Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Richa Chadda, Supriya Pathak, Gulshan Deviah
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
IE Rating: ** 1/2
To twist Shakespeare’s immortal words, sometimes there is something in a name. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela’, the legacy is double-barreled. There is not only the weight of the Romeo-Juliet saga (which the director acknowledges as inspiration in the credits), there is also a huge overhang of the Ramayan: the hero is called Ram, who is sent to ‘vanvaas’, and he returns to fight for all that is right on the day of Dusshera. And because he is also Romeo, he fights for his love. Only Sita is called Leela.
The result is equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion. Bhansali’s ‘Ram-Leela’ is mounted as pure spectacle, no surprises there, because that is his style. The setting is the Rann, in Gujarat. The warring clans, the Gujju versions of the Montagues and Capulets, are attired in costumes where not one thread is out of place. Each scene is meticulously designed: the desert, the havelis, the swirling ghagras, the spurting of the blood. It gets to the point where you start feeling breathless, and that is exactly what Bhansali intends, for you to get encircled by his universe. And in that he succeeds. I was swept up by the way he builds up the love story, between Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone). Where he fails– his old failing– is in the insistence on every little thing being perfectly choreographed: a messy love story requires messy emotions, and Bhansali doesn’t ever let his gorgeous Leela’s tears streak down her cheeks. No leaky nose, no hiccups, just back-lit loveliness, which becomes too perfect to be real.
In ‘Saawariya’, Bhansali had tried to do the same thing in palettes of blue and black with Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. That world was more claustrophobic than inviting, and the film, despite the Kapoor lad dropping a tantalising towel, failed. This is much more in the director’s familiar territory: the ‘dhols’ and the ‘nagadas’, the dances and the songs, the Gujarati idiom. Every character, minor and major: Supriya Pathak’s Godmother-like Ba, Gulshan Deviah’s heavily-kohled wannabe leader, Richa Chaddha as the woman who gets to make rousing love-and-let-live speeches, all the bit parts who play the members of the battling clans, speak in the lingo, and for the most part (to my ear) sound authentic. But the whole superstructure gets too stretched and too wordy (there is also a superfluous Priyanka Chopra item number) and crumbles.