Ram, the local village Romeo, is a colorful, charming yet dramatic vagabond whereas Leela is an unbridled and passionate village Juliet. The only thing in common between these two strangers is their families’ hatred for each other. The two communities have been sworn enemies since the past 500 years and their own kin falling ...more
Ram, the local village Romeo, is a colorful, charming yet dramatic vagabond whereas Leela is an unbridled and passionate village Juliet. The only thing in common between these two strangers is their families’ hatred for each other. The two communities have been sworn enemies since the past 500 years and their own kin falling in love with each other is worse than any storm that could have ever come. When Ram and Leela see each other for the first time, their worlds collide, wars are fought and destinies are written in blood, forever. Set in a land of guns, vengeance against a magnificent musical backdrop, Ram and Leela fight the world to live their own dreams. What will happen when they declare their love to the world? Will their families relent or will Ram and Leela carve their own destiny? less
“Although the script gets messy, the stunning visuals, terrific songs and dances, high octane drama, fantastic dialoguebaazi and splendid performances especially by Deepika Padukone make Ram-leela a solid watch!”
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You may love Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movies or you may hate them, but you can’t ignore them. You may love playing Holi or hate it but you cannot ignore it. Especially when somebody smothers your face with color. This is exactly what an SLB film is. He does not make commercial products, neither does he make arthouse delicacies. He makes movies. There aren’t many filmmakers in our country who do that. Most “directors” have other agendas than to actually tell a story with pictures. He indulges your senses and you cannot look away.
Ram-leela is Bhansali’s return to the familiar terrain of extravagance also known as Bhansali-land. We may have felt disoriented when we visited this place the last few times but he takes care of it now. He is again bursting with colors, lavish songs and opulent dances. He is again telling a forbidden romance. He is again dabbling in melodrama. Nobody does it the way he does it. His Devdas (2002) is a classic of Hindi cinema and the best version of the doomed desi loverboy. As you can tell, I’m a fierce admirer of his work. If I didn’t I would have probably not liked this film. I’ll first list the blemishes and then wipe them off later. Why? Because that is how my thoughts on the film evolved through its duration. The first half felt incredibly messy but it all came together in the second.
I was probably most displeased when the film opens. We venture into the trigger-happy Bhansali-land with guns everywhere. Gun violence is glorified to a point where it seems the film is funded by the NRA or the NRAI. Then, a young boy is chased by a grown man while he is constantly being shot at. In slow motion. There is also a gun garba. Yes, people doing the garba with guns. What are we showing to our audience? Is there any sense of responsibility left? We already have a huge list of social evils; do we really need to add one more that the Americans are already dealing with? Sure, this film may not make people play the gun-beer "game" and you may argue that films don’t influence people but the truth is that when you offer them a chance, people love to imitate the large-than-life heroes and heroines.
While my issues with the film kept popping up, I was won over by the images and the music. As usual, every frame looks marvelous. Ravi Varman shoots the film like a love song on celluloid. Lahu Munh Lag Gaya is wonderfully photographed with the stark pinks and blues. The lovers meet and go through the drill but there is an interesting edge to each of their meetings, cute or risqué. The dialogues are often funny but sometimes I couldn’t understand them (everyone is not a Gujju) or just got annoyed with the bad rhyming. Till the interval, I could tell Bhansali badly wants to go back to his Devdas days, the story never lags except a bit of that spark was missing.
The weakest link is Ranveer Singh. The more films he does, the more his lack of conviction shows. He simply does not have the charm. Even while working with a filmmaker who requires over-the-top acting, he cannot come through. The strongest link is Deepika Padukone. She is absolutely gorgeous and owns the film. Aishwarya Rai has looked her best in the films made by Bhansali. It is no surprise that this is Deepika’s finest hour. She is the actress of the year, no questions asked. A performer who protects the film when it is slipping is Supriya Pathak. Her presence is felt in every scene she is in and makes sure she leaves traces of it.
The second half of the film improves on many levels. The missing spark starts sprouting. The story comes together. The humor does not miss the mark no “morr”. The drama is effective. The guns don’t go off for no reason. This is also probably Bhansali’s darkest work, more than Black (2005). While I said, he goes back to his comfort zone, this is also a new territory for him and he does come out alive.
SLB is often compared with Baz Luhrmann. Both have a penchant for indulgence and shooting movies like they own everything about it. This year he made a grand return with The Great Gatsby. With Ram-leela both have filmed their own versions of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The tweaks made to it are fun and compelling to watch. Luhrmann had Leonardo DiCpario and his charm. If only Bhansali had an actor who could match not just his creative ambition but Deepika Padukone’s acting explosions as well. It isn’t a doomed prospect and is ultimately saved by the man who knows how to make movies.
Ram-leela is a cinematic celebration of Bollywood romances and what makes the genre of song and dance so appealing. When it is in good hands, it is irresistible. You may not like it but you cannot ignore it. Despite my reservations, I could not help but like this film. The strengths outnumber the faults. At the end of the film, I felt a sense of having watched a good movie. It may not be a great one but it's neither a product, nor an experiment. It's a motion picture.
Side-note: One of my favorite songs from the album – “Dhoop” was not included in the film, which was a tad disappointing but seeing Deepika dance to Nagada Sang Dhol makes up for it.