I saw Raavan today. I'm not doing a full review as I honestly probably need to see the film a few more times to say anything really intelligent about it but I did want to point out what I liked about it (since enough negative has already been said). As a former English Literature major in college, there are few things I enjoy more than a piece of art (be it film, TV, music, book, etc) that has some symbolism that I can sink my teeth into. This is why I love Mani Ratnam and his films. He generally makes intelligent films full of symbolism. This is what I liked about Raavan.
1. One of the main themes of the story is perception; how we perceive situations and people based on our perspective, who we are and who they are supposed to be. What we may find is that when we get to know the truth, a true vision of a person or situation, it may be very different than we thought at first glance. This includes the way we perceive ourselves until some event teaches us that we are different than we thought we were. This theme is illustrated very smartly by visuals in the film of characters gazing at each other through tree branches, reflections on the water, photographs and mirrors.
2. Another major theme is that of cause and effect and how it perpetuates a never-ending cycle, in this case a cycle of violence. Unless one party is able to engage the higher side of their being and willingly surrender the upper hand that is. This theme works in tandem with the perception theme when it is the "demon" who accepts what looks like defeat in order to stop the cycle.
3. The film is slow and a bit confusing pre-interval but there is a reason for that that I appreciate and I thought was quite well done. You're really not sure why everything that's happening is happening or why it's all so dire or why you should care. Post-interval, however, the motivation behind Beera's actions are revealed to the heroine, Ragini and to the audience at the same time. I thought it was quite smartly done because the audience goes on the same journey as the heroine. She has, I'm sure, her perception of why these things are happening to her as do we the audience, only to find out that things are not necessarily what she or we thought they were.
4. Santosh Sivan was, as always, pure genius. The cinematography is breathtaking. You MUST see the film for that if for no other reason. Every frame is like a painting. I wish my life was as pretty and dreamy as a Santosh Sivan film *sigh*
5. I really enjoyed Abhishek's portrayal of Beera. This is a character who is a bit unhinged even schizophrenic and I thought he played it quite well. He brought a frenetic sort of energy to the role along with a sort of mad intensity and at times a childlike petulance and ignorance of why what he was doing was wrong. I thought all of it worked and successfully walked the line between making the character a real person and a figure out of mythology. (Also, he looked really good with that black tunic plastered to his body)
6. Aishwarya was strikingly beautiful and did a superb job. She captured and conveyed some very complex emotions very well. She and Abhi had fantastic chemistry together which is, as we've unfortunately seen before, not always the case with real life couples.
7. Another train used as a symbol in a Ratnam film. I really like the idea of the train as a symbol of the inevitability of events once set in motion. Once two characters meet or once a discussion begins, fate has been sealed and events will keep moving relentlessly forward until the inevitable conclusion.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie because it was lovely to look at, the performances were good and it had nice visual symbolism to chew on. It wasn't my favorite movie and was quite slow paced for all the action and drama in it but that is kind of what I've come to expect from Mani Ratnam. His films end up being the ones that I want to watch over and over again because every time I do, I find something new that I missed before. His films have a way of haunting you and growing in your psyche. I can already feel Raavan taking up more space in my brain and the urge to not just see it again but examine and dissect it has already taken root.