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Film Review: 'Ram-leela'

Opened: 15 November 2013
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chadda, Supriya Pathak, Sharad Kelkar, Gulshan Devaiah, Barkha Bisht, Abhimanyu Singh and Priyanka Chopra
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Producer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Eros
Rating: ★★★½

Make no mistake. For all its brash sexuality, its innuendo, its in your face violence and expletives, Ram-leela (and for the purpose of this review, let's stick to the film's original title and not the elongated and rather ridiculous new title, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela), is at heart still a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. It's loud. It's over the top. It's melodramatic. It has a strong and rather beautiful female lead. It's exaggerated and depicts love against a visually enchanting, yet rather unrealistic background. But. but. It's one of the filmmaker's most entertaining films, I think since Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Unless you've been living in a cave until now, you'll already know that Ram-leela is an adaptation of the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet, but in this instance, the plot unfolds against a Gujarati backdrop where a 500 year old feud is brewing between two powerful clans, the Saneras and Rajadis, in a village devoid of any law and order, and where gun toting is regarded as a daily norm. Amidst all this chaos, meet two sexually charged individuals Ram and Leela, who are instantly attracted to one another, but given that they're from warring clans their romance obviously elicits the wrath of their families starting a chain reaction of events leading to a tragic yet eminently watchable star crossed finale that you can see coming a mile away.

Ranveer-Deepika in a scene from Ram-leela

Ram-leela has a lot going for it and full credit should be given where it's due. The film earns an entire star solely for the way in which the frames have been lit so luminously by Ravi Verman. The music by Bhansali himself suits the mood of the film with special mention to the 'Nagada' tune – a garba where Deepika dances with gay abandon and shows us just how far she's come in the field in such a short space of time.

Which brings me nicely on to my next point. Like all of Bhansali's productions, the performances here are of a stellar quality. Supriya Pathak as the leader of the Saneras is ominous and sinister and practically steals every scene she's in. Richa Chaddha is another standout as a mourning widow from the remaining supporting cast and adds gravitas to her small but important part. Priyanka Chopra in a saucy item number, looks good enough to eat and does the raunchy song justice, but the song could have been done away with entirely to cut down on the film's excessive length.

Ranveer-Deepika shine in Ram-leela and the chemistry between them is electric

But it is Ram-leela's leads, or rather the palpable chemistry between them that is one of the film's major triumphs. Unlike Bhansali's previous films, the chemistry between Ranveer and Deepika is not coy or demure, but raw, lustful and sexual and scorches the screen, perhaps unlike any other lead pair in recent times. As the playful, impetuous, angry and impulsive Ram, Ranveer Singh is a revelation. He's a bufoon yes and overacts in a few sequences, but I can finally see what the fuss is about as the actor within him has finally started to emerge. Earlier this year with Lootera and now this. Deepika Padukone like all Bhansali heroines looks ethereal and perhaps the time has come for tinsel town to roll out the red carpet for a new numero uno, a new czarina – yes Deepika Padukone can act and look good while she's at it too. As the fiery, stubborn, graceful and lovelorn damsel, who gives up the longings of her heart in the name of duty, she simply towers above the film and makes us overlook its many shortcomings. 

The best thing perhaps about Ram-leela is that it shows that Bhansali can make a fun film too. Not everything has to be soaked in manipulative melodrama and neither does it have to be overtly morbid. I particularly liked how, the time period of the film isn't really set in stone – at first glance it looks like a period film, but with the numerous references to cell phones and even Twitter he seems to have left the setting of the film to the audience's imagination. He could have easily trimmed the film by a good twenty minutes though. At an over indulgent two hours and forty minutes, Ram-leela begins to try at your patience especially after a certain point when the plot doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

I'm going with an overtly generous three and a half stars for Ram-leela.  It's staple Bhansali, it's excessive, it's colourful, it's witty, it's visually stunning and it's perhaps the most fun I've had at the movies for a while. Go for it if you're old school Bollywood. You wont be disappointed! 

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