ramleela (2013) – of dead peacocks

This is a guest post by Dhanno.

I am thinking about how the films of yesterday and that of today have any connection. There is a sudden shift in the approach towards filmmaking.

Everything about the older films was so defined. Even though they didn’t have the resourcefulness to construct an authentic chemical laboratory. Or they DID have the resourcefulness to dress the villains too colorfully. Or no means to make peacocks fly in front of the face of the heroine in the middle of the night.

The peacock unfortunately belongs to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s, Ramleela. So much money spent, and efforts made to create something that is so schematically bred, that we may find ourselves to be unequipped to say we dislike the film.

The only reason the film exists is because of the diminishing traces of the premise from Romeo and Juliet. That premise, too, seems mutilated. And the audacities of the filmmaker to call his film a name as powerful as Ram Leela. Without realizing that he is inviting the pressure of centuries of history, which he leaves unjustified.

The film has no peaks. No special relationships to speak of, no soft moments, only those with a lot of vigor and blood, and no way to branch out the plot. It begins at one and ends at the same. It is so monotonous in nature, a screenplay so claustrophobic, that at no point do we feel like we are out of their over-lit havelis to even begin to relate ourselves to the film.

Ram and Leela’s love itself doesn’t experience any growth.   There is no reason for us to love the hero. Why should we? He speaks of protecting the women of his community after mentioning to us that he wants to go see the “saneda” (other community) girls’ dance because he has been through the hordes of the women in his own, that he wants to protect later.

So much time is spent in pasting in our heads that our hero is very sexy. His dhoti is atrociously low. Time is spent on telling us repeatedly that the heroine is so sexy because she can roll on the bed with grace, wear Ghagharas and has a camera friendly sculpted back.  Does it never strike anyone that without these repetitive shots we will still fall in love with our hero and heroine. Because isn’t that how we are programmed. And don’t we always find them lovable through the length of the film because of the good things they do, the good things they say, etc.  Isn’t love supposed to be that way anyway? Don’t people grow on us? Or do they just strip till we know that they’re so gorgeous that we must take hold of them?

The characters are very flat and there is no way to differentiate one from another and there is no exploration of their spectrum of emotions. It is sad to see a violent film and still not have that fear set in your heart for any defined villain. Our famous ‘Mogambo’ from ‘Mr. India’ can scare us even today even though his costume reminds us of Ferrero Rochers.

The execution of each character is very derivative. The non-violent son, is a believer in love, so he becomes a womanizer. The princess like daughter is bold, so she has the guts to kiss a man whenever she likes. Making her aware of nothing except her sexuality. Because within a week of her taking over her ill mother’s business she goofs up and signs some documents without reading. The oldest trick in the book. Imagine? They do mention twitter in this film but we should assume she doesn’t watch Hindi movies? The ‘Ba’ is a don so she plays it with general crudeness and is almost manly.

There could have been more sensitivity in the way the actors were directed to play out their roles. I remember seeing the courteous yet sneaky Umbridge in the ‘Harry Potter’ series. She sets fear. The Killer in ‘Wait Until Darkness’, lean, lanky white and thin. He sets fear. ‘Moriarty’ in the ‘Sherlock’ series. He sets fear.

‘Ba’ could have been a graceful thakurian, unpredictable and powerful. Her actions dark but poetic.  Leela could be passionate not only in love, but ambition, her desire for strength or goodness. But passion starts at kisses and ends as soon as she gets married. Then she’s back to being the damsel who pines for affection from the much angry and easily provoked husband.

It doesn’t make sense to place a film in such a rich culture and not show enough of their lifestyle. The two communities depicted in the film are into smuggling and looting but we never see any of that happening. Why not show anything related to the power games these people play with the outside world? And why is this community of bloodthirsty men answering to this one lady, ‘Dhankor Ba’? What about her makes her so powerful?   There is no sense of context.

I can count the number of shots in which we actually see the beautiful desert.  Seems like the sets, too, are not in sync with the location. There is a tropical forest in the middle of their haveli. Seems like the director is a control freak and doesn’t like to take the pain of shooting in the exterior. His controlled environment may look beautiful, but isn’t rooted in reality.

The film was far from inspirational. It is intended to be an art piece but art has soul and this doesn’t.   It’s just an expensive way of telling us the things that we have been trying to unlearn. About women, about violence, and what not.  It just makes a girl like me, who loves to write but has not written in a long time, feel instigated to write again.image

30 thoughts on “ramleela (2013) – of dead peacocks

      1. Yes, I know, and it’s been ages since we had Dhanno posting here. I did see the movie more for the beauty of Deepika than anything else. Didn’t feel at all happy when we emerged:(

  1. We totally agree with you and love the minute detailing you have highlighted about the inability of the film maker to grip his audience. Another over hyped move of 2013. Read our review on Ram Leela … wp.me/p2ced0-1pW

  2. I’ve stopped watching hindi movies for this very reason. Everything is very pretty, but there is no substance, no sense, no story… nothing.
    It’s as if a movie is put together to show the brilliant colours and costumes, the beauty of the heroine, the inevitable item numbers, but with NO story as such.
    Unfortunately, it seems to work. How else can movies like Chennai Express or Krish be such hits?

    1. I’m with you on this.

      I’m down to watching two, possibly three new Hindi films a year – which is pretty much what’s left after you eliminate the slow-mo-fight-but-no-story, one-lame-joke-makes-this-a-comedy, no-plot-but-its-pretty-yo, and the I-may-be-50-but-main-mard-hoon-so-bring-on-the-sexy-chica-to-romance.

  3. Now this is a quandary – should I wish for less films like this because they’re so crap, or should I wish for more films like this only so Dhanno would write more?

  4. This is one of the few reviews I completely agree with. As a reviewer myself, I was expecting so much more from the movie. I remember giving up on the review by the interval as it had nothing substantive. SLB’s flamboyancy gone to a dumpster. I was carrying that expression I usually have at the end of a Tusshar Kapoor movie. I don’t know how is it doing so well while waving a huge finger to the title.

    1. Aman, why films do well, is the matter for a thesis, specially in India. People are happy just looking at the costumes or colours.

        1. Yes, true to some extent. But movie-watching is also something that can be learned, the more different kinds of films you can watch, are given access to, your tastes expand. So the audience is not entirely to blame.

  5. I have gotten to a point where, when I see Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s name on the marquee, I stay away from the theatre. He began this over the top styling from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, but that, at least had a premise, and drew you into the story – though by the 3764th time Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan meet and part without knowing the other’s name, I was ready to scream. But at least it had a story!

    By the time Devdas rolled along, that scream was turning into one of agony. Black was an excresence. Then I stopped watching. I was curious about RamLeela but now, thanks to Dhanno’s review, I will save my dollars to go watch Dhoom 2 or something!

    Thanks for the warning, Dhanno. 🙂

    1. Anu, for some strange reason, I keep hoping that he will come up with something truly poetic, but each time he gets lost in the jungle of sets, lights and costumes.

    2. My father is the same. He says “Mane beek lage che” to SLB films, i.e. I am getting scared.
      3764TH TIME! hahah 😀
      Thank you for reading 🙂

  6. I wasn’t planning on watching this. I barely have patience to sit for long in cinema halls now, and only something good will drag me to one.

    SLB has lost his marbles.

  7. I enjoyed this review more than the movie which I couldn’t finish because it was so bad. A disgrace to comparisons with Shakespeare’s immortal Romeo&Juliet. I was hoping to see the beautiful “balcony scene” and how they would render the famous lines “Romeo, Romeo whereforth art thou Romeo……” There was no sign of it. I don’t have the patience or the heart to see the rest of it.

    1. Simplegal, I think it’s OK if it’s not an actual rendition of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Even if it’s just a take-off. It’s just that it’s such a bad film, anyway.

  8. Nice post.
    Didn’t see it, but heard similar things from my wife, who got bored with all the visual razzmatazz pretty early on.
    At a meta level, I guess this is also a statement on the times we live in – all style, very little substance. But then it’s probably just me getting old and grumpy.

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