‘ What if it is the wrong room? Can you imagine what can happen?” Ram’s friend warns as Ran climbs up Leela’s mansion without knowing which is Leela’s room. ‘ Imagine instead what can happen if IT IS THE RIGHT ROOM’, Ram retorts. That is the bravado of lovers. After all, “ Mohabbat mein nahin hota hai jeene aur marne ki farak, Usi ko dekh kar jeete hain jis kafir pe dum nikle’.

But then begins the ‘ leela’, the playful banter, the mating dance, the ritual of checking each other out. Bhansali surprises us with the lack of inhibition with which he captures the lover’s sexual ardour and wild playfulness. ‘Angur hara, kela peela. Leela ka hai ram, Ram ki Leela’, Leela does her own version of “ Roses are red, violets are blue’. It must be the Anurag Kashyap effect..but it is a relief to see Bhansali throw any attempt at classicism out of the window and embrace gritty street lingo, double entendres and mixed language metaphors. The ‘Ishqiyan, Dishqiyan’ song is a fine achievement of this ambition. The phrase captures the dangerous nature of their love more colorfully that any phrase of Gulzar or Javed Akhtar could do.

“This thing (this thing)
Called love (called love)
It cries (like a baby)
In a cradle all night
It swings (woo woo)
It jives (woo woo)
It shakes all over like a jelly fish
I kinda like it
Crazy little thing called love”
( Queen)

So coming back to this crazy little thing called love, and the way Bhansali paints it, we must realize passionate love is about blurring of the world, and you seeing only your love. Radha seeing Krishna in everything, everything appearing Krishna-blue to her. In one of the dance-like sequences after Ram and Leela’s first meeting, the figures in the background blur into hazes of purple and blue as the lovers gaze deep into each other’s eyes.
ishq main aur kuch nahin hota
aadmi baawra sa rehta hai
( Gulzar- Ghulam Ali)

And this craziness is never expressed better as in the scene where Ram is lured out from Leela after they have eloped, into a drunken session with friends , and one of them asks what he finds special in Leela. ‘ Leela mein jo hai who kisi mein nahin’. The way Ranveer acts out that scene is unparalleled in any Indian love story.. maybe something by Dilp Kumar, or Kamal Hassan, or yes, Dhanush. Love hurts, and it shows on his face. He follows it up with another scene where he talks of how things have changed so much in the matter of a night. We were told about the wizardry of Shakespeare and the line ’ Never, never, never, never, never, never, never’ in King Lear being an actor’s delight, giving him an opportunity to suffuse each of the seven ‘ nevers’ with a different emotional nuance. Ranveer does something similar with all the sentences he utters using the word ‘badla’or change. ( Not to forget’ badla’ also means revenge, which some of his clan members say he has achieved by kidnapping and dishonouring Leela.)

What makes Ram-Leela different from other Bhansali films is that he does not forget the real world and its reality as he celebrates the expressionistic images of lovers in throes of passion. The plotting here is on much more surer footing than in any Bhanasli film earlier. In the beginning of the portion after the second half, one is disconcerted for a few minutes when Bhansali drops his lovey-dovey concerns, entering the world of clan rivalry and power play in real earnest. But then slowly one realizes what a bloody powerful work Ram-Leela is slowly turning out to be in the process. How love is a threat to the existing power structures, and how women are used as pawns in a war, and how when a child si killed, a mother dies a little too…is brought out in this portion quite insightfully. ‘ A don does not cry’ Ram says at one point, ‘ Welcome to Janta Bazar, Make love not war’ at another. “ Main tumhe hathyar neeche dalne ko kaha, Mardangi nahin’, he says at another point. There is Mahabharat here, and Ramayan, and Gandhian non-violence. And unlike the cozy worlds of Karan Johar and Ayan Mukherjee where matters of the heart must be sorted out in the hearts without the society intruding, here love is a aprt of the social equation, love is a political act. Now we are in the territory of Mughal-e-Azam, of Antigone… where love is an expression of autonomy of the self, of individuality, of creativity as opposed to sterile social order. Ai Mohabbat Zindabad, says Salim in Mughl-e-Azam. This dichotomy is played out very well when both Leela and Ram play the game of power instead of the game of love and we see them half-relishing their stint and we are not sure if they are going to be seduced.

Much earlier we are shown what a man and a woman must give up when they fall in love.. a woman – her security, her sheltered world of home and parents, , and a man – his zone of comfort, his beer buddies and bachelor jokes. But as John Lennon, the butt of many jokes because of his being totally besotted with Yoko Ono, would say, ‘ A man can’t spend his entire life drinking beer with buddies’. Of course many men can, and in many cultures are encouraged to do so, and all love stories are an attack on those values. . ‘ Meri mardangi ke bare mein gaon ke ladkiyon se puchna. Report achchhi milegi’, Ram boasts at one time. But he is trying to redefine ‘ mardangi’, by falling in love for one, by asking people to drop their guns for another.

“And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword! “ ( By The ReadingGaol, Oscar Wilde)

The ending though already seen in its plot level essence in Ishaqzaade, is staged here masterly with the burning of the Raavan effigy in the background. As they are getting ready to shoot each other, we hear the crackling sound from the burning effigy, and we expect to hear that line from Casablanca, “ Is that your gun already fired, or is it just the cracker in the Raavan effigy going off!”

As I said earlier the film mines so many sources: Mahabharata, Ramayana, Godfather…not to mention Romeo and Juliet.. and it does it so seamlessly, adding Bhansali’s own aesthetic dimensions to it, that it emerges as a truly magnificent piece of original art ( much in the way ‘ Gangs of Wasseypur’ did.)
The film has so many pluses that it is tough to decide what to focus on. Well one could start with the performances. The entire cast is superlative. The influence of Anurag Kashypa is evident in the choice of actors like Richa Chaddha, Zameel Khan and Gulshan Devaiah who give wonderful accounts of themselves. Deepika is luminescently luscious. But it si Ranveer who is the stand out performer here. Of course his is the most complex and ambitiously written role..there is even the hint of a dark back story and 12 years of prison perhaps. And he surely redefines ‘ mardangi’ in Hindi films here. The other performance I would single out for applause is that by Supriya Pathak. She is to Leela what Akbar was to Salim in Mughal-e-Azam, and in every scene – from when she snips Leela’s ladies finger to get the ring out to her banter with the NRI suitor of Leeela to the scene where she dances during Navaratri to her scene with the little child- she is terrific.

Then there are the songs and the choreography. After the inventive use of these in HDDCS, Bhansali like Mani Rtanam had degenerated into using songs as item numbers without adding, accentuating or illuminating the narrative ( What did a song like Dola re Dola had to do with the theme of Devdas?) . And for someone who puts so much store on songs in his films the pedestrian lyrics in films like Saawariya ( Masha allah, Doli mein baitha ke.bla bla bla) were downright embarrassing. Here the lapse has been set right. It maybe the Anurag Kshayp effect again, but lines like ‘Dil Ki Ye Goli Chali Naino Ki Bandook Se
Bomb Bhi Girenge Ab Pyaar Ke Sandook Se’ or ‘Lahu Munh Lag Gayaa, Soyaa Thaa Nas-Nas MeinAb Ye Jag Gayaa’ are constantly engaging. They are all imaginatively and energetically choreographed. And exquisitely cinematographed. And unlike many item songs of today, the Priyanka Chpra number is used in the way such songs were used in classic Hindi films or the Jatra of Odia / Bengali folk theater..as the voice of a chorus or a commentator. ‘Ram Chahe Leela , Leela Chahe Ram, Inn Dono Ke Love Mein, Duniya Ka Kyaa Kaam? “ she asks, as she bumps and grinds to a middle-eastern rhytm and swirls like a dervish in one portion of the song.

Then there is the use of language. I would gain thank People like Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bharadwaj for setting Bhansali free. Bhansali is having a lot of fun here and I like that. The characters speak a mix of English and Hindi. And the purists as well as those who seek realism can go bury themselves along with all the dead languages. Did Caesar speak English? Did Cleopatra? The language spoken is more determined the audience one is speaking to than the character. Sample this in Ram-Leela. There is a scene where the Supriya Pathak character sends a slain pet peacock of Leela as an invite for the Navratri celebration at her place. Then she phones Ram to say ‘ Hum dono ke beech mein yeh mor har baar aa jaata tha. Ab yeh dushmnai no more!’ There are double entendres galore, but these are sewn into the texture of he locale and characters seamlessly and therefore don’t really stick out. “ Holi khelne ke liye zaroorat hota hai pichkari ki, aur mein ummeed karta hoon woh aap sabke paas hai!’exhorts Ram to his fellow clansmen.
Then there is the plotting and writing. One of my all-time favourites among Hindi film scripts is Deewar, for the way it plays out like Bach a fugue, a note finding a counter note somewhere else. ( The phenka hua paisa with young Vijay reappearing again with the older Vijay.) Here too many lines and elements find an echo in some other point in the narrative. The Ishqiya Dishqiya song proves to be prophetic when you consider the end. The playful rhymes that Ram and Leela exchange are echoed again in the exchanges between Leela and her bhavi during the lovers’ separation. (Namkeen Nani, Naughty Nana;
Kab tak maike baith raahoon, ab Ram ke ghar jaana) ( Chutney, chaat samose, Main to bas ab mera
Ram bharose).

And more than anything else there is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision and ambition. It is good to see both alive and kicking in Hindi films.

(And long as this piece may be, this will certainly not be that last words will be writing on the film. I intend to write a more comprehensive piece after the second viewing.)


52 Responses to “Utkal on Ram-Leela”

  1. Haven’t seen the movie but from various sources it has very similar story line like ishaqzaade?


  2. Oh Oh…My Last hope that I will like this movie has disappeared after reading Utkal’s review here. For some reason I have never liked a movie which Utkal has liked ever since I have been reading his reviews in this blog. Cocktail and Chennai Express are 2 prime examples, the former was one of the most unrealistic love story I have seen. But I will check Ram Leela out in any case as a SLB movie should not be missed. However bad it might be, its always a experience in itself.

    All said and done I love reading Utkal’s reviews though…There is a lot of thought that goes in his writings…


  3. Thanx utkal uncle for a typically passionate review -just read bits.
    I’ve said this before, utkal uncle is the best commentator here in this genre (like raam leela) and indeed RL rocked his boat….

    The only surprise is that somehow I didn’t like RL as much…
    My few initial random spontaneous comments were—

    RL had a lots going for it on paper /in promos.

    Ps: krrish /cheeta girl– do check it out–it’s got enough to keep folks happy (& libidos up!)
    As for cocktail–imo it was a modern classic compared to this

    Ps2: but don’t know the reason(s) I didn’t like RL –any suggestions, folks/ utkal uncle ..will give u a toffee if u diagnose this for me …


  4. Must add –that there were some really well mounted scenes in RL

    Esp liked how the ERRUPTION OF SEXUAL FRISSON Was captured on the lead pair

    Have always said that ranveer has a certain star presence (& though I found his notes and scaling a bit jarring at places) he does have a loudness and brashness that lends itself well to cinema (of this type)

    As for Deepika —more than bhansali, it was deepika who has let go of all ‘inhibitions’

    Something feral about her moves here —
    While I personally liked her in cocktail/Yjhd more–it’s not difficult to know why most people are going gaga over deepika here

    Go for it deepika 🙂


  5. Utkalji glad that you overcame the overwhelming feelings and made that cuppa tea to write this beautiful review/tribute to this work of great art by SLB…enjoyed reading yr review. Did your wife like the movie as well?


  6. Go for it Di lol

    Btw realised that I maybe tired/sleepy while watchin this one. Infact don’t remember watchin the above ‘scenes’ I’ve put up–just saw em now !!
    Seems I was eating ice creams and nachos/hotdogs while deepika was upto all this ….

    Hmm, seems a RL spoof will have to be done here 🙂


  7. wow..great review Utkal..will try to watch it this weekend now.


  8. IdeaUnique Says:

    was it the movie or that large cup of kashmiri tea u liked utkal which made u write this review? 😉


  9. great review. i’ll check it out this weekend.


  10. Well from the looks of things..everybody has gotten sucked in 🙂


  11. Hehe maggie–yup ‘sucked in’ is the apt word…
    Scroll up and watcht the clip clip vie posted above (if u haven’t already lol)
    The way deepika is ‘going for it’ explains why everyone’s getting ‘sucked in’
    And folks –don’t go by all this complicated theorising and Mumbo jumbo about the merits of ram leela by utkal uncle above…
    It’s a good read but the only thing u need to know why RL is working beyond a point is–
    See the video clip above that I’ve posted
    Look no further 🙂


  12. Btw where are Amy/sanju/Oldgold/anu …
    Seems they’ve gone to watch raam leela …
    Guess it’s always good to learn from deepika and improve ones ‘technique’ 🙂
    Ps: will also help in the spoof …


  13. RL spoof

    Ok it’s a fun deal—
    Whoever out of these ‘girls’ is the LAST to post here from now on– is spending the most time under deepikas guidance …
    And I will take her for the spoof 🙂
    (So in other words –those posting here will escape the spoof haha)


  14. Referees RL spoof

    I request messrs Satyam & munna to be the honest /honorable referees as to who has posted latest/not at all(incase of ‘confusion’ if needed)…thanx folks

    So if some girl (not boy) secretly WANTS to be in my RL spoof –we KNOW u may feel ‘shy’/’hesitant’ to say so directly…
    So the easy option–do NOT post on this blog for the next few hours/ day or two..
    (& maggie–this includes u as well lol)

    As I aka Shakespeare said

    Sometimes ‘silence’ is the biggest ‘yes’ 🙂



  15. Nope munna–I’m not suggesting ip addresses etc–relax
    & enjoy the clip above
    So watch this film on the big screen –but with your girlfriend 🙂


  16. C’mon munna — show some ‘strength’ — be a man !!!
    Learn from utkal uncles ‘passion’ 🙂


  17. I never thought I’d say this, but this review makes me want to watch Ram Leela ASAP! Beautifully written Utkal, and your hyperbolic style even seems appropriate when reviewing an SLB melodrama.

    Aslo, I’m so happy for Deepika: she has had an absolutely incredibly run recently. Now that she’s proved her box office mettle, I’d really like to see someone create a stylized, desi action film for her; she’ll be perfect as an action heroine IMO.


    • Yeah Amy: would be nice to hear your thoughts on raam leela …
      And am sure u will be more balanced and sensible than the hyperbolic utkal uncle here ….(I hope so lol)


  18. am on the bus home after seeing this – I did NOT like it! ranvir is obnoxious and entirely uncharismatic. the music is loud, entirely unmelodious and unmemorable. deepika is gorgeous but can’t save this over-the-top, deafening mess of a movie. better to revisit HDDCS or Khamoshi.

    Utkal – great piece, even if I can’t agree 🙂 Satyam etc – looking forward to reading your reviews.


    • Thanks for saving me from the torture of watching it even on TV.

      I dont like either Deepika or Ranvir much. Ranvir looked better in Lootere.


  19. Utkal Sir, It is always a treat to reaf your review because you review ‘THE FILM’ and other Review ‘THE ACTOR’s film’.


  20. I found it on NG. Very funny take on SLB ki Ram-Leela


    Now before reading this, you should know I’m a Sanjay Leela Bhansali fan. I’m the guy who cried during ‘Black’ and consider ‘Devdas’ to be amongst the finest Indian films ever made. So nothing in the world could make me hate a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, but Sanjay Leela Bhansali himself. And BOY, has SLB (name too long, let’s abbreviate) managed to do that with ‘Ram-Leela’!

    ‘Ram-Leela’ is a perfect example of team effort, with the collective spirited work of 3 big names working together. Sanjay. Leela. And of course, Bhansali. The film is directed by Bhansali. Produced by Bhansali. Written by Bhansali. Edited by Bhansali. The music is also by Bhansali. The character of ‘Ram’, played by Ranveer Singh, is also in turn played by Bhansali (where do you think all that facial hair came from?).

    Anyhow, (in no particular order) here are the 10 reasons I LOVED ‘Ram Leela’. (Sarcasm |?sär?kaz?m| noun ; the use of irony to mock or convey contempt).

    1. Supriya Pathak

    Supriya Pathak Shah is a fine, fine actor. It must have taken stupendously bad direction to make her act this horribly in the film. Though she plays a godmother/don, she ends up looking more of a madam at a brothel looking to sell off Deepika Padukone to a London-gujju boy. Tch tch.

    2. Gujju Accent

    Sure, you’re making a film about Gujaratis in Gujarat. But that does not mean you have all your characters talk like they’re sidekicks from ‘Tarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashma’. Gujaratis in the film are reduced to caricatures, specially the painful opening scene of a gun seller (to begin with). There are literally moments when Supriya Pathak Shah seems to give-up and get into her ‘Hansa’ mode.

    3. Sexual innuendos

    Okay. THIS really made me sit up. The film is peppered with SO many cheap sexual innuendos and cheap dialogues that you end up forgetting you’re watching a Bhansali film. In essence, ‘Ram-Leela’ was like Sanjay Leela Bhansali ‘Grand Masti’ (or Grandiose Masti, if you please).

    4. Songs

    To be honest, I was sort of glad for the songs. They served as convenient toilet breaks. My only regret (apart from entering the movie hall), was that I didn’t drink enough water; as a result of which, after my first two loo breaks (called “Tattad Tattad” and “Lahu Muh Lag Gaya”) I had to SIT through the rest of the painfully mediocre and below-average songs. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I missed Ismail ka Darbar.

    5. Animation/VFX

    Somewhere during the film, (as if there weren’t enough characters already) SLB seems to get bored and introduces the character of a VFX peacock. I can imagine SLB at the VFX studio telling the VFX artist “Yaar.. yahan ek peacock daal dete hain”. The result being we see a very uncomfortable animated peacock looking as aesthetic as Manmohan Singh at a Bunga-Bunga party.

    6. Scale/Color

    The basic idea behind the look of ‘Ram-Leela’ was a major shift in color from Blue to Red. Bas. Also, there seemed to be empty efforts in making the film look like a grand scale production. The efforts fall flat. And all we see is a bloodied movie lying in the theatres, bleeding red.

    7. Ranveer Singh

    Though I find Ranveer Singh repulsive enough as it is, there was something extra-special about him in the film that made me wish his character would die in the intermission. So while I was having a difficult time choosing between his beard and his face for the reasons of repel, an over-zealous lady seated next to me murmured to her friend “Kitna tel laga rakha hai yaar”. And that was my eureka moment. His body is almost always covered/splattered/dipped in oil. Is he a masseuse’s love child? Any more oil, and the US would have invaded his body. If THIS is what the women of my generation are drooling over, I want to live in Mars.

    8. Length

    At 23 years and 4 minutes, ‘Ram-Leela’ is one of the longest films I’ve ever had to sit through. My moment of joy in this film was watching the Google:Reunion ad on the big screen during the intermission. And going home.

    9. Dialogues

    While SLB read ‘Romeo & Juliet’, his team had only one work before the film started shooting – to find as many SMS shayaris they can with words that rhyme with ‘Ram’, ‘Leela’ and ‘Wife’. And incorporate the same into the film’s script. Which brings us to intense and sad moments in the film where the characters are too busy finding rhyming words to construct a reply. (Also, anyone from the team who did not find a shayari rhyming with ‘Bhansali’ was fired).

    10. Priyanka Chopra

    Having made up her mind to be part of every trashy film/song/video, Priyanka Chopra continues to embarrass us with an embarrassing item song performance. Though her appearance in the film was (thankfully) short, we must all thank the Lord that she did not sing the song. Throughout the not-so-Exotic song, Ranveer Singh is ogling at her, as if thinking ‘What is she doing In My City’.

    Deepika Padukone was the only saving grace, looking fabulous through the film. Except for that scene where she performs a very scary voodoo dance on the bed with a smoke pot in her hands – all to seduce Ranveer. SLB really needs to get his erotic seducing tactics right.

    In all, ‘Ram-Leela’ is a thoroughly enjoyable film which you can watch while your children grow old, learning the art of being chivalrous in life from Ranveer Singh.


  21. RL spoof (contd from–)

    Hmm so munna /Satyam—who was the last or comment/didn’t comment ?
    Lemme check….


  22. RESULTS RL spoof casting

    Seems Oldgold didn’t post till the last and anu didn’t post at all( but kept lurking on the site… Lol)
    So it’s confusing
    But to keep both girls happy, we declare both joint winners

    Oldgold for hindi version of RL & anu for English/ dubbed version( for ‘international/ crossover’ audiences …) 🙂

    So Oldgold and anu

    Your ‘training’ starts…

    Theory before practical …

    Scroll up & find out what does ‘(sexual) frisson/friction’ mean 🙂
    Think bout it ….


  23. Then why did YOU respond to it???
    Are u secretly wanting to be cast as leela too



  24. [edited]
    Ps: don’t use terms like ‘fuck’ etc (esp with me) if u haven’t really learnt its meaning yet…


  25. Hey Satyam/munna and others

    Esp Those who have seen raam leela

    We have found the ‘nri London’ guy who was tortured/abused by deepikas mom —

    To be played by ‘salim’ 🙂

    Psst hope u are not reading this salim (as I advised u above)


  26. Movie Features
    “I’ve sacrificed everything for my work” – Deepika PadukoneBy Devansh Patel, Nov 21, 2013 – 12:54 IST
    Deepika Padukone is having what Bollywood calls ‘a moment’. I walk into the set of her next movie that she is filming for in Mehboob Studios, Happy New Year with Shah Rukh Khan. From a distance I see the leggy beauty in black from head to toe walk into her personalized vanity van. Something tells me that she owns the place. A lot of people, especially actors, like it when they’re described as down-to-earth, approachable, and easygoing. But it’s hard to imagine anyone else embodying these traits as legitimately as Padukone does. She calls me inside her van and the second I enter, I’m zapped by the sheer beauty of a box room size sitting area that looks so Parisian. And right there was a mix of Bardot, Antoinette and Chanel in a white vest and printed black tights. For a second you pause. You want to be the ‘Ram’ of this ‘Leela’. But such fantasies never come true because a PR is staring right in your eyes and the timer is already ticking. It’s a beautiful evening and Deepika is just done with the shoot after Farah Khan called it a wrap for the day. And now, she is ready for my questions. She looks so stunning that, sitting there with her, you just forget the rest of the world and jump straight into the beautiful world of this ‘Leela’ Deepika Padukone.

    Have you seen a Romeo & Juliet balcony scene in any movie? You guys made it look so cool. Twisted it and how in Ram-Leela.
    Thank you! I’ve only seen Baz Luhrman’s version of Romeo & Juliet. But I was wondering when we started shooting Ram-Leela – ‘How will we talk about this epic love story?’ But then we were like – ‘I think the audience should surrender to our world that Sanjay Leela Bhansali is making.’ Of course, there’s the classic balcony scene and the conflict and many more fictionally created scenes to resurrect Romeo & Juliet. But many filmmakers have made their versions of this classic and we feel our version is very unusual given the setting. I can’t imagine anyone in India pulling it off like Sanjay Leela Bhansali did. There’s poetry in every scene and it was more of an event of a lifetime for me.

    Your movies this year have done more business than most top male actors even. But honestly, where’s your ego?
    I have no ego. People tell me that I am a very grounded person. You just told me that you heard these qualities about me from various people you met. Having said that, I haven’t got time for a second to step out and gauge myself. That’s a huge compliment and I think that comes from the way I’ve been brought up by my parents. More than the success, it’s really about enjoying the journey and enjoying with the people that I work with, and when you start believing that, you know that everything else is secondary. Success comes from having a good time and enjoying yourself and knowing that there’s nothing in the world that I’ll be doing besides acting. I am in that place right now. In my last two years I’ve sacrificed everything for my work – my food, my sleep, my social life, my family time. But when you are doing something that you love so much, the question I ask is – Is it called a Sacrifice?

    Music has become so important that all movies this year with 100 crore plus have had blockbuster songs. Ram-Leela is slowly but surely approaching that mark too.
    Not only music but trailers and the posters have become very important for the audience to think and decide whether they will buy the ticket to the movie or not. I personally feel that the trailer is the most important because if your trailer is superb and your music isn’t too good it still works. It can’t the other way around. The audience has become so perceptive in what they like and don’t. Ram-Leela and Yeh Jawaani… did well from the very time they saw the trailer.

    Has Mr. Modi called you after watching Ram-Leela?
    No, he hasn’t called me (laughs). I first went to Ahmedabad to kick-start the promotions of Ram-Leela. Sanjay had already done the research to the minutest of the details for me. But I know one thing – I’ve never played a Gujarati girl before. This is the first time and I loved it. I felt my role was so earthy.

    And every step of yours in ‘Nagada Sang Dhol’ is perfect. You must be a ‘garba’ enthusiast.
    I’ve never played garba in my life and I know how exciting the times are when Navratri is around the corner. I also have many Gujarati friends but for some reason I’ve never played the raas-leela. What we’ve done in Ram-Leela is a folk kind of garba and not the usual commercial ones you get to see these days.

    I know it’s a cliché one but pick – Ranbir or Ranveer?
    Ranbir and Ranveer are two diametrically opposite people. Both share mad energy but the roles that I’ve done with each of them are distinctive and can’t be compared. Naina and Leela are also unusual. But the fact that Naina and Bunny’s love story or Ram and Leela’s love story worked is because the audience invested in our love stories. They rooted for both my characters. Who is better – Ranbir and Ranveer? Well, I’ve had a blast working with both of them.

    Complete the sentence – Watching a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie is…
    Watching a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie is like an event you’re witnessing. It’s a must watch! Ram-Leela is epic. Actually, all his movies are. It’s the way he likes to function. He doesn’t plan the previous day what he’s going to do the next day. He will go by his instinct, his mood but yet make it look larger than life, every scene. He loves his set. It’s like a huge temple. You get good vibes. He can make the movie on the film set. Only he can. In a Bhansali movie, you get more absorbed. It happened to me while I was working on Cocktail too. So it’s happened twice now. Sanjay Leela Bhansali rolls the camera. For him, that is magic.

    Amy– check out deepika (top right pic) …
    No wonder this Devon Patel guy is going orgasmic whilst doin the interview … 🙂


  27. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    “Inka toh funda hain simple sa yaar/ Goli maro toh panga, aankh maro toh pyaar” Someone at Rangan’s blog had problem with these lines.

    If it wasn’t for lines like these, the film would have been as unbearable as Saawariya or Devdas for me. I mean, I have been sick to death listening to the same stale metaphors involving the moon, the gajra, the kajal, the paayal and so on. “ Baandh ke me ghungroo, pehenke mein paayal…” for godsake, give me a break! “Oh doli mein bhitake, sitrao se sajaa ke, Zaamane se churake le jaye ga” I believe! How original! At least if it is Gulzar, you get’ Parde ka khyal rakhti hai, personal si sawal karti hai’. “Phone Karta Raha Phone Bhi Na Liya, Mene Khat Bhi Likhe Saal Bhar Khat Likhe, Meri Aawaz Poohuchi Nahi”, he writes in ‘ Jaan-e-Mann’. And if it is Javed , even if he is using the chanda imagery , he is smart enough to say, “ Chanda re Chnada, kabhi to zameen par aa, baithenge, do baate karenge.” But it is Amitabh Bhattacharya who really freed the Hindi film lyrics from all that outdated garbage. When he wrote, “ Tauba tera jalwa, tauba tera pyaar, tera emotional atyachar” or “ Bol bol why did you ditch me, Zindagi bhi lele yaar kill me, Bol bol why did you ditch me whore” , it struck me with the power of a whiplash. Just like TS Eliot did, when he wrote , “ Let us go, you and I, where the event is spread out against the sky, like a patient on an etherized table’. Or when L:ennon and McCartney did when they wrote, ‘ It’s been a hard day’s night and I have been sleeping like log, It’s been a hard day’s night and I have been working like a dog’. That is when poetry and lyrics were liberated. Words began to come out from the depth of truth. And metaphors did not lose their way in the dreary desert sand of dead habit. If Dev D had shown a glimpse of what could be done with the new idiom, ‘ Gangs of Wasseypur’ created the New Testament for the new age lyrics. Listening to ‘ Oh Womaniya’ and ‘ Hum hain shikari, paaketmein lambi gun’ or ‘ Jiya ho Bihar ke lala’ was so liberating! God, I will never have to suffer triteness to the power of infinity like ‘Jab Se Tere Naina, Mere Naino Se Lage Re,
    Tab Se Deewana Hua Aah Haaa, Sab Se Begaana Hua’ ever again.

    But truth to tell, the path was already shown by another earthy genius way back in ‘ Rangeela’, the best musical romcom ever for me. ‘To Aisa Bolega (Saala) Waisa Bolega,Khullam Khulla Us Pe Dil Ka Raaz Hum Kholega,Woh Saamne Chamakti Hai, Saans Hi Atakti Hai,Aur Yeh Zabaan Jaati Hai Fisal..’ Mehboob wrote in the film. Not surprisingly, he is the onr who wrote the best lyrics for a Bhansali film in HDDCS. He is the one who could put out the most meaningful philosophy of life in the street lingo of a tapori: “Maathe yahan thope, Chaand ya taaron mein, Kismat ko dhoondhein par khud mein kya hai ye na jaane, Khud pe hi humko yakeen ho, Mushkilein raah ki aasaan ho, Donon haathon mein ye jahaan ho. ” Finding the right words, the right tone and the right melody for a character is so important in a Hindi film song that I get riled when someone like Mani Ratnam uses a song like Chhaiyan Chhaiyan, whose choreography or Urdu and Kalma Kalma imagery has nothing to do with the locale or the protagonists. Contrast this with the Bicchua song that Bimal Roy uses in Madhumati in a similar kind of situation!

    Of course even Mehboob had a precursor. Not that Shailendra could not write high-flown Urdu. But when he had to write for the bullock cart driver, Hiraman, he wrote, “ Sajan re jhut mat bol, khuda ke paas jaana hai. Wahan na haathi hai n aghida hai, wahan paidal hi jaana hai.”

    Coming back to Ram-Leela, even Ishqyaun Dhishqyaun had such refreshing imagery and thoughts. As I said it was meant to be a kind of sexual test drive or checking each other for the young lovers. While the title phrase spelt out the violent and destructive nature of theitr love the subsequent lines lays out the terrain they have to traverse. “Dil Ki Ye Goli Chali Naino Ki Bandook Se, Bomb Bhi Girenge Ab Pyaar Ke Sandook Se’ , they sing. I bet none here have encounterd a bandook –sindook rhyme before. “Ladakoo Viman Hai, Par Too Meri Jaan Hai.Bistar Ye Teraa Meraa Are Jung Kaa Maidan Hai”. The bed is going to be our battlefield! In which Hindi film song have you heard thoughts like this before?

    I am so glad, instead of sitting on his hunches and growing senile, Bhansali has become an eager student, learning from younger innovators like Kashyap and Bharadwaj, and keeping his work young, robust and relevant.


    • While it is good you also joined the brigade glorifying the ‘youth’ of this country, it is quite flabbergasting that you find CHAAIYAN CHAAIYAN nothing more than a MTV song..How does URDU come into picture here, you ask? Of all the transgressions of movie-makers in tinsel town, you pick this song and its ‘excesses.’ You never had a problem with an iconic bridge from Budapest being passed off as some bridge in Italy but you do have a problem when someone sings elated expressions of love in the language of love – Urdu.

      It is quite simple, actually. So far, I haven’t read CONVERSATIONS WITH MANI RATNAM. I mean I haven’t as yet read that chapter. So my writing is purely ‘authorial intent.’ I am free to interpret Ratnam’s ‘thinking’ my way.

      Urdu, has been widely agreed, is THE language of love which you of course know very well. The reason SRK’s Amar sings in Urdu and dances atop a train seconds within meeting a woman is simply because of his characterization of being an unrealistic and foolishly romantic person. A chance meeting with an enigmatic woman who hides much more than she reveals, and this guy is smitten – in a matter of seconds and delusionally calls it the world’s shortest love story!! Everything about this guy is exhalted and he is in a universe of his own unless when he is conducting the basal necessities of life. And you want him to sing a la ‘GOW’ or whatever remaining ‘true’ to the environs of how he’s lived and been brought up? Friend, this entire movie is simply a METAPHOR. He is named AMAR who dies at the end. She is named MEGHANA – clouds, that you can see, marvel atl, but can NEVER catch hold of. Such is the premises on which Ratnam starts building his ‘situations’. And you wonder why Ratnam chooses URDU and why SRK’s Amar dances like someone on cocaine??

      There is a line in the song – ZISKU ZUBAAN URDI KI TARAH – roughly meaning, whose ‘dialect’, ‘speech’, ‘ada’ is as soft and regal as Urdu. What should it have been then? Some Womaniya or Terroristiya?


  28. An Jo: And Malaika Arora’s bump and grind? What is that a metaphor for?


  29. Anyway, here’s something I had written longg back on DIL SE..when falling in love was still quite raw,life was still a challenge quite looking forward to – with me!!!

    [separate post]


  30. An Jo: I was not talking of using Urdu as a language, which itself was inappropriate, but the imagery using Urdu and artifacts of Muslim culture. ‘Voh jiski zubaan urdu ki tarah’ ‘ Taaveez banaake pehnoon usay, Aayat ki tarah mil jaaye kahin’. Why should these imagery occur to Amar? There is nothing in his character and his background to suggest that his inner world contain these images. The kind of dance he does is no translatio of what one would feel after an encounter with a mysterious woman like Manisha. There is a total disconnect. It is an item song plain and simple. Look at songs like Fakira in YJHD , Aj phir Jeene ki Tamnna hai in Guide, Ek ahnabi haseen ase mulqat ho gayi from Ajnabi , Ko Mil Gya from Ko Mil Gaya, Jaane Kya tune kahi from Pyaasa at different points of the spectrum to see how true feelings are represented through songs in Hindi films. Take Kehna hai Kya from Ratnam’s own Bombay. The taranna portion there captures the soaring emotions and the first flush of passion so accurately. Dil Se fails miserably in using songs to map the true emotions of Amar and Meghna , and their love. That is why a love story with Shahrukh and Manisha at their peak failed to connect with the audience.


  31. Arthi: Instead of being intimidated by reputations, just watch the watch the clip Kabira from YJHD and judge for yourself which expresses a lover’s emotions better.


  32. Saurabh: Yes, Iktara is a gem. And that’s a good example of a song being used in an expressionistic rather than a realistic mode, if that was the intention of the Dil Se song.


    • Utkal: I loved your piece (especially the way you have charted out the poetry in the film) even if I had a completely different reaction to it. My comment from the other thread.

      “I did check out Ram Leela and found it incredibly mediocre. And IMO it is by far the worst Bhansali film with the possible exception of Devdas (actually to be very honest, I would take some of Devdas’ strongest moments, most of which involved Madhuri, over the entire Ram Leela even if the latter is better as a narrative). This one comes across as such a miserable ‘copy’ Ishaqzaade (which itself is overrated, but is vastly superior to Ram Leela in every which way right down to the performances) not only because it revisits essentially the same basic plot, but also because it decides to take the same hinterland/badland route in order to visit the Romeo and Juliet terrain, and does a very poor job in process. And Bhansali, while soaking the film in Masala cinema, forgets to add that one thing which is so integral to this cinema- ‘drama’. And this is surprising because Bhansali’s previous efforts never lacked on atleast this score. There is simply no dramatic heft to scenes and hence actors as well as plot twists (which are downright stupid) appear too lightweight to make any impact. And the dialogues are plain childish- the decision to have the leads utter quite a few lines as ‘poems’ (and let’s just say that the poetry itself is not very memorable) comes across as jarring because apart from the 2 leads everyone else speaks in the more ‘normal’ dialect (and the comparison with Kashyap and Bharadwaj is completely unwarranted because the poetry and dialogues in the films of latter two directors is never short of excellent, but also because both Kashyap and Bhardwaj contextualise their dialogues and poems. In Ram Leela you always wonder why Deepika suddenly starts uttering poems akin to nursery rhymes). Ranveer is fine in the initial portions as an uncouth lothario, but is ill-at-ease in the more dramatic portions. Deepika is marginally better, but her character is porly etched (and her performance is a far cry from the one in YJHD where she did a number on Ranbir IMO. Her best though remains KHJJS). And Supriya Pathak, who is otherwise such an endearing presence, hams to the hilt. All in all, I found this a very lame film, even amateurish at points.

      Some minor positives- there is an excellent chase sequence which reinforces my belief that Sham Kaushal is the top action-director working in the country. And Priyanka’s item number is very easily the sole highlight of the film- she looks like a million bucks and is scintillating


  33. Utkal…this review inspired me to watch Ram Leela and I am truly glad a read it.
    I saw Ram Leela yesterday and its by far the film I have most enjoyed for a long time. It is definitely SLB’s best film and he finally manages to make a opulent, operatic/theatre like film with the right level of emotion and basically does not take the film to such a serious level that you feel like he is trying to gain some highly pretentious praise as some god given director! He’s finally cracked it!
    Ram Leela takes a story rehashed many times and adds some spunk to the leads. They are a fun, passionate, naughty pair and although the film has some uncomfortable moments while sitting with the parents, its balanced off with some lovely songs and the Shakespearean like masala.
    Deepika is great but I really think Ranveer’s passionate act is the show stealer. He gets the emotions right along and his entrance song and dance is so precisely shot with his rough, aggressive but in motion moves…he steals the show. The film does get serious when the pairs love story becomes the focal point of a political and family struggle but the lead pairs demise is done in the spirit of their characters throughout. In fact its there characters rather than story that is so entertaining. The instant one lines back and forth, the bickering immediately replaced with lust and passion, the trading of these blows between them two is so cleverly written with punchy, spunky poetry and dialect. The side cast is fantastic too. Supriya is fun and vile as the godmother don, the sisters/sister in laws have decent meaty roles. Characters feel important and their is no “side” story or track just added for humour – everything is linked in some way to the central plot of an intense, passionate yet playful and naughty love story.
    SLB – finally something I enjoyed all the way through instead a montage of brilliantly shot songs and set designs. My only rage is waiting 3 hours to watch the damn thing as the film was fully booked on the 3rd Friday at 8pm! The last time this happened here was 3 Idiots.


    • I agree completely. Ranveer singh’s act was amazing, probably best male act this year along with Dhanush in Raanjhnaa but we dont see much appreciation for him neither in reviews nor in public. I think industry doesn’t want to see and appreciate other than Khans and Sr bachchan.


    • great reading your thoughts on this Jay..


  34. What has helped Bhansali is the casting has not created great expectations, the first time in his career. Directing Salman Khan in your first two films, SRK/AIshwariya/Madhuri in your third, Big B/Rani in your fourth, the debuting Ranbir/Sonam in your fifth and Hrithik/Aishwariya in your sixth…you realise his films have come with the pre-determined promise of being not only a well directed tale but one which will set the box office ablaze. The advantages of having big stars is clear but for him it has worked against him. He probably made the film he seeked out to make but the audience rarely in India specifically appreciated – though moderately for Devdas/Black/HDDCS. And those were backed up by some big soundtracks.
    Instead here for the first time he casted at the time not a “leading” A lister (and neither do I think Ranveer Singh is an A lister after this film…I don’t find him a fine actor or a major budding star…he just makes the most of his opportunity here and does pretty damn well) and he lucked out in part on Deepika…when she signed the film she was not on a hot streak, but he got lucky with the year she has had. The expectations were a lot lower…and he has probably caught the audience and surprised them a bit here. Quite possibly he had no choice in the casting, maybe the bigger stars had given up on him…seeing him as a risky proposition in an industry chasing numbers. He has his own style and sticks to it and this time it has paid off.
    And I would not say I have enjoyed this as I had low expectations…reading this review and the success of the film, meant I expected something good here. And I agree with the spirit of Utkals review here, mostly every point he echoes my thoughts, only writes it that much better.


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