The film Sanjay Leela Bhasali’s Ram Leela It’s a revisit of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet so no surprises how the story turns out. What new can a filmmaker do with William Shakespeare’s classic love story Romeo and Juliet? The answer is, if you are Sanjay Leela Bhanslai who is technically sound and artistically astute as far as art and craft go, you just become impudent, set the story in Gujarat, sign Bollywood’s currently best actress Deepika Padukone ( Leela) , team with actor Ranveer Singh ( Ram) and then let them loose on one another. What’s interesting to see is how it pans out in the milieu of the Rann of Kutch. Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade did a reasonably good job adapting the Shakespearean tragedy to North Indian settings. . So the effort of telling the age-old tale albeit with a new tryst and twist is not new. But Sanjay Leela Bhansali does try to package it in parody, which works in favor of the film. It’s a pity that sense of humour is abandoned in the second half, where the movie veers into regular love story, action dhamaka territory. Resigning itself to a tragic and clichéd fate.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes his movie-making leela (play) a little too seriously. But the fact is he spends too much time and effort in setting up epic shots. The outcome of that is a flawless visual spectacle at the expense of actual narrative value. To say that the result shows in his indulgence is stating the obvious. The content suffers from a great deal of negligence. While the sets and shots look breathtaking. The story ambles and meanders with inconsistency. That’s Ram-leela for you. Since the plot is Shakespearan, the maker has the arduous task of telling you this story on an opulent scale. Vintage palaces and daunting deserts are fitted in with precision, giving you truly awe moments.
Undoubtedly, co-writer and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a man of thought and vision. Vibgyor hues, frescoed walls, antique drapes and glowling lamps light up every frame of ‘Ram-Leela’ (retitled ‘Goliyon ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela’ following imponderable objections). Indeed, here’s an exceptional visual banquet for the eyes, stylistically consistent, owing far more inspiration to Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996) than to Shakespeare’s timeless love story.
Ram-leela’s production team deserves a pat on the back. The sets, the lighting, the camerawork is all top notch. Bhansali’s in stylish form, evidenced in his best works ‘Khamoshi: The Musical’, ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ and ‘Black’. There is a strong hangover, too, of the more accomplished sections of ‘Devdas’, particularly in the shaded gardens, balconies, palms and fronds, not to forget the reprise of a funeral cortege, the mourners uniformly garbed in white, all very visually striking. If the writing team has spent much effort we would have got a worthy successor to his own classic Hum Dil De Chike Sanam. At times it feels like you’re watching a superficial account of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam with new characterizations. What we actually get is a jarring revisit to that colourful world of vivid Gujarat. Almost every song leads with a tune that’s straight from Sanjay Leela Bansalis classic love saga.
There is no dearth of effort from the actors though. Every actor in Ram-leela puts in their heart and soul into the performances. Ranveer Singh is given a grand entry with the song Tattad tattad and he holds the larger-than-life intensity from that moment right to the end. Ranveer displays his six packs and histrionics with fair ease. This could be the start of his journey into super stardom.
Deepika Padukone is equally charming and even more intense. Her character transforms into a matriarch and Deepika floors it with consummate ease. Deepika is breathtaking and in top form
The chemistry between Ranveer and Deepika is lustful and incandescent. But it does almost nothing to stir up your emotions.
Of the supporting ensemble, Supriya Pathak Kapoor is impressive, lording it over with her sharp tongue, effortlessly. She while playing the menacing head of an underworld family gives you a master class in acting. Her eyes can act circles around other actors. It’s a pity that the loop hole laden screenplay robs good actors like herself, Gulshan Devaiah and Richa Chadda a chance to showcase their ability. In a brief but significant part, Richa Chadda, as a widow caught in the clans’ crossfire, exudes confidence and verve. You also have to applaud Supriya Pathak and Richa Chadda for being the talent they are.
Suffice it to say, then, this Romeo and Juliet’s end could be comforting or disturbing, leaving you guessing right till the end. Script and dialogue-wise, co-writers Garima and Siddharth do an excellent job of blending in Gujarati patois. Vis-à-vis the plotting, the screenplay could have been tighter, besides avoiding guttersnipe lingo. Unquestionably superb technical support comes from Ravi Varman’s cinematography – the most dazzling in years – as well as the inticate sound design by Parikshit Lalvani and Kunal Mehta. Throughout, the costumes by Anju Modi and Maxima Basu, are a class apart. And the production design by Wasiq Khan is extraordinary.
Yet these reservations amount to a molehill in a mountain of a movie: aesthetically mounted, faithful to the ethnic delights of its Gujarat backdrop (note a top shot of fiery red mirchis laid out to dry in the sun), conviction in the conventions of mainstream entertainment, and most of all, in drumming up palpable chemistry between the roguish Ram and the elegant, cocooned Leela. Opposites attract and how, during their encounters by moonlight, their elopement to a seedy lodge, only to be separated by the force of destiny. It happens.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali tries hard to make this an epic love saga. He’s recently produced big ticket masala hits like Rowdy Rathore and that has added another dimension to his story telling. You have his film’s hero fighting and beating bad guys in slow motion action sequences. It looks great. But it adds no value to the actually story telling effort. You can polish a mucky stone all day long, but it won’t turn into a gem. Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-leela is an illogical love tale dressed up in opulence. A classic case of looks can be deceptive. You may not like this film If romantic movies set against a backdrop of guns and violence are not for you.