Goliyon Ki Raasleela …Ram-Leela
By Shevaal Singh
Sanjay Leela Bhansali films are always an event. Mention the name of the ace director and a plethora of images catapult to mind: bright, beautiful colours, flowing curtains, period-piece lamps, ornate decorations, sensuous characters, soft and mellifluous music, all of which can be summarized as visual poetry in motion. With Ram Leela, the director does not stray too far from these hallmarks. Throw in a generous dose of all the elements mentioned and Bhansali’s treasured oil painting is complete! His canvas is the culturally-rich Rajasthani outback; his brush strokes are his characters, music, script, edgy dialogues and art direction. The movie ran into some trouble before its release. The Rajput community first complained about the film’s content; and then a Hindu group calling themselves the Prabhu Samaj Dharmik Ram Leela Committee (PSDRLC) opposed the film’s title on the grounds that it hurt religious sentiment. The PSDRLC added the movie “showcased sex, violence and vulgarity”; and that the title Ram Leela would give audiences the false impression that it relates to (Lord) Ram’s life. In his defence, Bhansali hit back saying that his film was loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and had nothing to do with Indian folklore or (Lord) Krishna’s Ras-Leela. The film was eventually renamed Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela.
Bhansali is a master story-teller. He does not believe in misleading his audiences. This is why he states right at the beginning that Ram Leela is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s timeless Romeo and Juliet. The only difference here is that there is a desi twist and lots of desi embellishments. The plot revolves around two feuding colonies and traces the story of Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela(Deepika Padukone) who belong to two feuding families, enclosed by the constant hatred of the long drawn enmity, in the prevailing aura of violence and bloodshed. On the day of holi Ram sneaks into Leela’s house. The two meet and fall in love. They two escape soon to get married but are soon dragged back home creating further odds in their love story. Will Ram and Leela live happily ever after? Bhansali reveals the story with sheer finesse. For me personally, the second half is where the film picks up rapidly. Every frame that Bhansali has captured is sheer proof of this man’s mastery. You want to freeze the scene, take in the madness of Bhansali’s chaotic mind; and just sit back and applaud him.
Apart from Bhansali’s brilliance; this film belongs to its lead actors. Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh are outstanding. So immersed are they in their roles that one begins to see them naked (in a figurative sense) in front of the camera. Ranveer has come a very long way since his debut in Band Baaja Baraat (2010); he has completely reinvented himself here. It is no secret that Ranveer Singh embarked on a rigid eating regimen to get in shape for Ram Leela. Part of the actor’s very strict diet included saltless foods such as fish, broccoli, turkey and green tea; no sweets or rice were allowed. Singh even had a personal trainer. Inspired by Hrithik’s preparations for Krrish, Ranveer contacted Hrithik’s trainer Kris Gethin who then referred him to UK-based Lloyd Stevens. Stevens flew down to India and had Ranveer on a terse 12-week training programme. So committed was Ranveer that he finished the Drastic Transformation Programme in six weeks, compared to the usual 12. The effects of his disciplined efforts can be seen clearly in the Tattad song where Singh looks like a bronze god of athleticism.
Deepika Padukone was the perfect choice for this opulent tale of love. She looks breathtaking is all her beautiful costumes created by Anju Modi . She was art in motion. Her acting ,dancing and emotions will win her several awards during the awards season of 2013-2014. Deepika must be celebrating because with Ram Leela, this talented lady might be toasting her fourth 100-crore film in a single year. She is the first actress in Indian cinema to achieve this. This gorgeous lady has had such a fantastic 2013. First there was Race 2 earlier this year; Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani then went on to give Padukone her second 100-crore film in a single year; Chennai Express then raced to the finish line to provide the actress with her biggest commercial success ever. The film also overtook Raj Kumar Hirani’s Three Idiots as Indian cinema’s all-time biggest hit. Reports suggest that Bhansali wanted to keep Deepika’s look in Ram Leela as close to his vision as possible. The director even ventured deep into Gujarat to source Deepika’s outfits which were then designed by Anju Modi. In a Times of India interview, Bhansali went on to say that the character of Leela was “like his mother”.
“Beautiful, graceful but teekhi…she’s delicate but she cannot be taken lightly. She isn’t a recluse…she lives life to the fullest and on her own terms…she is colour…she is what she is…I wanted Deepika to be that” Bhansali added.
Bhansali reportedly reduced his leading lady to tears once Ram Leela shooting wrapped up. The director was so in awe of Deepika’a work in his film that he praised her in front of the entire unit. And I can see why the director heaped praise on Padukone. This is her best role in her six-year career. I thought she would have been a shoo in for best actress for her performance in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I was wrong. She will win the best actress prize come January-February 2014. She is mesmerizing to watch in Ram Leela. Both Ranveer and Deepika’s on-screen chemistry is electric. Other praise-worthy performances include Supriya Pathak as Leela’s mum and Richa Chadda as Rasleela. If you pay close attention, you will notice several television soap stars in minor roles. I picked up two: Pramad (Saraswatichandra) and Bobby Sood (Meri Bhabi).
Although Bhansali’s budget was a mere Rs35-crores (350 million), he went all out for his sets, locales and costume design. We don’t get to see these shades of India in our films often. He is a master at exposing the beauty of Rajasthani culture, costumes, make up and jewellery included. Bhansali also scored the music for Ram Leela. All the songs enjoy brilliant picturizations. Priyanka Chopra sizzles in the title song, Ram Chahe Leela. I am not sure what motivated Bhansali to rope in the former Miss World but any decision that involves Chopra in a white choli (blouse) and loosely tied lungi (skirt) is enough to get this heart racing…! Other highlights include the sensuous Ang Laga De, the racy Lahu Munh Lag Gaya, the symbolic Laal Ishq, the pulsating Nagada Sang Dhol and the very catchy Tattad. Bhansali’s music fitted in perfectly with the narrative; it is one of the year’s best albums thus far.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has given us some fantastic titles before Ram Leela. I always held the thought that he could not get any better than his Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. I was wrong! This is Bhansali’s best work in his 17-year career. You will love Ram Leela for a wealth of reasons. But the verdict on Ram Leela is that Bhansali delivers in an opulent way here; it is cinematic excellence from a master craftsman. In an interview with Indian Express, Bhansali who is well known for his critically-acclaimed films (Khamoshi, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Black, Saawariya, Guzaarish) said that while critical acclaim was good, box office business was equally important.
“Criticism is good but box office is important too as it shows that number of people have seen the film. It is important to earn money so that it helps you in your next film. Ultimately, audience is the king. If the film does well commercially then you get to work with big stars again,” Bhansali confirmed. We estimate Ram Leela is going to deliver Bhansali his most commercial success ever because the film is art in motion. The Bollywood Tempest gives the Goliyon Ki Raasleela …Ram-Leela a deserving 10/10.
Here is the full cast & character list of Ram-Leela
- Ranveer Singh…. Ram
- Deepika Padukone…. Leela
- Gulshan Devaiah…. Bhavani
- Richa Chadda…. Rasila
- Abhimanyu Shekhar Singh…. Meghjibhai
- Sharad Kelkar…. Kanjibhai
- Supriya Pathak…. Dhankor Baa
- Sahedev Girish…. Shehri
- Priyanka Chopra…. Item Number
- Krishna Bisht…. Keshav
- Homi Wadia…. Radhubhai
- Barkha Bishit Sengupta…. Kesar
- Raza Murad
- Utkarsh Naithani…. Karsan
- Sunil Shah…. Nattubhai
- Reshma Merchant…. Damyantiben
- Jameel Khan…. Vanka
- Tarun Anand…. Ujjwal
- Masood Akhtar…. Pujalal
- Anshul Trivedi…. Mandar
- Vivek Ghamande…. Pranjeevan
- Milind Joshi…. Sumerbhai
- Master Md. Faizan…. Goli
- Bharat Chawda…. Manga
- Krishna Singh…. Keshav
- Ashrut Jain…. Bater
- Kranti Jha…. Veer
- Chandrashekhar Dutta…. Velji
- Sukesh Anand…. Gun Shopkeeper
- Abner…. Kantibhai
- Avinash Razdan…. Ankur bhai
- Nasir Khan…. Mehulbhai
- Jahangir Karkaria…. Sureshbhai
- Parag Mehta…. Jignesh
- Raj Parihar…. Prathmesh
- Virendra Pandey…. Pankaj
- Banwarilal Jhol…. Popat