Raavanan(Ravan) the reflection of epic film.(ratnam/sivan 2010)

When fredrico fellini made La dolce vita in 1960, something changed. Gone was the earnest biting Neo realist filmmaker of I villetoni and la strada. What gave fellini more fame and celebration(…and ultimately meaningless films) than he could possibly imagine, now, was his choice to embrace the very structuralism that he was seeking to criticize.

Ratnam (the director) and Sivan (the cinematographer) are very much the Fellini and Antonioni of Indian cinema. The Raavanan Shift just comes twenty years too late in mani’s career . Raavanan will  be toasted as the popular film maniratnam made to reflect upon all those half formed ideas of art that he dreamt about early in his GV films / Madras talkies creative life.Dreams of being a studio moghul, now subsumed in the successful portrait studio mani has constructed with his life’s work.

Its a spectacular pity when they go down to the clinking  of champagne flutes and the fragrance of designer perfumes.

Raavanan (the somewhat better doppelgänger of the two, if only because vikram’s ovure is more resonant than aishwarya’s hubbys of the veerappan like anti hero of the masses) is less a film than a classy showreel of talent and gloss made like an epic themed catwalk show run by an erstwhile supermodel.

Reunite like long estranged lovers

Mani and sivan reunite like lovers who have been too long apart  after the manikandan first half creates LL Bean catalogues out of Sets created in natural colors and tasteful pastel digs  given to the tribals to wear.


Manikandan shoots like he needs to make full disclosure of all the details of the document. every face, costume, emotion, speculation, set piece is projected with equal weight. everyone is treated like shah rukh khan.every artist in the creative team is a star subject in a photoshoot.

Framing portraits

Just when you feel overwhelmed by the cinematic equivalent of a champagne brunch buffet at your local indian restaurant, Sivan changes gears. Now the camera is a framing device. empty spaces are as meaningful, pregnant and evocative as the jungle green. The redcam handheld is now a thinking character living with veera and ragini in the created film studio jungle of Vikram and aishwarya . it is suddenly OK to look at the back of rai’s half turned unkempt head,  because the confident sivan’s easy narrative seems to know what mani ratnam wants to see.

The difference is liberating.

Guys. Marry one another. We HATED it when you two were apart.

The Rama Leela

And the film is no more about the ramayana than the ram leela is about the ramayana. Its about the spectacle. the costumes the interplay of subtexts between power players. I(mani) need aishwarya rai to make this film. I (vikram) need not to overshadow abhishek, or I’ll blow my hindi career. I(sivan) need to show mani (my pour-soi) why he’s incomplete without me. Im(manikandan) really making this film for shah rukh khan. This film is not about Ar Rahman . This film is not about A R Rahman….Im an Actress godamn it! an ACTRESS! All these spikes of unkempt hair are combed over and oiled down in the hindi  version, and the only thing that stands out there is Abhishek’s hamming(He’s a bad boy, but more like a disruptive kid in a restaurant than a veerappan-prabhakaran like outlaw) The Hindi grammar is soporific.

Epic – filmmaking

The film is not about the ramayana. If Mani Mark I (of the GV film studio moghul days) were to make an epic  into film, he would make Nayakan…or attempt Dalapathi. This is more a place filler until a real filmmaker comes along to translate India’s stories into cinema.

Epics compete with cinema. people find non visual references from narrated stories. and some of these are authored by bandits turned icons. many of these stories are narrated by the dead , killed in a foolhardy clash against the overwhelming gun power of the boers. Cinema is often a distraction from these real stories. a billion dollar BIG distraction spoken over a loudspeaker .

If The People are distracted by mani’s outline of the archetypal anti-hero in this film, long enough to break their compelling need for larger than life icons to protect them from institutionalized pure vengeful evil, then Mani is truly annie reborn as darth vader , with a mechanical rasp. As he is now, it appears the remarker on epics is on spiritually exhausted life support, unconvinced by his own pronouncements and generalizations, but doing it only so the children can dress pretty for a couple of hours.

Maybe structuralism won before this film was made, unmade and remade again, because the studio systems retains the money. the artist dies,repeatedly, in more ways than one , for his art.

Idealism is a mani spleandoured thing: Mani, Narasimha and ghalib.

What is it about mani that excites so much idealism in one, though? what does the director have that sivan, rajiv menon, selvaraghavan, shyamprasad,venkat prabhu, vishaal bharadwaj, homi adjania Imtiaz ali Kabir Khan or other makers of visionary indian cinema don’t? I Isolated it as an innocent desire to make better films in this found bollywood world of currency notes and selling out to BIG film studios. Mani has always given one the impression that he is a prahalada in the den of (his father) hiranya , who after conquering and humiliating the gods, now , has lost his son to visions of vishnu, whom, when he appears, will be the terrible bloody narasimha , redeeming and restoring value in a world of bad quality run amuck.

and even if , as Ghalib says,(go haath ko jumbish naheeN aaNhoN meiN to dam hai, rehne   do   abhee  saaGHar-o-meena   mere   aage) ” the eyes droop in weakness, mani’s weak wave , asking that the wine glass not be taken away is poignant pure and epic cinema.

Raavanan (2010, 125 minutes)

MAni Ratnam

Santosh Sivan



Aishwarya Rai

Karthik/ Govinda

Sreekar Prasad

samir chanda

peter hain/shyam kaushal

Priya mani

Astad deboo


About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : Cdrakenc@gmail.com (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) http://ramesh.journalspace.com Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: uh..me? What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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19 Responses to Raavanan(Ravan) the reflection of epic film.(ratnam/sivan 2010)

  1. Karigai says:

    Mani Ratnam? Italian!
    Santosh Sivan? Italian!
    (Going along with the “queer” theme the zeitgeist gumbal has going this week), “Mani and sivan reunite like lovers who have been too long apart after the manikandan first half creates LL Bean catalogues out of Sets created in natural colors and tasteful pastel digs given to the tribals to wear” — oh I’d have clapped loudly and laughed and cried tears of joy all at the same time at this brilliantly observed bit, were I not confined to an internet kiost at the library, with only a few more minutes to spare. (Btw, that whole para “Framing portraits” is an observational masterpiece!)

    I watched Raavan on Friday, quickly read stagulu’s take y’day and yours, today. Ideally, I would spend a good hour or two just freeassociating and letting all of my thoughts run amock alongside both your ruminations, but looks like that’s an exercise for another day. Meantime, a couple things real quick:

    You may be right about Vikram being the better “demon” (though I’ve yet to check out Raavanan). Abhishek hammed the heck out of scenes where (as stagulu observes) he may have been better off borrowing a leaf outta his brother’s book. You’re spot on in perceiving him as “more like a disruptive kid in a restaurant” — and to me, mani may have started the movie thinking “I need aishwarya rai to make this film” (which is an all-out meditation on emotional geography…an ‘Ash’land-ish take on (Eliot’s) Wasteland if you will…”breeding Lilacs out of the dead land/ mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain…”), but by the time he got around to actually making it, it feels as if his focus had (uncomfortably) shifted to showcasing all the prepubescent angst of Abhishek (thanks to his schoolboy-like spurning-then-yearning for this sumptuous slice of gorgeousness in his possession).

    (Stagulu — surely in a generous mood — had a more fascinating-sounding metaphor for Abhishek’s antics that involved a rattlesake making love to a tambourine or something, but I felt more like I’d been whacked on the side of my head (all over again) by AB Sr’s monkey antics in Paa, meeting mister “Lakalakalakalaka” from Chandramukhi. Oh make him stop those duck noises, please! That whole bit was such a caricature. Maybe the whole movie was?)

    Notice how, by the time the (entirely unexpected!) “coming of age” scene came about, poor miss “I’m an Actress godamn it!” was reduced to something of a sanitary napkin, generously soaking up the “menstrual” blood? Mani simply got rid of her.

    And hey, this pic up here (of Vikram lamenting in front of a limbless Lord Ranganatha) takes me to the last scene in Angadi Theru, set in Ranganathan Street. Both amputees seem to have had the deed done to them while they were sleeping, huh?

  2. rameshram says:


    ellam sari, no queer theme. I was ONLY talking about a creative marriage involving many many films together and using some colorful method to describe it.

    summa vambula matti vittuduva pla irukke free association!


    irunthu irunthu oru padam kuda panni irukka these two after a long time na adhuvum pidikkathu pla irukku.

    konjum free associationa adakki vasi ok? 🙂

  3. Karigai says:

    Aiyyo, I was only telling how I had perceived, not how you had portrayed. And that too in a manner of speaking only. Naanum “creative chemistry” “intellectual intercourse” atha paththi thaan saar sonnen. Itha poi thappa nenachundu.

    I, karigai, do solemnly swear that anything I said — related to this destined duo — no matter how risque, is merely intended as a vehicle for the righteous. Podhuma saami? 😀

  4. rameshram says:

    Thank you.


    erkanave appa dhadi editing kiditingnu kalapindrikkan Aada theriyatha thevidiyalukku koodam konalamnu sollara kathai. ithula thevaiya paavam intha padathhukku gay subtext ellam? en-gay sub text en-gay subtext nnu thedinalum I can see no gay subtext in it. in dil se, perhaps..not in this one.

    • Karigai says:

      Saar, it seems we are both searching in separate places for said subtext. Neenga padatha paarthu “en-gay subtext en-gay ” where where? nu theydarel, whereas naan unga commentary-a padichu paarthu “aha, en ‘gay’ subtext in-gay” nu sollaren.

      Ippo enna, “aiyyaho, kaanalai neer ena nee ninaithu vittayo…” nu sollaporela? 😀

  5. Karigai says:

    Remember how someone was asking about the logistics of Priya Mani jumping in well *with* cot, to commit suicide? (the answer to that being, “silly little boy, they used the cot to haul her up only”) Makes me wonder why they don’t ask such questions of, say, the maker of Naadodigal where there’s an identical scene. Mani naale interrogate panni thallanum, theyva irukko illaiyo, appadi thaaney? We can’t simply let things be, soak things up, let the movie wash over us, etc. A certain restlessness seems to set in among audiences, to get ALL the answers.

    Digressing, a word on your rendering of the Ghalib line in closing your lovely writeup: (I’m no Ghalib expert and urdu, I can only get so much but) I don’t think it talks about eyes drooping in weakness, does it? I thought “aankhon mein tho dam hai” meant that (although the hand is too weak to clasp the wine glass) the eyes are strong enough to behold its beauty, so please please don’t take away the wine glass… leave it be, in front of me. Or something like that.

  6. rameshram says:

    no you’re right I was applying the line ironically to manis weakening vision as an insider joke to people who understood ghalib( a film directors grasp is his vision,no?)

    now whatre you karigai ? My high school examiner? Haha

    • Karigai says:

      Yappa, unga level-ey thanee dhaan! Kalakkitingo — a film director’s grasp IS his vision-ngara concept does cast the Ghalib verse in completely different light… love it! Thanks.

  7. Karigai says:

    “mani’s weak wave”… aah, one that seems to at once say “goodbye” and “hi”!

  8. rameshram says:

    hey gooddbye nanba…haha

    • Karigai says:

      Ha, you catch me on my weak point… AE, and W-HAT A SONG. I especially love how it was picturized… those two running (upside down!) along the beach… she, jammin’ with a red umbrella… he, butting in and singing out of turn… they, eventually finding each other’s rhythms… gliding over waves on a catamaran (Kerala connection: Mani MUST imbue at least one song/aspect of every movie of his with this. Yes, somehow.)… gliding over waves on a motorcycle, he riding the pillion, obviously!

      Speaking of ‘Goodbye’ and Rahman, enna saar ippidi sollitaar? Naan romba yethipaarthen, avar varavai, at our Arena last Saturday. But as (ill)luck would have it, the stage @ Pontiac Aerodrome, Detroit collapsed before Jai Ho The Journey Home concert began 10 days ago, so he wound up cancelling the entire West Coast leg and is going straight to Zurich on July 16 now. How bad is it that I’m having to take a raincheck like this on concert tickets I got as a thoughtful wedding-anniversary gift? Cha!

  9. Karigai says:

    Speaking of “respect for audience’s tastes” (that tangential point to Mr. Self Control’s Raavan-reactions rumination, where you’d talked yesterday about the section of the audience with the “narcissistic personality disorder” — lol @ you calling it “nasti pannara disorder” — “rebelling against Mani sir” and refusing to get “in the mood to look at Raavan/an as a nuanced, mature script”), here is Saul Bellow rushing to Mani sir’s rescue even as said audience lambastes the latter with its “label your reader” litany:

    “I have in mind another human being who will understand me. I count on this. Not on perfect understanding, which is Cartesian, but on approximate understanding, which is Jewish. And on a meeting of sympathies, which is human. But I have no ideal reader in my head, no. Let me just say this, too. I seem to have the blind self-acceptance of the eccentric who can’t conceive that his eccentricities are not clearly understood.

    Yesss, that last line is Mani sir having the last word. I love it! 😀

  10. rameshram says:

    i don’t think mani as having eccentricities worth thinking about. if anything i think he shows too much of a corporate brochure glossiness.

    Now people that go and shoot redcams in december season carnatic kutcheris,otoh…are definitely so.

    mani is more like scott fitzgerald than saul bellow. guess who is earnest hemingway? go ahead guess!


  11. Karigai says:

    “i don’t think mani as having eccentricities worth thinking about” – wow, neer avarukkum shrink-aa? lol.

    I thought “eccentric” itself is defined as “defying definition” — neenga ena semantically confuse panna paakarel, by trying to “define” who/what can pass off as eccentric. And…and…you’re implying F. Scott Fitzgerald (of The Great Gatsby fame) does NOT have eccentricities worth thinking about? Chaththa udhaikkardhu illa, unga logic-ku? 🙂

    And dunno about the “Hemingway” part but Cheran fits the “Earnest” bill in my book. I really liked the sensitive semi-autobiographical portrayals in his Autograph.

  12. rameshram says:

    oh merely as film critic. like i said theres nothing i find eccentric in mani’s work. and if i were his shrink i probably would use the word pathologies. eccentricity has been defined out of the shrink handbook about 70 years ago.

    As regards f scot fitzgerald, like i said before, i was talking about the artist, not the person.while artists can be “condemned” by the moral majority for being eccentric, most people suffer no damage from shrinks for being so. his work is pretty whitebred, as i mani’s film output.

    cheran is the anti hemingway.

  13. Karigai says:

    “eccentricity has been defined out of the shrink handbook about 70 years ago” — ah! explains why I feel forever foraging for my friendly “Freud” in the Margaret Mitchell universe, speaking of whom, were I to write a play (as if!) about her life, I would call it Gravitt’s Rainbow (coz I’m hopelessly intrigued by the fact that a creative soul such as she, should be snuffed out, mowed down one Atlanta August, by a taxi driver — at 13th Street, while about to catch A Canterbury Tale at The Peachtree Art Theatre — instead of being bogged down, belabored, by a bond of marriage to a man named Marsh).

    “cheran is the anti hemingway” – oh agree 100% that he’s verbosity personified. Were he a Brit, they’d have baptized him Charles (after one Mr. Dickens). And who the hell would be the Hemingway in your head? Truthtell, before mine explodes. 😀

  14. rameshram says:

    me! Duh!

  15. oye yaar i liked the movie…. not a single person i know feels the same but i really liked the movie…..
    heres something i wrote with inspiration from this movie….


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