Whilst most of my fellow peers complained about having to study Shakespeare’s work in high school, I was one of the few weirdos who couldn’t get enough of Romeo & Juliet. Not because I think its an eternal love story or any other mushy reason, its a very simple storyline with interesting underlying tones. Hence why I don’t think I ever can get enough of R&J adaptations be it in Hollywood or Bollywood. Given that our industry’s bread and butter is love stories, we’ve consciously and unconsciously told and retold this story many times. In recent times I loved Habib Faizal’s “Ishaqzaade” last year. But do I say the same about Bhansali’s take on the iconic story?
Love is definitely not a word I can find myself using for this film. For certain aspects of the film, yes, I’ll definitely give the ‘love’ tag. I’d give it to Deepika Padukone’s raw performance, Supriya Pathak’s grand on screen presence, Barkha Bisht & Richa Chadda’s ability to steal any scene they enter into and last but not the least, Anju Modi’s creations. These are the aspects of Ram Leela that worked for me to a high level. Leela not only takes to the Saneda throne at the end of the film but the scene in fact signifies that Deepika Padukone’s grand rise this year. The actress has gone out over and over again to prove that she’s more than a pretty face with a great stylist and more than just an ordinary box office powerhouse. Cocktail, YJHD and Chennai Express all had her as the best thing about those films, and Ram-Leela pretty much seals that conclusion yet again.She delivers an absolutely uninhibited performance (my favourite kind) and for once I found myself loving a SLB heroine! (I rarely agree with them!). Speaking of the SLB women in this film, the women generally of this film were the best thing about it. Supriya Pathak was just out of this world! One wonders why she was relegated to the small screen for the past year! Richa Chaddha delivers a more sober performance than what she usually delivers but at the same time leaves one hell of an impact. Surprise package was Barkha Bisht who emerged as my favourites in the cast. You simply can’t take your eyes off the screen when she’s on it. I truly hope we see more of her in roles nothing less brilliant than this.
As for the men of Ram-Leela. Ranveer Singh shines in moments post the interval however pre-interval is largely annoying. The actor needs to master the art of tuning down the energy before overacting becomes his middle name. We get it melodrama and larger than life screen avatars are what you hanker for but it all gets a bit too much at times. And whilst I’m all for good-looking men flaunting away there goodlooks, with Ram this flaunting got pushed way too far. I for one truly didn’t need to see his cleavage in every damn sequence as evidence that he’s been to the gym more than a couple times this year! Last but not the least, the grudge persona of Ram on paper didn’t go well with the straightened-hair look we got on screen. Luckily in the post interval sequence the film takes a different tone as does Ram and therefore Ranveer’s performance. His confrontation scene with Leela on the thrown and Baa (Supriya Pathak) are the highlight. As for Bhansali other male actors, Sharad Kelkar impressed beyond expectation! He leaves a strong impact despite a limited screen time. Gulshan Devaiah is top notch in a negative role. His career graph is really something!
So despite so many impressive ingredients why do I say that this dish served up SLB’s lacked something? Well for starters it had too much untapped potential. Its hardly an interesting adaptation of the classic because he simply uses it as a basis for his story and then goes about it in a very boring and predictable way. Would have been interesting to see more intricate writing picking up on the underlying nuances and themes of Shakespeare’s R&J. Apart from the general clan clash and balcony love scenes, its hard to draw direct parallels to the play, which I was looking forward to. Whilst the climax does imbibe the same feel as the R&J ending, decisions taken in haste, bad luck and misunderstanding, I felt that the final twist could have been more interesting. Here it was all too Ishaqzaade-esque instead. (This comparison was inevitable when releasing an R&J adaptation so close to another, and lets not forget we had Issaq earlier in the year, which I haven’t seen so can’t draw comparisons with)
Bhansali’s music is as rich as his film’s visual appeal. You truly see a soundtrack reaching its full potential because the director himself had crafted it. Sadly he fails to realise that at times a song is burdensome on the screenplay. Ishqaoon Dishqaoon was completely out of place and random. It felt like Ram-Leela suddenly contracted Govinda’s 90s fever.
Dialogues by Siddharth-Garima work at times and at other times seem to be forced. I.e. it seems like they thought of a good line and then couldn’t bear leaving it out so inserted it in despite the fact that it sounds completely random. What irked me most was that the dialogues they lacked a consist tone. At times characters decided they’ll be very Gujrati, at others the lines sound like what you and me would sound like having a conversation and then at others they sound like what perhaps Shakespearean would sound like if translated into Hindi. The characters lack a speech profile which takes away from the connect that could have been formed with the audience. As for the accent, I shall leave it to the Gujuratis to decide that.
Ram Leela is very extraordinarily, ordinary which is what surprises me. At the same time its perhaps the stronger of SLB’s scripts and one that is closing the gap between the real world and SLB’s world, something I never thought would happen. Counting all the above its undeniable that Ram-Leela is far from flawless. Whilst my biggest regret is the untapped potential of what could have been a more interesting and intricately written R&J adaptation, that’s not to say that the film as it stands isn’t well written. So despite its dragged first half and untapped potential, the film remains impressive because of a powerful second half and brilliant performances, especially by the ladies. Take a bow SLB, you may just have redeemed yourself! (I truly didn’t care for Guzaarish & Saawariya hence why even though this is far from flawless, its definitely redeeming him.)