Sensuality and Indian cinema have never been good partners. Time and again, various moral policemen and women have come forward and decimated any steps taken forward when it comes to imbibe sensuality, sexuality and more of the baser stories in mainstream cinema. From Deepa Mehta to Ketan Mehta, all film makers will have sordid stories to tell about how their art has been misinterpreted and misappropriated by others.
However, the suffocation of art in the name of culture and religion did not start in the nineties, nor did it end in the nineties. It has been going since time incarnate, and just one footnote in the history of Indian art, culture, religious and extremism is Raja Ravi Varma, the celebrated court painter in the palace of Travancore, who went on to become of the most famous and pathbreaking painters of all time. Rang Rasiya is his story, and this is the full review of Rang Rasiya.
Rang Rasiya tells the story of Ravi Varma, who caught the eye of the King of Travancore quite early in life, and became the court painter. While he was liked well by the King, he came in to bad times when the King expired and his younger brother took over the reigns of the kingdom. It was the earlier king who gave him the title of ‘Raja’ and it was the younger brother who told him that the kingdom was too small for two kings.
So began Ravi Varma’s journey, which has him visi Bombay (now Mumbai), a journey that took him to the Royal Palace of Baroda, where he was contracted by the King of Baroda to make paintings for his palace. Ravi Varma then decides to travel all over India and get an insight into Indian culture. Soon, he is back to the palace and his paintings are celebrated, but the moral policemen of yore cannot stand the fact that Gods and Goddesses are being sold on a transactional basis.
It is this skirmish with the religious bigots, and his personal inefficiencies, that form the rest of the movie, and mould the legacy that we know as Raja Ravi Varma.
Ketan Mehta excels at telling the epic story of Raja Ravi Varma, the unsung hero of Indian liberalisation, and also the guardian angel of the modern Indian cinema. Mehta does well in recreating India, Baroda, Bombay and other parts of not just the ’1800s but beyond too.
In such a beautifully shot and made movie, some of the jarring English and grammatical mistakes now and then take away from the flavor of the movie. Whether it is the placard showing 1850′s , instead of 1850s, or whether it is the grammatically wrong placards during the plague scene, the directorial department should have at least consulted some primary school teacher with a grammar background. They had ample time too, the movie is a good six years in the making.
While the direction, screenplay and art direction is good, it is the production values that disappoint. The opulence and mystic of an era bygone is sorely missing all over the movie. Whether it is the session of the Indian National Congress, of whether it is the throne room scenes with the King of Travancore, the production budget is for all to see, and that is not much.
The story writers try to handle too many things in one single movie, and that is where it falters. Most of the screen time is spent (wasted) or portraying Varma as a womanising, free spirit – and all that Randeep Hooda has for such sequences is a glazed look. What could be a true story of an artist who was seldom praised in his time comes across as a loosely cobbled short take about the clash between art and commerce, the innate hunger and dissatisfaction that an artist faces, and the utter, heart breaking selfishness that an artist lives with, ruthlessly burning brides that were never built by him anyway. The final essay in this movie is about how it is always the female gender that has to sacrifice and fall, but by the time the graphic is played out in excruciating detail, the movie is running on steam, and fails to make an impact.
When Rang Rasiya was announced, Randeep Hooda was hot property. This was around the time that his celebrated movie D was released, and hot on its heels was Risk. In both these movies, Randeep Hooda portrayed an angry young man, and it did well for his image. But Rang Rasiya proves that Hooda still has to go a long way, at least a long way when it comes to portray real characters over a period of time.
While the screenplay is good, Hooda cannot embellish any of the high points in the script. Some of the sequences, where he decides to make prints of his art, or where he convinces Sugandha (Nandana Sen) to pose nude for his ideas, leave a lot to be desired because both the actors doing the scenes do not do justice to the idea behind. The unfortunate part is that because the latter scene is not portrayed out convincingly, the nude scene, on which the entire parable of Raja Ravi Varma hinges, comes across as any other scene, and even prurient.
With such acclaimed actors like Paresh Rawal, Vikram Gokhale, Ashish Vidyarthi, and the story of the original Indian rebel, the correct scenes would have set the screen afire. Unfortunately, Rang Rasiya is a study in lost opportunities.
India is a country with many untold stories, and with a new, vibrant generation demanding everything, this is the right time for us to delve into our pasts and undo the wrongs that we have done. For all its failings and fallings, Rang Rasiya celebrates the artist and portrays a poignant realistic picture of the sacrifice and pain that one has to go through, to become an artist in the true sense of the world.
Rang Rasiya may or may not work at the box office, but it will definitely be a guilty pleasure of anybody in India who has ever dreamt to be an artist.
Nov 14, 2014 0An exercise that works up a sweat makes you breath hard...