A tragic romantic drama, Ram-Leela finally found some peace when the makers changed the name from just Ram Leela to a longer Goliyon ki Rasleela Ram-Leela after a highly publicized court row between the makers and a group of Hindu activists. When one controversy subsided, another seemed to have reappeared. That would be the movie in itself… Set in the exotic locales of Gujarat, the movie is a story of two lovers from two rival families—the Ranjadey and Sannade families—and their struggle towards the fulfillment of their destinies. Helmed by master storyteller Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the visionary behind modern day classics such as Khamoshi: The Musical, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, and Black, the artisan director—this time around—adapts William Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet and creates an alternative world: Bhansali’s world.
In the last few years, movies from Bhansali haven’t quite garnered the public and critical appeal that he had so been accustomed to, for much of his earlier career. Post Black (2005), Bhansali’s Saawariya released to much criticism, while Guzarish—despite being an excellent movie—couldn’t garner the same reception of his yesteryear classics. Come 2013, Bhansali is back with his latest outing and his most commercial directorial enterprise until today, the love saga between a macho hunk, Ram played by Ranveer Singh, and the sultry courtesan, Leela played by today’s most wanted actress—Deepika Padukone. In the jangly arena within Gujarat, these two lovers fight against their family rivalry, their own predicament, and their individual fates to be with one another until death do them apart, or perhaps unite them into one, soul and body.
The concept sounds textbook, even though the story has been revisited a myriad times before, but the execution of the grand concept doesn’t hit the zenith that one has been habituated to associate with Bhansali. Perhaps Bhansali’s weakest ever plotline and treatment, Ram-Leela just falls apart into a stupor after the end of the first act. Subsequently, the story loses its grip becoming a jumbling take and a torrid attempt in protracting the theatrics, and prolonging the running time than presenting a tight, riveting buildup to the climax. By the time the movie reaches its culmination, it turns into a parody of sorts, where one fails to feel the highpoint of the ending and neither does Bhansali manage to capture the mood, as he would intend. It’s all feeless. The result is of a movie—rich in every other artistry—except, the all-important story and plot development.
Aesthetically, Ram-Leela is an artistic exhibition. The production value is without doubt amongst the elite movies to come from Bollywood—stunning sets and locales, and excellent treatments of lighting and enhancements. The tone of the scenes, in terms of coloring and augmentation, cannot be flawed. In actuality, there isn’t any flaw from a visual arts perspective. The camerawork and scene selection along with a precise editing offer viewers a spectacular pictorial experience. The photographic spectrum is beaming, with the works of the Production Designer (Wasiq Khan) and Cinematographer (S. Ravi Varman)—not to forget the masterful artist that is Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Together the team creates a visual spectacle, with alluring sets and design. The one unanimous voice may; however, echo that Ram-Leela only lacked in the story sense to become a “torch carrier” of a movie.
With all the richness in images and artistry, the lack of a solid, convincing screenplay really saddens the mood. Many scenes, especially in the second and third acts, seem forced and unnatural. Much of the conflict arises from an overdramatized misunderstanding or trifle issues, while the director conveniently takes refuge in many loopholes just for the sake of furthering the story. Amongst some very good scenes, there are many more clichéd elements. This is where I’m forced to raise a question—where was your astute treatment of a story, that you are so associated with, Mr. Bhansali? For somebody who has a legitimate claim to being Bollywood’s finest filmmaker today, Ram-Leela is a poor attempt in forcing a classic. It seems that the team tried too hard to create onscreen magic and fell short despite all the positive work from the director himself and the art and camera departments.
Overall, the term ‘disappointing’ wouldn’t do justice here. It pains to witness a visual classic ruined by poor storytelling and mediocre execution. Ram-Leela had everything, all the necessary ingredients to prepare an enchanting dish, while some aspects clicked—many faltered and the eventual creation was of a movie that feels stretched, fraudulent, and too sloppy for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s optimum standards. All I can say is—another movie bites the dust…
Image Credit – Santa Banta