Did you miss us? In the flurry of holidays between Diwali and Christmas we saw two star hunks in two films…and not at home in front of our tvs, but in theaters, no less! Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Ram-Leela and Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in Dhoom 3. They generated such a flurry of words, that we’ve had to split it into two parts! Enjoy the festivities with us.
Jenny K: Kathy and I saw Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (A Play of Bullets: Ram-Leela, 2013), and if I had just left at the interval, I would have said that SLB had gotten it all back, all that lushness that made Devdas a standout. It’s complete sensory overload, and he can make it all palatable. The trailer gives you an idea.
Julie M: I saw it too, with my friend/former student Kristy, who just loves big spectacles. Should we do a plot summary? I promise I’ll be quick…Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone) are denizens of longtime opposing gangland clans who have all but taken over a Gujarati village. If this sounds like the setup of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it is. He sees her after he crashes a party at her house and falls instantly in love, they have a way cool balcony scene, they decide to run away together, her relative kills his friend, he kills her relative, and he becomes a wanted man. And so on and so forth. There are twists that make this film very Indian (her family’s don is her mother; he gets a masala-style, way overblown but very fun hero entry song a la Salman Khan, and, true to form, the second half is almost a totally different story that takes Shakespeare to the “what if…” level.
Jenny K: I wish I had known the translation of the title before I went into the theater…add to that, I was running a bit late and missed a ten minute chunk of the beginning, so I literally didn’t see the bullet-storm coming. And so, for me, the second half just goes off on a violent tangent that changed my whole review of it. Now, I didn’t expect a happy ending or anything…it is a reworking and an updating of R&J, after all, but this overarching firestorm of violence is just too much.
I feel like SLB locked himself in a screening room, watching an endless loop of Gangajaal and Shakti and no one let him out for months! It’s changed his whole list of emotional colors in his paintbox…with all the problems I’ve had with him over the years, I’d always complain of overdoing the emotional and individual tragedy element. He’d never be the director giving us those village-wide breast-beating, hair tearing revenge fantasies that I hate. Yet it seems he’s into it now, and, true to Bhansali’s tendency to needless excess, he’s given us a film so relentless in its symphony of slo-mo jewels of shattering glass and varying liquids, that it overwhelmed the splendor he had worked so hard to get back.
Julie M: It is super-violent, right from the first scene. I wasn’t happy about that. But I disagree that it was relentless. I found it to be very SLB-splendid even with the violence: a visual treat. I was totally satisfied, and having Ranveer and Deepika to look at for nearly 3 hours was just like the old days.
Jenny K: The performances were definitely fun. Ranveer and Deepika generate some real heat onscreen, and have lots of loveliness of body, and often of face (on her part). Deepika is finally finding her groove in a big way. By the way, I ended up seeing it again, the whole of it this time, with Pat.
Julie M: Totally agree. Gotta say, it was the hottest, sexiest love story I’d seen in a while…talk about chemistry! And KISSING!!! I was shocked, but intrigued. I would have preferred that he not have been bearded because I really wanted to see his lips. I’m still fanning myself lest I get the vapors. I’m still thinking about how Ranveer buffed up for this. He should do commercials for whatever program he followed, because…whew.
Jenny K: Ranveer’s buffing was almost overdone for me. He reminded me of those weightlifters who can’t quite recognize their biceps and thighs as their own and so move very carefully and self-consciously. I actually found Khanji (Sharad Kelkar), Leela’s brother, more attractive in his bedroom scene with his wife…especially with that voice! I was quite impressed with Sharad throughout, and am definitely going to find more of his films. But I agree with you about the beard having to go…had a sort of Amish effect of flattening his chin out. I, too, found their chemistry together to be very hot. Surprisingly so. Pat thought that Leela’s writhing on the bed in various scenes to be way too vulgar and western for her tastes. I didn’t like it so much in the “balcony scene” (a bit “too much, too soon”, there) but thought it was okay on the wedding night.
A big problem for me would have been eliminaed if SLB hadn’t felt the need to stick the “R&J Rework” tag on it. As a lifelong Bardmonger (literally one who sells the Bard for a living) that sort of challenge has me immediately poking holes in weak parallels…”Shouldn’t Juliet, at least, be just a bit more sheltered and innocent, and not quite so drenched in ‘Eau de Slut?'” And our Ram-eo, why the heck is he portrayed as an arrogant pornographer?
Julie M: Well, we are talking the criminal underworld here. He’s an arms and porn dealer, she’s a don’s princess daughter who’s grown up with guns, seen her mother undertake all kinds of illicit activities and not batted an eye–plus her mother seems to have ignored her and allowed her to run wild in her gilded palace. And as for Eau de Slut…nobody is an innocent 14-year-old here: these are fully developed hormones running rampant in adults (well, maybe 20/25-year-olds).
Jenny K: Just shows the weakness of trying to make it an R&J comparison in the first place, if all they can think of (I’m talking to both SLB and Vishal Bhardwaj, who does it a bit better) is making a transition between the moneyed upper classes of Renaissance Verona and a severely fictionalized whup-ass crazy blood-lusting Rajasthani underworld. Both may try to keep their princesses pure, both will probably fail (in a search for drama) but in R-L it seemed doomed from the git-go.
Julie M: I find it interesting to compare Deepika’s two organized-crime-princess turns this year, Chennai Express and Ram-Leela. She wasn’t allowed to get horny in CE, only feisty, so she really turned it on here. I read that she was extremely embarrassed about the kinds of things she had to say and do in R-L, but man, it was like she was born to do them. Both characters were total fantasy and it worked.
Jenny K: I like her turn in Chennai Express a lot better, even though in R-L she is an electrically visual presence. In CE she was more likeable and sweet…I guess I just go for the safe in my heroines and sexy in my villainesses. How predictable of me!
Speaking of deliciously evil, Supriya Pathak (Pankaj Kapur’s wife) is absolutely the perfect villainess…and mafia don. Revenge personified. But the inter-village hatred and plotting gets sort of confusing after a while.
Julie M: I too got confused about the clan-warfare machinations midway through the 2nd half, and I’m not really sure how Ram and Leela decided [spoilers] that the only way to end it all was to kill each other, because that seemed a bit drastic to me. Still, it was R&J and they had to die. [end spoilers] And for once I was mesmerized during every song. Not just the big dance numbers (of which there were THREE!) but even the slower ones. Just fascinated. I nearly fainted with all of those ladies during Tattad Tattad, and I loved how they used a variety of styles for the dance numbers (South, and Punjabi, and Bollywood).
About the only thing that disappointed me–and I knew it would–was Priyanka Chopra’s item number, which only displayed how bad a dancer she was compared to Deepika and how plastic and bleached her face looked.
Jenny K: Poor Priyanka! She dances better than I do (I haven’t seen her mambo, though, and mine’s pretty good!), and her acting is usually better than Deepika’s, at least so far. Loved her in Barfi!, for example. And Tattad Tattad was fun, but I think the person who nicknamed it “the dandruff song” had it right, seriously odd choreography!
All in all, I’d say, worth seeing, but if you’re gun-shy, I’d consider leaving at the break…who needs the extra hour and a half, anyway! But for the other point of view, Pat said something along the lines of “three hours of my life wasted” and/or “I’d rather have my eyes gouged out than watch that again”.
Julie M: I say stay. I LOVED the entire thing, simply adored it, and felt that it worked, really WORKED. My friend liked it too—her first Bollywood film. I think I may have converted someone.