Last weekend I did something I don’t usually do, watch a Bollywood movie. This particular movie, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela or Ram-Leela was based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and so wonderful I have to write about it. Even more so than the movie itself was the clothing. Designer Anju Modi created traditional Gujarati outfits which had me glued to the screen for the full three hours.
Set in modern day, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali (him of Devdas and Black fame) creates a nostalgic (and probably fictionalised) look at a small Gujarati town. Here the men and women live rustically, wearing very traditional clothing and jewellery, but juxtaposes it with references to the ever increasing porn culture, popularity of guns, and global appeal of smart phones. Twitter is mentioned as is the media’s ability to get ‘news’ from celebrities on twitter.
I thought Bhansali’s decision to do this was brilliant and effective. It gave everything a very melodramatic and sometimes starling, jarring feeling. You forget that this story is set in modern day until someone pulls a gun on someone else. It was also used to create a more silly effect which also helped to add depth to the story. I have always found Romeo and Juliet so effective as a story because the (SPOILER) deaths were so unnecessary. Having this element of silliness in the movie made everything so much more tragic. It should have been nothing more than a sweet romance but it wasn’t.
What I also loved was how beautifully this movie was shot. Bhansali’s use of colours, natural landscape and sets was like an oasis to a pair of eyes used to the bleak and bland. If for no other reason, watch this movie for its beauty. The scene where Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone) first met was set during the festival of Holi. They both pull guns on each other (his water based and hers bullet based) as a cloud of purple powder obscures everything else behind them. They are in their own little gun-filled, purple-cloud world and it was beautiful. This movie needed to have such grand locations, set pieces and colours in order to do Shakespeare’s story some justice and it worked. It worked really well. The scenes in the deserts and vintage palaces could have failed miserably but they didn’t.
However, the cinematography and directorial style can be perfect but without the cast to support the movie, it won’t be all that successful. Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh give focus to Bhansali’s lush, brilliant compositions. While Singh gives a rich, empathetic and deeply affective performance as Ram, it’s Padukone who steals every scene she is in and when she isn’t in the scene, you long to see her. Her Leela was a tightly coiled tense snake, ready at a moment to kill or kiss. She was never passive, never the object in the room; her pure, deliberate ferocity added so much to the movie, that Padukone’s subsequent Best Actress Filmfare Award was definitely deserved. Along with the two leads, Supriya Pathak Kapur, who played Dhankor Baa, Leela’s mother was mesmerising. She commanded the movie and her character’s strength and desire was tangible. I still cannot get over her reaction to some scenes – she was so very good.
This movie was explosive – with colour, lust and tension. Highly recommend.
All images from bollyspice.come