Thursday, January 13, 2011

No One Killed Jessica

Unless you've been hibernating or are snowed in at Alamo, Texas you'll know that 'No One Killed Jessica' is based on the Jessica Lal murder case. The film stars Vidya Balan as Sabrina Lal (Jessica's sister who fought relentlessly for justice in the case) and Rani Mukerji as the abuse-spouting hard-as-nails high-flying journalist who takes on the mantle of getting justice to the bereaved family.

For those unfamiliar with the case, Jessica Lal was a model who was shot at a nightclub in Delhi because she refused to serve a drink to the son of a politician after closing hours. It was supposed to be an open-and-shut case due to the large number of witnesses, but during the police investigation the 300 people present at the club that night all claimed to have left before the incident happened, and the 7 witnesses turned hostile presumably under threat from the politician, resulting in a lack of evidence against the accused and he getting acquited. What followed was a public and media furore against the judiciary, the case was re-opened and the murderer was finally convicted.

'No One Killed Jessica' highlights the media's role in the re-opening of the case. It is a mix of fact and fiction but for the most part, it sticks to events as they happened.

The problem with the movie lies in Raj Kumar Gupta's direction. It alternates between over-dramatization, trying very hard to be cool and falling prey to stereotypes.

The other problem is the way the characters have been written. Rani Mukerji's character has all the stereotypes of a journalist - smoking, abusing etc. She insists on calling herself a bitch, and ends up looking like she's desperate to be considered "cool". Perhaps the director was referring to that breed of women who casually refer to themselves as bitches, but maybe he doesn't understand that those women aren't doing it to prove a point. Similarly there is no rhyme or reason for the make-out scene between Rani and whats-his-face. It appears out of nowhere and makes no contribution to the story whatsoever.

Vidya Balan too is let down by her styling. I didn't think Sabyasachi could disappoint but I'm guessing he was tied by the brief. Agreed, the idea was to show Sabrina as a regular girl who suddenly finds herself battling the corrupt, monolithic political system of India, but she need not have been dressed in dowdy pants and oversized men's shirts. Sabrina Lal was a Delhi girl, and regular Delhi girls surely don't dress like that. Showing her as a normal jeans and t-shirt wearing young girl would have made the audience empathize with her character more, I think.

In terms of acting, both Rani and Vidya are competent but I didn't find either extraordinary. Amit Trivedi gives cutting edge music once again.

If I had to sum up 'No One Killed Jessica' in one line, I'd say it could have been much better. As it is it lacks impact, restrained by the limited vision of its director Raj Kumar Gupta and his lack of courage to rise against stereotypes. I must give him a shout out for one thing though - the age spots on Rani Mukerji's face are very visible throughout the movie. No attempts have been made to hide it. I'm not sure if they're a part of her character, but if they're for real then it's good to see Bollywood finally mature.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tees Maar Khan

'Tees Maar Khan', or Tabrez Mirza Khan (Akshay Kumar) is one of the most wanted robbers of India (they insist he's a criminal but he's really only a thief). He's aided by his annoying cronies Dollar, Soda & Burger. He's hired by the Johri brothers (MTV's Raghu & Rajiv) to rob a train that's carrying 10,000 kgs of antiques worth several crores from Mumbai to Delhi. Since he can't steal all that stuff by himself, he stages a fake movie production where he convinces residents of an entire village to help rob the train. To lend credibility to his movie idea, he convinces his girlfriend Anya, a struggling B-grade actress (Katrina Kaif), and Atish Kapoor (Akshaye Khanna), an Oscar crazed actor, to act in the movie.

The thing is I love Farah Khan's movies. They're silly and have their fair share of laughs, emotions, comedy, drama and action. They're complete entertainers. And mercifully, they are devoid of the kind of toilet humor one associates with her brother Sajid Khan's movies.

With 'Tees Maar Khan' (TMK) however, Farah Khan has let herself and her audience down. And all for love - had she kept the story and screenplay departments to herself instead of making her husband incharge of them, she would have had a winner on her hands. For TMK is quintessential Farah material. It has a plot that's bordering on insane and offers ample scope for spoof, something she revels in.

As it stands though, TMK is a directionless movie that ambles along for 2 hours before suddenly deciding to sputter out a lame climax. The much hyped train robbery turns out to be mindnumbingly uncomplicated.

Some of the gags in the movie are in really bad taste - jokes on dark skinned people and albinos being paraded as Britishers. And the product placements! Gaaaaaaah! They're too in-your-face.

For all the negatives, TMK also has a few positives.

To begin with, Farah Khan is back to doing what she does best - spoof the movies of the 1970s. TMK grows up to be a thief because his mother watched a lot of "chor-police" movies while she was pregnant with him. For good measure, his dad also happens to be a cop.

Then there are the spoofs on celebrities. If 'Om Shanti Om' took off on Manoj Kumar, TMK pokes fun at SRK (Akshaye Khanna is constantly regretting letting go of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionnaire). There are jokes on Danny Denzongpa and Manoj Tiwari. And there is the song 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti', which I thought was a master stroke!

Finally, there's the typical Farah Khan happy ending and the credits where everyone involved in the making of the movie, right from the actors/ director/ producer to the technicians and spot boys get to smile and dance in front of the camera while the song 'Everybody loves a happy ending' plays in the background.

Farah Khan manages to get Katrina Kaif to act AND dance. This is Katrina's best performance till date. She plays the role of a drop dead gorgeous bimbo with aplomb. She bounces around and over-acts as she's required to do, in a role where her dialogues are mostly confined to "important scene hai, aur make up lagao" and the likes. Even the way she yells 'Tabreeeeeez' and calls him a "meanie" will make you laugh. And she burns the screen in 'Sheila ki Jawani'. The song looks way hotter on the big screen than it does on TV (there's even a tribute to 'Jumma Chumma' in there...yay!!) and Katrina Kaif has got herself a mind blowing body. At least I think so. The Boy would like her to get her boobs back.

Akshay Kumar does a better job here than he has in his recent movies. He's restrained and funny. I can't think of any other actor who would've suited this role better than him. But he's pulled down by poor dialogues, courtesy Shirish Kunder once again.

It's Akshaye Khanna who gives us the most number of laughs as the actor who's so desperate for an Oscar, he'll do any movie by anyone who claims to be a hot-shot Hollywood director, without even checking his/her credentials or hearing the script!

Raghu Rajiv have made complete asses of themselves in the movie. No one's going to take them seriously in Roadies anymore!!

TMK is better than the 'Heyy Babys' and 'No Problems' of the world but compared to what one expects of Farah Khan, it's a let-down. The story had so much potential for her to just take off on but she was let down by a poor script, poorer humor and pathetic dialogues. I can just hope that the next time she sets out to make a movie, she realizes the importance of keeping her personal and professional relationships separate.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Break Ke Baad

Bollywood suffers from a terrible illness - it's called 'milking the formula dry'. Once a formula clicks, you can rest assured the next two thousand movies coming out of Bollywood would sincerely adhere to that formula.

The latest fad doing the rounds in Bollywood is "slice-of-life". It started with 'Bachna Ae Haseenoo, continued with 'Wake Up Sid' and 'Rocket Singh', carried on further with 'I Hate Luv Stories'. And just when you thought the audience had lost interest in the genre, comes 'Break Ke Baad'.

Well, the audience had moved on. It's just a bunch of boys who grew up on a staple diet of Karan Johar-Aditya Chopra movies who forgot to. They've now grown up and turned directors. They want to make "cool" movies showcasing modern-day relationships that belong to the K Jo-YRF school of film-making but are toned down in terms of emotions and grandiosity.

'Break Ke Baad' is directed by debutant Danish Aslam and produced by Kunal Kohli. If you confuse it with 'I Hate Luv Stories', you'll be excused. For both these movies are directionally the same in terms of story, have similar production values, similar (mostly unimpactful) sound tracks, and the same male protagonist. And cool as their titles may sound, both are yawn-inducing.

Aaliyah Khan (Deepika Padukone) is a spoilt, self-centered, ambitious young girl who lives with her mother (whom she addresses on a first-name basis...why?). She shamelessly and unapologetically chases her dreams without thinking of the impact her decisions will have on those close to her. She even lies without batting an eyelid if it's in her interest. And herein lies the first problem with the movie - the poor characterization. How the hell does the director expect the audience to root/feel for a protagonist who's cold-hearted, manipulative and conceited? One can be ambitious without being any of the afore-mentioned things, but clearly that did not occur to anyone on the 'Break Ke Baad' team.

Abhay Gulati (Imran Khan) is a patient, understanding, goodness-personified though aimless and clingy (according to Aaliyah) boyfriend. He not only puts up with her brattiness, he follows her all the way to Australia to be with her while she a) lied to him all the while that she was planning her stint abroad, and b) made it very clear to him that her going away meant that they would be taking a break in their relationship. Clearly, the concepts of "space" and "break" are lost on Mr Gulati.

Apart from the befuddling characterization, the movie fails on several other counts. While there's still some humor and wittiness in the first half, the second half turns into a predictable Bollywood drama. Girl & boy are dating, girl breaks up with boy and moves to another continent, boy chases her across the seas, girl ignores him and asks him to get lost, boy goes through emotional trauma, boy finally moves on, girl realizes how stupid she's been, girl tries to win boy back, boy resists at first but eventually there's a filmy ending.

The dialogue delivery is forced. You see, 'tu' is a word not everyone can utter convincingly. You need to have a particular kind of attitude, a certain brashness to be able to carry it off. An attitude that Deepika Padukone definitely does not have.

The soundtrack by Vishal-Shekhar is pretty lame. 'I Hate Luv Stories' had a 'Bin Tere' at least. None of the songs in 'Break Ke Baad' are memorable.

As for the performances, Imran Khan has school-boy talent. He's no "actor". And he's doing his stereotypical stuff here. Deepika Padukone may seem to be improving with every movie but she's still far from being an actress to reckon with. Besides, she really needs to improve on her diction and dialogue delivery. Shahana Goswami is wasted in the role of a money-chasing-sometimes-pink-sometimes-blue-haired businesswoman. There's no explanation for why she gives long, wistful looks to Imran Khan throughout the movie.

On the positive side, it's nice to see Sharmila Tagore and Navin Nischol play the senior citizens, and Yudi brings some zany humor into the movie.

There isn't enough romance OR comedy in 'Break Ke Baad' for it to be a true rom-com. Imran Khan is no Richard Gere, George Clooney, Hugh Grant or Colin Firth. There is zero chemistry between the lead pair. And there's nothing differentiating the movie from the other 'slice-of-life' movies that have come before it. Watch the first half if it's aired on TV on a boring Sunday evening. Don't bother with the second half.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se

'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se' (henceforth KHJJS) is a movie based on Manini Chatterjee's book 'Do and Die', which in turn is based on the Chittagong Uprising - one of a series of rebellions against British rule in India led by Surjya Sen, a school teacher, that went into the annals of history as being a revolt carried out mainly by teenagers.

The critics have not been kind to the movie. From Abhishek Bachchan's acting to the mispronunciation of Bengali words, many aspects of the movie have been criticized. But I think the real let-down is Ashutosh Gowarikar's direction.

The first hour or so of the movie seems quite comical. The dialogue delivery seems forced, even funny, and there are way too many songs - they seem really out of place, even jar at times. The title song and the new version of 'Vande Mataram' would've been enough - they play in the background, at the right times, and help carry the story forward. The other songs were quite unnecessary.

As far as the acting goes, I wouldn't say AB Jr. was stellar, but he wasn't as bad as the media made it seem either. He tries to play Surjya Sen in an understated manner. Understandably so, given that Sen wasn't a warrior/soldier/political figure in real life. He was a school teacher who dreamt of an independent India and advocated non-violent rebellion for a large part, violence to be used only for self-defense. Having said that, I think Abhishek Bachchan is capable of much more as an actor ('Yuva', 'Guru') but he needs a director of the caliber of Mani Ratnam to draw a first-class performance out of him. (On an aside, I like a clean shaven AB Jr. much more than a scruffy one, so I would've liked him in the movie irrespective :P)

Deepika Padukone has a small role - in fact she has lesser screen time than the other supporting characters - but she does justice to it.

I didn't think much of Sikandar Kher earlier but I quite liked him in this movie. He's managed to bring forth the grit, determination and obstinacy (to overthrow the British) of Nirmal Sen. He also gets brownie points from me for a good-boy-next-door look in the movie :)

I would give Ashutosh Gowarikar props for the following:

  1. Researching the characters and the time period well. This wasn't one of the high profile rebellions of pre-independence India, so the material would've been hard to come by. The effort that Gowarikar & his team would have put into this deserves to be appreciated.
  2. Having the guts not to provide sub-titles for the Bengali dialogues. The main characters do break into Bengali every now & then, and there is a fair bit of background chatter that happens in Bengali.
  3. Keeping the focus on the uprising and not getting distracted by the romance between Surjya Sen and Kalpana Dutta, as Bollywood is wont to do.
  4. Performance by character actors (playing Surjya Sen's band of men) and the child artists.
  5. The credits at the end of the movie. The pictures of the real freedom fighters are shown along with those of the actors playing the part. I was appalled to see the audience start to file out of the theater even while the credits were rolling. Whatever our views on the movie, it's a shame we cannot respect people who lay down their lives so we could live in freedom!

Overall, I would say KHJJS deserves a watch because it dares to bring to light an event that has, for some reason, been completely left out of our history books. The Chittagong Uprising may not have been as hyped as the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre or the Sepoy Mutiny, but as far as I am concerned, no freedom fighter was less important than a Nehru or a Mahatma Gandhi because every single one of them lay their lives on the line for India's independence. And no one's life is more/less important than another's. For this reason alone, we should watch KHJJS. And please stay for the credits.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lafangey Parindey

There are some things that, when spoken, make you turn around in slo-mo and give the person who said them an "are you for real?" look. The Boy saying that he wanted to watch 'Lafangey Parindey' b/c he thinks Neil Nitin Mukesh & Deepika Padukone are good actors was one such thing.

I wasn't too interested. For one, the movie has been wrongly publicized as being based on Mumbai's bike/street gangs. It is neither. It is a love story between two people who speak the street language of Mumbai, what's come to be called Bambaiya Hindi. Secondly, I find both Neil Nitin Mukesh & Deepika Padukone to be pathetic actors. Third, their pairing did not excite all. And finally, I think Pradeep Sarkar + Yash Raj = DISASTER. Case in point, 'Laga Chunari Mein Daag'. Still, we trudged off to watch the movie.

One Shot Nandu (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is a boxer who works for a local gangster. Pinki Palkar (Deepika Padukone) is a lower middle class girl with big aspirations living in a chawl in Mumbai. She's skates, and sees that as her passport out of the chawl life. In an accident, One Shot Nandu rams his car into her. She loses her eye-sight but not her dreams.

Feeling guilty, One Shot Nandu decides to train her to "see" with her other sense organs. In the process, the inevitable happens - they fall in love.

They get selected to participate in India's Got Talent but on the eve of their final performance, a bomb is dropped on Pinki - the cops, having finished their investigation in to her accident, tell her that it was her boyfriend who blinded her.

Surprisingly, I liked the movie. The story is unique and barring a few filmy twists, it touches your heart. The movie is short & crisp - just under 2 hours. Deepika Padukone has acted better than in her earlier movies. 'Man Lafanga' & 'Nain Parindey' are beautiful soundtracks. But the best part of the movie is its execution - Pradeep Sarkar has handled the crucial scenes with a lot of sensitivity and tenderness (that's his USP, after all) so that the pain of watching a normal girl with dreams & aspirations suddenly lose her eye-sight for no fault of hers, comes through very effectively. The unfairness of it all hits you right in the gut.

The downside of the movie is the language. Not everyone can speak Bambaiya Hindi as convincingly as Aamir Khan did in 'Rangeela'. 'Tere ko', 'mere ko', 'dimaag mein keeda mangta hai' and 'main teri vaat laga dalegi' don't sit easy on the lips of the protagonists of this movie.

I would recommend watching 'Lafangey Parindey' once, but then I'd be part of a very small minority.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


You see, I'm kind of done with so called "realistic" movies. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to deride them. But they generally tend to be depressing and so much crap to deal with in life anyway, who needs to inflict more torture upon themselves.

Udaan is one such movie. That apart, it's got a good story, good performances. It's the story of a boy who gets kicked out of boarding school for watching a porn movie. He's sent home to a dad who he hasn't met in 8 years. On reaching home, he learns that his dad has remarried and he has a step brother. To make things worse, the dad is a tyrant who insists on being called "sir", is abusive and is totally against the boy pursuing his dreams. The rest of the story revolves around how the boy copes with his dad and forms a bond with his step brother.

Watch it if you hold a torch for such cinema.


'Aisha' is an adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. That's the biggest thing the director had going for her - a story with immense potential. Yet, she screwed it up and how!

19th century rural England is replaced by South Delhi's high society. Sonam Kapoor plays the role of Aisha, a fashionable brat who lives in a bubble and spends her life match-making. She sees it as helping people and "doesn't even charge any money for it". Every single woman is a new "project" for her. She has spunky Pinky Bose for a best friend and a dishy Arjun for childhood friend (supposedly).

Enter Shefali, a small town girl whom Aisha must hook up with eligible bachelor Randhir Gambhir (Cyrus Sahukar). But before that, she needs to convert Shefali into a diva. Only if Arjun stayed out of the way!

The story itself is great material for a blockbuster chick flick - it's got romance along with dollops of humor and huge doses of fashion - but the execution is quite poor.

For one, Aisha & Arjun are supposed to be childhood friends but they're hardly shown to share a bond. You'll never see them hanging out, there are no "moments" between them. So you never find yourself wishing that the girl ends up with the guy - something very essential to a chick flick. And when they finally profess their love for each other, you're left with a WTF feeling.

Secondly, people keep hooking up randomly throughout the movie, without any background or context. People who couldn't stand each other end up together after sharing a single car ride. People who meet each other at a party for the first time end up making out and in the next scene, they're getting married! It's completely random...more WTF moments.

And I didn't understand why everyone was showing up everywhere! Aisha goes to Mumbai to visit her sister who's about to deliver. There she runs into Arjun, who is Aisha's brother-in-law's brother. So far so good. But why is Aarti (Arjun's business partner) also in the house? Go figure!

Abhay Deol was perfect for the role of Knightly - suave, sexy, smart & sassy. Yet, he's completely over-shadowed by Sonam Kapoor in terms of screen time. What a waste! And he's so unconvincing in the last scene where he tells Aisha how much he loves her. Rightly so...he too probably would've realized that it made no sense at all!

Sonam Kapoor is good as the self-centered, ditzy, bratty Aisha. I loved her wardrobe. Ira Dubey is great as the bitchy Pinky Bose, and I loved her Manish Arora outfits! Amrita Puri is cute as the impressionable small town simpleton who looks up to Aisha, Cyrus Sahukar is your typical Delhi guy and Lisa Haydon is better off on the ramp. And Arunoday Singh...he's so not hot. Big burly guys are not my type anyway.

I really wish Rajshree Ojha had done a better job of this had the potential to be such a fun chick flick. Overall though Aisha is worth a watch if you're in the mood for some candy floss and are willing to overlook the flaws in the script.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai

'Once Upon a Time in Mumbai' is the story of Sultan Mirza (Ajay Devgn), a smuggler with principles, and Shoaib (Emraan Hashemi), his over-ambitious protégé. But more than them it's the story of the betrayal of Mumbai by the "underworld".

Sultan Mirza is a Robinhood like character in some ways. He's a criminal but he helps the poor, and he won't smuggle stuff (such as drugs) that his conscience doesn't permit him to. The one big mistake of his smuggling career is to recruit Shoaib who can go to any lengths to control Mumbai. Kangana Ranaut plays a super star who is in love with Sultan Mirza while Prachi Desai is a middle class conservative girl in love with Shoaib.

The movie has enough drama to keep you at the edge of your seat, and in spite of being based on the underworld it stays away from blood & gore. The characters are well etched out and the performances, superlative.

Ajay Devgn oozes style and character throughout the movie, Kangana Ranaut plays an unapologetic gangster’s moll with élan, Emraan Hashmi essays the character of an unscrupulous don very convincingly (I love how they've built up his character right from a defiant teenager to a ruthless criminal), and Prachi Desai as the hapless girl in love with a bad guy is good though not memorable.

However, I was a little let down by the way the movie ended - it was not only abrupt, it was also a little unjustified maybe.

The dialogues are an entirely different story though - they were really cheesy! Straight out of a 70s Hindi movie. I'm not sure whether that was intentional given the retro theme of the movie, but saner dialogues would've definitely helped. Overall though, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai is definitely worth a watch.

The Twilight Saga : Eclipse

“Let’s face it, I am hotter than you are”

How hard must it have been for Taylor Lautner to say this to Robert Pattinson with a straight face? Yes, that is exactly the kind of movie ‘Eclipse’ is. Teeny bopper, immature, brimming with sexual tension, cudding-is-okay-but-sex-is-not kind of movie. But am I complaining? Hell, no! Neither are the other “Twihards” (a.k.a. fans of the Twilight series) across the globe, I presume.

Okay, so maybe that’s going too far. I wouldn’t go to the extent of calling myself a “Twihard”, but I did enjoy the books. They’re silly and that’s exactly why they're so much fun. They take you back to the time when love meant butterflies in the stomach every time you spotted the object of your desire, stolen glances in the classroom and stolen kisses in the corridors. There are enough 30-40 year old fans of the movie, and I suspect this is the reason why. Also one of the main protagonists - Edward. That kind of boyfriend/husband/partner doesn’t exist. Now, at any rate.

I've always rooted for Edward but after watching 'Eclipse', I’m with Jacob all the way! And I have a feeling that Melissa Rosenberg - the scriptwriter of the movie - may have had a big role to play in this.

Now, the debate over the comparative hotness of the two males done with, let’s come to the movie. I liked the movie (gasp!).

The last two movies were real letdowns. For one, Edward has been portrayed as this gorgeous, sex-on-toast vampire in the books. He was made to sound so delicious, you couldn't wait for the hotness to drip down the screen. However, in the movies Robert Pattinson is made to look way too pale. The fact that he is a fairly bad actor didn't help matters.

Secondly, 'Twilight' & 'New Moon' were badly directed. 'Eclipse' on the other hand is reasonably well directed and fairly engaging.

The movie is bursting with sexual tension down to the last frame. It’s a lust triangle between two gorgeous men - one “cold” & the other "burning hot" - and on top of the triangle sits Bella, the morose, confused, spineless female protagonist of the novel who, apparently, loves Jacob but loves Edward more. can she not love Jacob more???

1) He's pining for her & she knows it!
2) He risks his life to protect her, knowing fully well that she’ll choose Edward over him eventually (though he keeps hoping otherwise till the end!)
3) He saves her from freezing to death in an ice storm and the one kiss he shares with her towards the end of the movie is WAY more sensuous than all the kisses she has shared with Edward, combined.
4) His shirtless body can put any Calvin Klein underwear model to shame and he doesn't like wearing his shirt too much.
5) Unlike her boyfriend (Edward), he doesn’t reject her sexual desire, he welcomes it!! Stupid stupid woman.
6) He tells her that being with him would be as easy for her as breathing. B/c he’s the closest she’s got to human, in Forks. B/c he’s warm, not cold as marble all the time. But she’s not interested in breathing…or even being alive. She wants to have the life sucked out of her by a vampire so she could become cold & clammy too.

There are enough scenes in the movie that make you want Bella & Jacob to end up together. Like the garage scene where Bella asks Jacob if he’s imprinted yet (you feel for him, man), the scene where he tells her he loves her, the scene where he carries her into the forest (twice), the scene where he wraps himself around her to keep her warm, and finally, the kiss!!

The theater was packed during a non-peak hour show, that's the 'Twilight' craze. Though there were way more men in the theater than there should’ve been. I think they were dragged there by their gigling, squealing girlfriends. I genuinely felt bad for those men. Ladies, get a life! Go watch 'Breaking Dawn 1 & 2' with your girlfriends. It'll be much more fun and you won't have to listen to drivel about how dumb and tortuous the movie was, later.


The only reason I went to watch 'Raavan' was because it was a Mani Ratnam movie and I'm a fan. Had it been directed by someone else - anyone - I probably would've skipped it. The presence of Aishwarya Rai in a movie is enough to deter me from watching it, Abhishek Bachchan notwithstanding.

Fifteen minutes into the movie I knew that I needed to see the movie as a work of art, an artist's free-flowing creativity rather than look for any kind of a story or script. That need to look for a story is what I think led to bad reviews of the movie, and had I done the same I too wouldn't have liked it. Because you see, Mani Ratnam had a pretty interesting concept in hand - Ramayana from Raavan's point of view - but he made some gross errors in its execution.

For one, he could not convey the ten sides to Beera's (Raavan's) personality effectively. The scenes where Beera's multiple personalities are having a conversation with each other make him look more like a psychopath rather than someone who has multiple sides to his personality! It also makes Abhishek Bachchan's acting look over-the-top.

Ratnam's second error was to make Beera fall so openly in love with Ragini (i.e. Sita). If I remember correctly, there were no indications in the Ramayana of Raavan falling so openly in love with Sita. Even if he was besotted with her, it was never explicit. That retained the element of demonry in his character. In contrast, Beera's character seems almost caricaturish because of his open declaration of love for Ragini. I'm sure that wasn't the effect Ratnam was aiming for.

Moreover, he made Ragini get attracted to Beera as well! She never admits to it verbally but it's more than evident in the last 15 minutes of the movie, where she gets off the train in the middle of the forest to go confront Beera about the lies she thinks he's told her husband (besides, who the hell does that??!!!) and is willing to take the bullet for him. Was Ratnam trying to show that she's suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome? Or was that really a filmy twist to the ending?

I also found Govinda's character extremely irritating. Hanuman was one of the central characters of the Ramayana but Govinda's character is reduced to being a sidekick to Ram. On top of that, he was made to jump from one tree to another, recite pathetic poems and crack completely deadpan jokes.

There were quite a few other flaws in the movie...where is this place Lal Maati? Who are these tribals? Why did they need to smear their faces with ash, coal, muck etc. whenever they wanted to celebrate something or sing & dance in the rain? I also didn't like the idea of hiring as talented a designer as Sabyasachi and completely wasting him.

If you leave these things aside, what I did like about the movie were the breathtaking locations (all in southern India apparently), the cinematography, the presence of water throughout the movie (almost 90% of the movie has been shot in/under water), and the message that there's a little bit of good inside every bad person and vice versa. Surprisingly, I also liked Aishwarya Rai!!! So something has got to be said for Mani Ratnam as a director. He's only the second director after Rituparno Ghosh who made me like Aishwarya Rai in a movie (Raincoat)!

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Abhishek Bachchan. He just does not have the personality to carry off an evil role convincingly. He comes across as too much of a sweet, fun, chilled out guy even in scenes where he's threatning to kill her. And no, the eye liner didn't help.

Coming to Vikram...hmmm...I liked his personality - he has screen presence - but I didn't like his acting. Or lack thereof. He did little more than scowl throughout the movie, as far as expressions are concerned, and his eyes were hidden behind dark aviators for the most part, so we never got a chance to know what his eyes were trying to convey.

Every kid who's grown up in India has been doused with the story of the Ramayana - willingly or unwillingly. Mani Ratnam had the opportunity to make a blockbuster out of it. He didn't quite get there. Still, I would say 'Raavan' is worth a one-time watch for the simple reason that it's very different from other movies, and the visuals are pretty awesome too!