The early reactions from previews of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s new film, Ram-Leela, clearly seems to be divisive. For any new film, i always find that exciting. Now that i have seen the film, it’s easy to understand why. You might like it, fall in love with it too, and it’s entirely possible that you felt like gouging out your eyeballs. And every reaction can be justified. But one thing you can’t do – dismiss it completely. Because there’s just too much packed into this one – you can just pick one thing and easily indulge in it like its director.
I feel this is Bhansali’s coming out film. Coming out as a loud Gujrati masala filmmaker. Few weeks back, he even confessed that he is a “loud Gujarati” at heart. Well, that fits in perfectly with the film’s promotions too. But one can’t fake it so much. And when one fakes it, one delivers films like his last three – dead, plagiarised and bloated Guzaarish, boring and claustrophobic Saawariya, pretentious and ham-fest Black. It’s always good to be back to own’s roots. With apologies to Swades, apne hi Gujju colours me ghul jaana Bhansali ka muqaddar hota hai.
Though Khamoshi still remains his best work – the raw emotional chord strikes the perfect balance with a great soundtrack. He made his mark with his blockbuster Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam set in his home terrain. He used a similar canvas to re-paint Devdas. And now, he is back to his home turf again and has gone the whole hog. The language is not sanitised Hindi of HDDCS. Here everyone speaks in thick Gujju accent and sometimes it’s difficult to follow the dialogues. His keywords have remained the same – big and beautiful – every scene, every frame, every drape. There’s some typical Bhansali wizardry in the silent scenes – my favourite is the one when the lovers meet for the first time in the background of bright colourful gulal flying all over, and interestingly, the last time they meet, it’s in similar pose. Aha, beauty.
He has just added a new one –
passion raunchiness. There was never so much lust and physical act in any of his films and it’s a refreshing change. From hyper-objectifying the hero’s body to dialogues filled with sexual innuendos, pelvic and booby thrust to passionate kisses between the lead pair. It’s all done with certain degree of aesthetics that one can expect in a SLB film, but it’s all a new colour on his old canvas. It’s fun to see that a filmmaker who has always wanted to be taken seriously and strictly positioned himself in a certain way, is going on this route. And with all his indulgences.
Like his most films, it’s also set in some strange Bhansali-land. And i have made peace with the fact now. But this time we see mobile phones, porn films, gun business, ports, and characters talk about social media too. The times they are a-changin’, in Bhansalipur too.
I also felt this film bring backs the bonafide bollywood masala genre. With every filmmaker trying a Southie remake and calling it the “masala” film, all my senses have retired hurt. Race2, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobara, Besharam, Himmatwala..the list is long. Some of the films don’t even have a single scene which is well written and directed. I will better pick Ram-Leela – action hai, emotion hai, drama hai, gaane hai, ma hai, bhai hai, behen hai, suhaag raat hai, khoon kharaba hai, holi hai, diwali hai, aur (attempt to) rape bhi hai.
The two jarring aspects of the film are its duration and the screenplay. The basic story is adapted from Romeo-Juliet with elements of Ram(ayan), but the screenplay became too much of hotchpotch in the second half. The first half flows smoothly with Siddharth-Garima’s playful dialogues, and Ravi Varman’s lush photography capturing every grand set, authentic props and flashy colours meticulously used by production designer Wasiq Khan. They are in perfect sync. Add to that the combustible lead pair of Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. Were they in love when they started shooting? Or Bhansal egged them on to get the best result on screen? Because it’s difficult to be so comfortable and uninhibited in intimate scenes, especially on Indian screen. And those long, passionate kisses just added to the magic. When was the last time we saw something so real in our films? Like that scene where they kept kissing each other in quick succession, that’s new on desi screen. So candid, so much at ease, and really that’s how lovers kiss. Also, has she been lit from inside? With Gulshan Devaiah, Richa Chadda, Abhimanyu Singh and Supriya Pathak strongly supporting the second rank of characters, Sharad Kelkar and Barkha Bishit get noticed even in small roles.
And Dear Deepika, whatever are you smoking, please pass the joint to the bimbos of bollywood. It feels so good to know that finally we have an actress who can act and look hawt, is on top too. *sings ये लाल इश्क़, ये मलाल इश्क़, मेरा नाम इश्क़, तेरा नाम इश्क़, मेरा नाम तेरा नाम*.
Just another small complain – my favourite and that bhakti-bhaav-se-bharpoor composition yeh laal ishq just doesn’t get enough screen time. Even though the film felt long, i waited for the entire end credits just for the song.
(PS – If you are still googling to know who or what is Lady Popo, the one who is mentioned in the opening credits of the film, well, let me inform that Lady Popo is SLB’s pet doggy. Ooh la la! Which other filmmaker has given so much credit to his Doggy? Jejus, Agle Janam Mujhe Doggy Hi Kijeo)