Ram-Leela: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s visual treat to the world!

Published: November 18, 2013
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Although we have seen the world that Bhansali has created in Ram-Leela before in HDDCS with its rich colours, similar soundtrack and even the same bhavai, it seems less mawkish and more vehement this time. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The moment I saw the first promo of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Ram-Leela, I decided I had to watch it. I did not think that it would change my views about world cinema, nor was it the most captivating promo one would ever see; but it did look absolutely stunning.

I knew that it would be nothing less than a visual treat. However, before you classify me as a die-hard fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, let me clarify. I am not a huge Bhansali fan, I particularly did not like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (HDDCS) or Devdas and I could not bear Saawariya for 15 minutes.

Having said that, it is true that when you watch a film that is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you do not watch it for the story. Romeo and Juliet has had many adaptations, not only on stage, but also musical versions – West Side Storysoft romantic versions – Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and of course, contrived versions like Ishaqzaade.

So there is no doubt that Ram-Leela is a generic film. After all, how can a plot set in violent times in Rajasthan bring anything new to the screen in terms of story?

So what remained to be seen was how ‘Bhansali-esque’ the film was and boy, it was very ‘Bhansali-esque’. From the song in the opening credits to the grandeur of the sets and chroma keying; from the uber artistic choreography to the exceptionally beautiful frames, Ram-Leela oozes Bhansali’s class as a filmmaker even if his writing is somewhat questionable.

Ram-Leela thrives on technical superiority and performances, with Ravi Varman’s camera work taking the cake. If you thought that Sudeep Chatterjee was good in Guzaarish, Ravi Varman has taken cinematography to a whole new level in Ram-Leela. The camera work in the film is literally a piece of art. There are just too many beautiful moments to write about and you will have to go see for yourself!

The film’s second strength is its choreography. Even though I think that there are two songs too many in the film, it is the music videos where the film reveals its true ‘Bhansali-esqueness’. The songs have been picturised exquisitely, such as the blood eluded Lahu Munh Lag Gaya, which is reminiscent of Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyan from HDDCS. 

Of course, there is also the utterly sensual imagery in Ang Laga De Re where Leela entices Ram and even Priyanka Chopra’s completely misplaced item song Ram Chahe Leela does make its mark with regards to picturisation.

Add to that the film’s sound design, costume design, make-up, art direction and dialogues, and you see the infinite creativity of Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a director.

Priyanka Chopra is receiving rave reviews for her sultry item song Ram Chahe Leela. Photo: File

Then, there are the performances.

Although Gulshan Devaiya as Bhavani is below par and could have delivered more, the rest of the supporting cast has really stepped up. Richa Chadda proves her mettle yet again while Abhimanyu Shekhar Singh, although less terrifying than he was as Bukka Reddy in Rakta Charitra, is right on the money.

Nonetheless, the film belongs to three characters – Ram, Leela and Baa.

Baa is played by the underexposed and highly plausible Supriya Pathak. Her character is both, fearless and fearsome at the same time. She is a woman who can go to the extreme of cutting her beloved daughter’s finger simply to take off a ring. Pathak, who was forgotten for her roles in Kalyug and Bazaar, and is remembered as the comedian from Khichdi, has made a comeback of the highest order and filled her role splendidly.

Then there is Leela. Gorgeous, aggressive and tempestuous in those ghagras and cholis, Leela is Bhansali’s replacement of Devdas’s Paro. There were moments when I actually forgot Paro like when Leela wrote Ram’s name on the mirrors in her room, or when she held a gun to his stomach and vowed to kill him if he cheated on her, or then when she touched his feet in complete submission.

There literally seem to be fifty shades in Leela’s character and Deepika Padukone has done justice with all her emotional outbursts.

Deepika has once again proved her versatility in Ram-Leela, while Ranveer has finally emerged as a serious actor. Photo: File

Deepika has left her comfort zone of being the new-age urban girl from Cocktail, Love Aaj Kal, Yeh Jawani, Break Ke Baad and so forth. Her scenes with Richa Chadda in the second half are utterly brilliant. If Ram-Leela is a success, this will be her fifth consecutive hit and her performances wholly deserve that sort of success.

Last but not least, there is Ranveer Singh – an actor who is completely at ease with himself. From the nonchalant guy in Band Baaja Baaraat, Ranveer has come a long way because Ram is not like the everyday lover boy that any actor could play. Disreputability is his pride. He does not play cute, compelling you to love him back. Instead, he runs suspicious video stores and flaunts his well-toned body at women.

And then he changes.

From an authentic lover who slits his wrist, he becomes a resolute leader who shuns his sister-in-law implying that he has forgotten his personal life. As good as Ranveer is in playing this character in its physicality, he is even better at playing the hazy pre-requisites of a Bhansali movie. His energetic dance moves and his manifestation of holding back something from spilling out are a treat to watch.

Ram-Leela’s spectacular choreography and energetic dance moves are a treat to watch.

Any actor in a Bhansali movie has to be a performing artist and Ranveer Singh fulfils this requirement with great aptitude. His confrontation scene with Leela towards the end of the movie before the sarpanch played by Raza Murad, is arguably the best part of the film.

Although we have seen the world that Bhansali has created in Ram-Leela before in HDDCS with its rich colours, similar soundtrack and even the same bhavai, it seems less mawkish and more vehement this time. I, for one, prefer this world over the earlier one. Yes, there were a few dragged sequences in the film and I would have personally liked to cut a song and 10 minutes from each half, but that does not take away the fact that the film was indeed a visual treat.

It looks like Ram-Leela could well be the return of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and perhaps, the emergence of Ranveer Singh as a serious actor.

sami.saayer

Sami Saayer

A Dubai based Pakistani looking for excuses to write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • COLVINOD

    Just superb work of art… a must see.Recommend

  • Mahwash Badar

    Sami Sahab. You stole my phrase.Recommend

  • PakiyonKiMaKaa

    Now compare this visual treat with Conspiracy and propaganda based Pathetic waar…..Recommend

  • Sami Qahar

    kehrri phrase madam?Recommend

  • Sadaf

    this got awfully bad reviews in the Indian press as based on sex , sex sex rather than sensuality or any higher aesthetic …. funny how Pakistan laps it all upRecommend

  • JackofClubs

    It’s Gujrat not Rajasthan, Sami Saab..Have to agree with you for the rest..it indeed is a visual treat.Recommend

  • LalaKiMaKaa

    As a Pakistani I would say..there will be 1000 such movies release from world second biggest industry in span of many years but pakistani people on release of any such movie will take the name of zaid hamid scripted movie waar…as a pakistani canadian I am proud to say my heritage is Bharatnatyam and kathak not arabic or farsi………..I am a convert and I am seeing u bollywood and love to see u and more importantly my children are studying Indian history rather than conspiracy.If any paki want to know the truth he/she must watch tahir gora and tarekh fatehRecommend

  • anil

    Though it’s superb visual arts , but it draws its inspiration from Indian culture .Recommend

  • x

    I always enjoy your reviews, accurate assessment of the movie plus a good read. Going to see raam leela on your recommendation. Raised on a staple diet of indian ‘raj, naam toh suna hoga’ type sappy movies courtesy of my maids, I loved hum dil de chuke as being refreshingly real and passionate (without being cutesy) and of course a visual treat. Saawariya was hopefully a one off. Will give my opinion of ram leela. :)Recommend

  • Amb

    Sami , there was no story ? Bhansali forgot to add a credible story. The visuals were a treat , deepika looked like a goddess , but the story ?? What a spineless hero that instead of rescueing his princess, he is cutting his wrist ,and makes no effort to get her back?i just couldn’t swallow that Recommend

  • Nandita.

    The dance form you see in songs like Lahu muh lag gaya is called Garba. Many of the dance moves in the song are very common..During Navratri festival such dances are organised every night all over Gujarat and many cities in the state of Maharashtra so as someone who has grown up participating in garba events, the choreography did not impress me as much as it seems to have impressed you. I’ve visited cities in gujarat (baroda, ahm) during navratri quite a few times with my friends just to participate in garba and trust me the costumes and the dance events organized there are just as impressive as the dances shown in the movie. No kidding – its quite an experience! Infact,
    One of the things I miss the most about not being located in mumbai is that I cant visit baroda as frequently as I did earlier during navratri.. hmm, I’ve gone off topic.. sweet nostalgia!

    Recommend

  • Mariam

    The plot is set in Gujarat, NOT Rajasthan, an important distinction. I’m not sure how that mistake can be made by the writer, since the portrayal of Gujarati culture is one of the most significant aspects of the film (one that has generated much controversy in Gujarati nationalist/Hindu right groups).

    Ranveer’s command of the language and his impeccable Gujarati accent also stood out.Recommend

  • IndiKiMaBahanKaa

    I feel sorry for Bollywood. They only have now Padukone left to use in every film.Recommend

  • Usman Azam

    Why must Indians insist on comparing everything with Pakistan here? It reeks of insecurity.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    In Ram Leela song at 1:10 from which english song this dance step is copiedRecommend

  • tungi

    hmm.ya..thts why nobody watched ..nd thr r no comments!Recommend

  • Nobody

    Very excited to see this movie. Not a huge fan of Bhansali but have generally enjoyed his movies as a cinematic experience. A bit disappointed to see a cheap misplaced item number. Was hoping legit talent in Bollywood wouldn’t need to resort to flaunting half naked women unnecessarily but alas, it has not yet proven so mature. Still excited to see this movie as I’m a big Deepika fan. Recommend

  • xoya

    I enjoyed this movie :)Recommend

  • Small correction

    This movie isn’t set in Rajasthan as you seem o think. It is set in Gujarat – the same place that HDDCS was set. Bhavai is a traditional art form in Gujarat.Recommend

  • Satesh Kumar

    I haven’t seen this movie and believe me I won’t.. First of all the title is controversial, changed almost 3 times. Secondly, there are glimpses of historic movies like Devdas or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam with a just modern touch of “Passionate Kissing”…Recommend

  • Nazia

    Ram-Leela is the best film…..www.fashionspk.comRecommend

  • Indian taste

    how many Indian films do you see each year? The number of films that you see are just pinch of a salt. I m not a die hard fan of Bollywood but before you write something like this just get your facts clear. Bollywood produces 900 films in a year and i m sure you don’t even get opportunity to see even trailer for 500 flicks.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    This is ridiculous to say that bollywood is left only with Padukone.Thousands line up to get a chance in bollywood.I m sure not 1000 but at least 100 pakistani actor must be dreaming of bollywood.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    censor board has clear instruction that such movie cannot be allowed which flare up caste and religious sentiments .Movie name is enough to generate controversy .Ram is a Hindu god and no way can be related to violence and adultery.Recommend

  • x

    I enjoyed your sweet nostalgia. The culture of songs, dances and colours exhibited in Indian festivals sounds amazing. I would love to visit India one day and go beyond the traditional Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur which everyone seems to visit. Indian culture, in some ways so similar to Pakistani but so different, sounds fascinating!Recommend

  • IndiKimaBahanKaa

    You guys are so funny. I am talking about bollywood movies that are advertised internationally. You only have Padukone nothing else.Recommend

  • IndiKiMaBahanKa

    First, please find one girl other than Padukone inside India to be advertised internationally than look towards Pakistan.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Only around 10 bollywood Urdu movies, (as hindi is no more used) are advertised internationally and almost all 10 movies have Padukone as female actor.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Lining up doesnt count. Fact is bollywood has now only Padukone for international Urdu ( as hindi language has become obsolete) audience. Its better to try Pakistani actors in this situation.Recommend

  • gp65

    Welcome. Hope you have a great time. Each state has its unique cuisine and dance and music forms – garba/ras in Gujarat, laavani and lejhim in Maharashtra, Rabindra Sangeet in Bengal and so on. In addition there are 6 classical dance forms besides Kathak (which perhaps you are familiar with). You can have a cultural and culinary feast.Recommend

  • Gay
  • grandmasti

    yaar,you live in your pond as a frog..OK..you have no idea to which countryside you r living..India is too diverse to understand it for you..As far as your actor is concerned ,ask them and you will get proper answer..Recommend

  • grandmasti

    or yeh katrina,kareena,priyanka,asin..kya kar rahi hai bollywood. mein.6 cr INR bas mooh dikhane ko charge karti hai..coz they r international faces..but it is very hard to make you guys understand all these stuffsRecommend

  • Nandita.

    Thankyou :)
    You should definitely visit. :) There’s a lot to be explored in India.Recommend

  • IndiKiMaBahanKaa

    katrina is not indian, kareena, priyanka are now not even good for item numbers and who is asin?Recommend

  • IndiKiMaBahanKaa

    What would bollywood do after Padukone, maybe use khans and kapoors as female actors also..Recommend

  • Vikram

    If any paki want to know the truth he/she must watch tahir gora and tarekh fateh.

    Watch Nasir Hassan, Najam Sethi and some others on youtube. All these people risk their lives by speaking the truth. I am surprised some Pakistanis are trying to know truth about carnage during partition by locating Pakistani Muslims who were old enough to OBSERVE what happened in Pakistan during Partition.

    One person wrote how people were forced to choose between Islam or death, how scores of others were killed just because some Pakistani Muslims wanted their properties.Recommend

  • KM

    Dear Sami:
    I have seen the movie and share the same line of thought as yours.. totally agree to your review. Totally just & fair… I am an Indian bollywood fan and this film completely bowled me over! I liked it more than HDDCS and the best part of the film that you mentioned really took the cake!Recommend

  • grandmasti

    wo jo moderation desk teri beloved baithi hui hai..she drops all my comment..By the way,tum pakistani bollywood ki chinta kyun karte ho…Its an indian film industry..Follow mubashir lucman..Jealousy is coming out of your comment heheheRecommend

  • grandmasti

    han..isi liye tum logo ki film industry gutter mein hai..why should I care what you pakistani thinks about kareena ,katreena and asin..4 paisa to revenue nahi ata aur tum log petition file karte ho..I will suggest you better build your own film industry rather criticizing Indian films..and yes learn to recognize even small actor..they r praise worthy..Recommend

  • Rathore

    kya baat hay The news aur express ki… If its sanjay leela bansali then its a visual treat but when its bilal lashari then u get a pathetic critique to read…Recommend

  • IndiKiMaBahanKaa

    Take it easy man Reality sucks but healthy criticism should not harm you.Recommend

  • IndikiMaBahanKaa

    Bollywood is Padukone and some very old haggard khans ..nothing more.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    criticism???I like positive criticism but you r not upto it..Recommend

  • Mahwash Badar

    “Bhansaliesque.”Recommend

  • someone

    You seems pretty smitten by Padukone ;-). Fatal attraction eh :)Recommend