'Ramleela' movie poster. - Courtesy Photo
'Ramleela' movie poster. - Courtesy Photo

A bloody, grand, color-splashed spin on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet features Romeo in the adult film retail business and Juliet prepared to jump him at any available opportunity.

As with every film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali directs (with the exception of “Khamoshi – The Musical”), a few aspects are mandatory: big sprawling sets, a drastic idiosyncratic color palette, and key players engaged by consistent conflict or commotion – which in the case of “Ram-Leela” is both.

There’s too much to love here, even if by the end one ends up being irked by a bulk of it.

Inspired from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “Ram-Leela” (aka. “Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela”) opens on a small Gujrati town one would be hard pressed to find on a map or Google Earth. The place is a perpetual, easy going limbo between the old and the new world, where everyone is garbed in traditional clothes, ride Ambassadors and use gaudy, blinking cell phones (thank goodness there’s no product placement in Mr. Bhansali’s films); despite being in what I presume to be our times, there is nary a pant-shirt in sight.

A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo
A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo

The town is divided by five hundred year old rivals: the Rajadis and Saneras – two local gangs who rarely do anything nasty (I didn’t see one kidnapping, assassination or any other misdeed from anyone). The reasons behind their grudge is never fleshed out, but whatever it is, I can guess that it will be as single dimensioned and soft-cored as the immediate physical attraction between Ram and Leela.

Ram played by Ranveer Singh, the local “Romeo” (the roadside kind, with a tinge of Disney’s Aladdin) with a sweet trimmed physique and a lack of body-hair, is from the Rajadis. The Saneras “Juliet” is Deepika Padukone’s Leela, whose natural beauty scarcely measures up to her primed carnal sense (lips are locked whenever the two hone in on each other).

Mr. Bhansali’s film has a disarming flair for theatricality, from the word go: in his town gun stalls are set-up like grocery stands and ammunition is stored in everything from achaar jars, flour drums and front bonnets of rusty cars.

A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo
A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo

Notwithstanding the open kill-or-be-killed agreement between the two clans, no one is critically hurt until “Ram-Leela’s” intermission. By then the narrative starts to bite off too much, escalating the lingering conflict into a lackluster, hyperbolic affair. The contrast is disorienting, because it moves away from “Ram-Leela’s” nimble and entertaining pre-intermission story layout.

Mr. Singh as Ram is an immediately like-able presence – a winking, nudging, overconfident oddball who oozes charisma, and isn’t really the image of the town bad boy he advertises himself up to be (he’s also the family black sheep, choosing instead to run an adult video retail business, rather than be in the “family business”). Ms. Padukone’s Leela shares Ram’s deeper sense of character, vulnerability and richness – including their shared eagerness to run away at any given moment.

A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo
A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo

The two, with their raw eroticism make a scorching-hot on-screen couple, whose versatility on the dance floor includes everything from impromptu jiggy body-moves to Garba. The film’s spiffily orchestrated soundtrack is another handiwork of Mr. Bhansali’s talent (“Nagada Sung” by Shreya Ghoshal, Osman Mir, “Tattad Tattad” and “Ishqyaun Dhishqyaun” by Aditya Narayan are dandy foot-tapping numbers).

Mr. Bhansali, who always writes grounded characters, fills the space between Ram and Leela, with Ba (Supriya Pathak) Leela’s mother and her clan’s godmother, Raseela (Richa Chadda) Leela’s sister in law, and Bhavani (Gulshan Devaiah), her cousin and the film’s juvenile villain. On Ram’s side only his brother, played by Abhimanyu Singh is given a little elbow room in an already overcrowded screen-space (or maybe, that’s just the production design making things look jam-packed).

A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo
A still from movie, 'Ramleela'. - Courtesy Photo

There is sumptuousness in Mr. Bhansali’s frames, as he makes “Ram-Leela” a deliberate cross-breed between “Hum Dil De Chukay Sanam” and “Devdas”. If the cinematic maven would have stuck to the former, the film’s attraction wouldn’t only have to rely on superficial physical lure, and later, the tendency to go bloody boom. It would have simply been an instant classic.

Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Produced by Mr. Bhansali, Chetan Deolekar, Kishore Lulla and Sandeep Singh. Written by Mr. Bhansali, Garima and Siddharth (based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare); Cinematography by Ravi Varman; Editing by Rajesh G. Pandey and Mr. Bhansali; Production Design by Wasiq Khan; Music by Mr. Bhansali.

Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chadda, Supriya Pathak, Sharad Kelkar, Gulshan Devaiah, Barkha Bisht, Abhimanyu Singh, Anshul Trivedi and Priyanka Chopra (special appearance in the song "Ram Chahe Leela") “Ram-Leela” is released by Eros. The film is rated A for unrelenting romance, eroticism and presumed high body count.

Mohammad Kamran Jawaid has been professionally critiquing movies for a while now – say more or less ten years, exclusively for Dawn. About 400 reviews and features later (he stopped counting a long time ago), not being as young as he was before, he still feels the urge to write for another couple of centuries.

Despite living movies 24/7 (his company (http://kamranjawaid.com) helps filmmakers make movies), he is still truly, madly, deeply in love with cinema; the root cause of this anomaly requires further clinical trials. His twitter (http://twitter.com/kamranjawaid) reveals very little about him, other than him being the Senior Film Critic for Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (19)

November 19, 2013 5:49 pm

I only want to say wow

November 19, 2013 5:50 pm

I only want to say wow

November 19, 2013 9:31 pm

Colorful and full of good songs. Overall good timepass movie

November 19, 2013 9:41 pm

very worst movie i have ever seen....so headache after seeing this moive so had to take headache tab..No story at all...i think this sanjay leela do not have any better work... i would suggest very worst moive and waste of money so do not watch..

November 19, 2013 9:57 pm

Deepika Padukone was a revelation in this movie. But I found the characters actions inexplicable. It was like they were being controlled by string. I didn't enjoy the use of guns, though i think pakistanis would be at home with use of guns in villages. This is not a common sight in India but.

November 20, 2013 5:33 am

This movie is rich in cinematic value. The cinematography is simply awesome. It is a celebration of colors and costumes and dances. I watched this movie in Canada and the show was houseful.

November 20, 2013 7:22 am

I only want to say more Bollywood crap!

November 20, 2013 7:22 am

what can I say--dearth of original script in bollywood

November 20, 2013 11:07 am

Cheap flick. Unfortunately, Bhansali is going to get away with his money by selling some eye candy to urban sheep-folks. What a shame.

November 20, 2013 11:33 am

WOW! know i have some idea who is the Blogger. Fair enough profile.

November 20, 2013 12:42 pm

Padukone is an eye candy but unnecessary violence and no message - thumps down from me!

November 20, 2013 2:27 pm

My compliments Nice, flowing readable articulation We'll done Didn't see the movie Probably won't

November 20, 2013 6:20 pm

Just gotta say... this movie is splendid and had me facing every emotion during its run.... love, anger, hatred, sadness, turmoil, confusion, extreme happiness!

Definitely worth watching!

November 21, 2013 7:24 am

For all the negative comments below...I would just say this. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's movies are not everyone's cup of tea. You either love it or hate it. No middle path here. Even if you hate his way of story telling this movie has some of the terrific performances of this year by its lead actors. They are definitely going to get nominated for all the top awards this year if not win them.

November 22, 2013 12:46 am

Bhansali has also directed black and guzarish and they didnt had big sprawling sets and colour palette as you mentioned every bhasnali films have except khamoshi,and about that gujrati town hard to find on google earth,the film is about a fictional fantasy town and are not found on gooogle map unless you can also show me Westeros or Asgard or one of the nine realms on google earth too

waseem ahmed
November 22, 2013 9:42 am

totally bakwas movie story was just like ishaqzade but ishaqzaade was much much better

A K Tiwari
November 22, 2013 10:19 am

Bollywood masala at its best

Ajay vikram Singh
November 22, 2013 1:21 pm

Wow! Sanjay Leela bhansali makes movie for intellectuals. The attention to detail is almost renaissance quality. The way he captures the landscape, people, architecture, tradition is simply superb. He takes you through a deep cultural and emotional experience. Some emotions are timeless. Love and revenge are as old as humanity itself. Romeo Juliet will always be relevant. I wish he choose to focus on punjab next and recreate the magic of Heer-Ranjha with all its historical punjabi splendor and glory. Kudos...Mr. Bhansali! Doesnt matter if your movies earn 10 million or 10 billions. You are creating masterpieces one after another and they will go down the history as legacy of India cinema.

November 22, 2013 7:52 pm

Horrible movie...it should carry an A certification! What are we showing to our children? Hero deals in porn CDs? Dirty cheap double meaning dialouges? Meaning less fights...Romance looks good though..In nut shell not meant to be watched by children..

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