I tend to exude towering expectations from Mani Ratnam, the maverick filmmaker and a phenomenal producer of acute congestive brains. ‘Ravanan’ lacks the usual punch of the master but still is a class act.

The staggering curiosity slowly waned away and honestly, it is probably the slowest starter of all MR films that I have seen so far. And this time, it’s not the script but the treatment of the entire subject that stood apart. Months before the date of release, the inevitable talks of the adaptation from our epic ‘Ramayana’ were selling like hot cakes and it indeed, is a hypothetical yet subjugate version of the mythological legend. I could sense pick ups from the life of the dangerous and inimitable Veerappan; a messiah out to save his portion of the zenith. I could visualize glimpses of Durga in RGV’s ‘Jungle’ (though technically both films are poles apart). The first half scrapes through like a wounded tortoise and gains momentum in the latter. Surprisingly and probably not to my utter bewilderment, most of the sequences between ‘Veera’ and ‘Ragini’ reminded me of Ghai’s commendable ‘Khalnayak’. The penultimate scene took the twist to a different spectrum and I liked the manner in which ‘Ragini’s’ character unfolded at the end.

Mani has a penchant for working with some of the finest talents our country possesses. And ‘Raavanan’ is no exception. Santosh Sivan’s photography (strongly aided by V Manikandan) is nothing short of a spectacle. Every frame describes patches of divinity and looks like SS is taking a stroll in the streets of paradise. Screenplay has been MR’s everlasting strength and he doesn’t disappoint. Samir Chanda’s art direction is commendable. Dialogues were ordinary and quite inane at times; being Mani Ratnam’s wife alone doesn’t provide Suhasini with the commanding credentials that a MR film actually demands. Editing could have been a touch better; probably it was an intentional periodical lapse by MR to depict a story woven from shreds of half baked characters. Music by ARR is haunting; the background score is tantalizing. The songs are chart busters; none grace the screen completely.

Let’s talk about performances. MR is known to derive the best from his casting crew. But this aspect was bit of a let down for me. Vikram as ‘Veera’ was impressive but not ruthless (as it was supposedly marketed); he is still showcased as human who falls for a beautiful married woman. Prithviraj was decent; his role of a police officer wandering with vengeance in mind was visible. Prabhu has a cameo as ‘Veera’s’ brother and excels convincingly; Karthik sizzles in his ‘Hanuman’ act and Priyamani is acceptable as ‘Veera’s’ sister. ‘Veera’s’ gang could have been punctuated with few accomplished actors; may be it was intended to be that way. Aishwarya Rai Bachhan as ‘Ragini’ was average. She cannot act and even Mani’s exemplary skills were not enough to make her histrionics look exquisite. She screeches through the chapters and ends with a whimper. She looks ravishing alright; I think Santosh Sivan can even make Lalita Pawar look like the most gorgeous woman on this planet earth, so let’s not dwell deep in to it.

I would have to watch the Hindi version to have my viewpoints substantiated.

‘Ravanan’ doesn’t rank amongst Mani’s superlative works till date. Neither does it qualify itself to be a masterpiece. But it is a visual incarnation of enormous magnitude and yet another courageous attempt to defy the nuances of a myth.

Have you ever witnessed drama at the pinnacle of silver screen? If your answer is ‘No’, then ‘Raajneeti’ will fulfill your desire with aplomb.

The crux of the story evolves from ‘The Mahabharata’. And why not? ‘The Mahabharata’ is unarguably one of the greatest political potboilers that has ever surfaced in the face of planet earth and is widely acknowledged as the epic of all times. I saw major glimpses of ‘The Godfather’, especially in the second half where we have a la ‘Al Pacino’ in ‘Ranbir Kapoor’ (A comparison here would be debatable but it’s worth it). So, we are talking about a lethal combination with ingredients such as love, hate, lust, deceit, greed, envy, power and above all, money. Now you know, why ‘Raajneeti’ is so special to the viewers of tinsel town.

The biggest strength of ‘Raajneeti’ is it’s plot and treatment of the script. Even though few of those sequences were inevitably seen by all of us in plethora of classics churned in the elite history of cinema, the way ‘Prakash Jha’ has handled the entire base of the story with elan deserves special mention. And to top it all, he has a cast at his disposal which can give the best in the industry, a run for their money. When ‘Naseer’, ‘Nana‘, ‘Manoj Bajpai’ and ‘Ajay Devgan’ come together, the outcome can only be stupendous. ‘Naseer’ has a special appearance and lives up to it. ‘Nana’ is at his usual effortless self and is outstanding. ‘Ajay’s’ role is different and portrays a brooding character with utmost conviction. ‘Manoj Bajpai’ is terrific as the evil and self proclaimed heir of the dynasty. He comes very close of bettering his exploits as ‘Bhiku’ in ‘Satya’. For me, two actors impressed immensely (as others were expected to be sure shot winners), ‘Arjun Rampal’ as ‘Prithvi’ and ‘Ranbir Kapoor’ as the vivacious yet suave distant son. Both have probably given their best performances till date in their respective careers and this will certainly help them to attain greater heights. ‘Katrina’s’ efforts were explicitly visible and she doesn’t disappoint. I still felt that post-interval could have been 15-20 minutes less than what it was, but then ‘Jha’ was able to sustain and held it all together in what could be termed as one of the finest directorial efforts in the recent past.

‘Raajneeti’ deals with one of the most powerful and intriguing syndrome in the entire system of our country. But seldom has a film reached out to the contemporaries and the critics in such a flamboyant yet hard hitting fashion.

I detest politics but highly recommend ‘Raajneeti’!