Bollywood Cops and Robbers Thriller Raavan Easy on the Eyes


The plight of a Western critic tackling the modern Bollywood blockbuster is that, although a sea change has increased its appeal to international audiences (the standard three-hour-plus running times are suddenly truncated; the violence and sexual innuendos are more overt), the supersize melodrama inherent in populist Hindi cinema often feels strained and corny to our unadjusted senses. Nothing has changed there in director Mani Ratnam’s epic reunion with his Guru leads (superstars Abhishek Bachchan and his real-life spouse, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), a loose reboot of the ancient Sanskrit poem Ramayana as a cops-and-robbers thriller—with all the requisite romance, singing, and dancing. Roguish bandit Beera (Bachchan), the protective leader of the oppressed Lal Maati have-nots, has kidnapped free-spirited classical dancer Ragini (Rai Bachchan) as part of a personal vendetta against her husband, aggressive police inspector Dev (Vikram). Feared, revered, and said to have 10 heads while being everywhere at once, Beera bugs out his eyes and hides in shadows to appear brutish, yet Ragini falls for him anyway. The love triangle is as tediously underwhelming as the slo-mo action, but the actors, costumes, and lush mountainsides are easy on the eye, and Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman’s bouncy, Sufi-tronic score is a real foot-tapper.