Reviewing the Reviews: Critics praise quality & performances in Ram-Leela, pan over-the-topness

18 Nov,2013

By Deepa Gaholot


Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Krishna Singh Bisht, others


This is a rare film that gets crazily mixed reviews from 1 star by to 5 stars by Times of India and every combination in between.


Most critics praised the visual quality and performances, but also panned the excessive ‘over-the-topness’ of everything.


Raja Sen of ripped it apart, calling in an over-plotted bloody mess. “Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela — an acronym of which unfailingly reminds me of Greater Kailash Residential associations — is a monstrously excessive film with a riot of colours, a girl who looks very pretty indeed and a daft hero, but despite that being the warning on the tin whenever you attempt (foolhardily) to buy into a Bhansali product, this can’t be what you bargained for. GKRR is an overplotted, bloody mess.”


Meena Iyer’s review didn’t match its 5 star rave. “What new can a filmmaker do with William Shakespeare’s classic love story Romeo and Juliet? The answer is, if you are Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is technically sound and artistically astute as far as art and craft go, you just become impudent, set the story in Gujarat, sign Bollywood’s currently best actress Deepika Padukone (Leela), team her up with `I’ve-got-fire-in-my-loins’ actor Ranveer Singh (Ram) and then let them loose on one another.”


Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN was mostly rave. “Bhansali brings all his tropes to the table – unabashed melodrama, stunning visuals, elaborately choreographed dance numbers. Yet, it’s the firecracker chemistry between his leads, and the genuine feeling he infuses into the film that separates Ram Leela from previously disappointing outings, particularly Saawariya and Guzaarish, that were weighed down by shameless manipulation and pretentious, heavy-handed filmmaking.”


Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express was mostly rant “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.”


Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu wrote, “Bhansali has figured out that he does not need to look far West for inspiration. Okay, it might have loosely borrowed a few things from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but diegetically, it’s Indian in form.


So yes, the havelis from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam are back. So are the chandeliers from Devdas and the folksy refrains from the former. In fact, the backdrop is not only picture perfect, the production design is so rich that you can rarely tell where location ends and set design begins. This is home turf and Bhansali knows the world in and out. While he has always had an eye for aesthetics and sensual shot taking, the director had also kept it contained. In Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, he lets it loose. This is certainly his most uninhibited film with raw sexual energy and explosive chemistry between the two of the best looking people in the country.”


Saibal Chatterjee of was scathing. “The film doles out super large helpings of everything under its grandiose narrative canopy – be it the oft-repeated story of star-crossed lovers, the garish sets, the musical score, the choreography, the costumes, the pitch of the acting, the delineation of the principal characters or the saturated colour palette. Even on the rare occasion where he gives minimalism an attempted shot, as when he lets the characters articulate themselves only through physical gestures and facial expressions, SLB does not pipe down one bit. He goes for broke every which way. It all adds up to a somewhat disorienting sensory assault mounted by a filmmaker who believes that excess makes excellent sense. Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela is composed of such a riot of colours that the hues often bleed into each other, leaving behind blobs and blurs. ”


Finally, seeing it from the point of view of an outsider, unaffected by the hype. David Chute of Variety summed it up well. “”Ram-Leela,” a gorgeous, boisterous, ultimately ineffective new Bollywood adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” does accomplish one thing that is quite unusual: it manages to keep you in suspense about the outcome almost to the last frame. Not a bad trick for a re-telling of one of the most familiar narratives in world literature. In fact, this points to a central weakness of writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, which for much of its length is such a brightly-colored song-and-dance entertainment that auds may wonder if it’s working towards a revised, happy Bollywood ending. (Some may even hope as much, as the movie doesn’t seem serious enough to merit a tragic one).”


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