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“Ram Leela”: Make War, Not Love…..
11 December, 2013
Expectedly, Sanjay Leela Bhanshali's “Ram Leela” has his trademark merits of a large canvass with larger than life characters, giant egos, melodious music/songs and extravagant sets that are so over-the-top that it defies logic….
Unexpectedly, it has double-meaning dialogues and molestation supplemented with not-so-subtle thrusts of Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra.
In his previous films the only sign of violence was a slap.
This time there is nothing but violence.
Guns are used to represent all emotions, including happiness.
Ranveer (Ram) and Deepika (Leela) play the doomed lovers of two, trigger-happy, warring tribes in a Gujarat town where cell phones used to take selfies (and posted to Twitter) coexist happily with porn parlours.
An accidental death leads to consequences resulting in turmoil and bloodshed followed by peace, for which the lovers pay the ultimate price.
The initial meetings of the lovers’ conversations are in verse, like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
If you think that a town dedicated to selling guns is a result of Bhanshali’s fertile imagination: think again.
Such a town exits, though not in India but Pakistan, near Peshawar called Darra-AdamKhel that sells/manufactures guns openly, exactly like the fictitious Gujarat town.
Ranveer is a self-confessed Casanova who has slept with all the girls in his tribe.
The women openly drool at his bare torso in the lively song “Ramji Ki Chaal.”
I live in the Kathiawad region in Gujarat and believe me; Ranveer’s kedia top is worn by villagers here: it’s the normal wear in the nine-night Garba festivities.
Deepika is flirty but innocent, in come-hither looks, with short cholis on a sculpted back and looks sensual but never vulgar.
I saw girls in the cinema taking down notes on the Deepika’s clothes and snapshots on smart phones.
In the song “Lahu Muh”, her lehenga is three layered made of Khadi, cotton and mulmul to give that wide swirl while performing the intricate Garba dance, coupled with patterned blouses with Kutch embroidery and mirror-work.
Supriya Pathak (Baa) is chilling,
The film has an unsettling scene where we realise the true depth of Baa’s depravity when Deepika, her daughter, comes out in the rain, faints and the water takes a red hue.
Only then, you realise what has taken place.
Priyanka is open about her sexuality as she is a “mujarawali,” so does not hesitate to button her choli or tie the tightly draped dhoti without inhibitions.
Indian heroines rock!
Bhanshali’s twisted sense of humour shows when the NRI who wants to marry Deepika has his passport taken away: a (sad) situation faced by many Indian girls who marry abroad.
Bhanshali throws a lot of simple clues open for interpretation.
Ranbeer is symbolised by peacocks (present even on the iron pillar when the lovers meet for the song, the first time) that attract the females.
Dotted throughout the film there is an unsettling high-pitched screaming of the peacocks: representing (maybe) pain.
When Baa sends a dead peacock to Ranbeer you know what to expect.
The prosperous community wears gold jewellery and contrasts sharply with the silver ornaments worn by Ranveer’s less-affluent community.
Deepika draping herself in cream/white (instead of red) on her wedding night is suggestive of what is going to come.
The incense smoke that fills the room is used creatively in the films best picturised song “Ang Laga”, signifying Deepika’s passion which is much, much more to Ranveer’s beedi’s feeble smoke.
Initially, the tribes wear white (peace) and red (blood.)
With an escalating hostility, the colours take on different hues, starting with a red flag on a white roof after intermission, giving an idea as to where the film is heading.
The songs (composed by Bhanshali himself) are picturised lavishly in a surreal world and one of the chief reasons for the film’s success.
Both Ranveer and Deepika get the Gujarati Garba steps right, with the slight rhythmic nodding of heads that is as much a part of the Garba as the movement of arms and legs.
Richa Chadda has an interesting role as Leela’s sister-in-law who sympathises and even risks her life to help her.
The rest of the characters are passable: Ram’s father: Homi Wadia, sister-in-law: Barkha Bist, Ram’s brother: Abhimanyu.
Gulshan Devaiah plays Leela’s cousin who turns out to be her nemesis.
(Mentioned in the opening titles is Lady Popo: its Bhanshali’s pet dog!)
S. T. R. O. N. G. L. Y.
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