Movie Review: RAM LEELA (2013)
There have been many Romeo & Juliet remakes on film, even in Bollywood with the most recent that I’ve seen being ISHAQZAADE (My Review here.) However, to my recollection, I don’t believe any remake has ever truly captured the romantic essence of the story, while improving upon it for a more contemporary time. Until RAM LEELA that is…
4 out of 5 Stars
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is the auteur filmmaker behind some of the most influential Bollywood cinema of the past 25 years. So when he remakes William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, people better be paying attention. RAM LEELA is just that, an adaptation of the play the Bard is most famous for, however, Bhansali is able to take some liberties with the story and modernize it for a new generation. The usual concepts still apply in the beginning of the story: Ram & Leela are the son & daughter of two opposing families that have been at war for centuries. The most obvious way this has been adapted in modern cinema, Hollywood or Bollywood, is the use of crime-families. RAM LEELA is no different where it’s more of a regional family war that is the central conflict of the film. Ram, despite being the 2nd son of his family, is a fun loving scamp who sells bootleg porn and is a peaceful horn dog with free loving hippie ideals. While Leela is an independent and fiery young woman who always snubs her nose at convention and lives her life to the max! Obvious fireworks ensue when the two meet during a social event where Ram sneaks into the house of his enemies. Their love is too strong to be denied, and they are willing to look past the familial bloodshed and be together.
RAM LEELA captures the wild, irrational and immature behavior of two young people in love perfectly, without being over the top cheesy. And amusingly enough, it’s an intentional portrayal, rather than the ironic depiction of ‘true love’ as most Bollywood movies. Bhansali achieves this with huge amounts of vulgarity and blatant sexual innuendo, the initial shock of which melts into mischievous flirting and conversational foreplay. The graphic nature of their dialogue even allows the typical Bollywood audience to become participant in the hero & heroine’s forbidden interactions, as it’s so far away from the usual dialogue that one hears in a Bollywood love story, that it’s unique and fresh. The inevitable conflict that drives them apart is also torn straight from Shakespeare’s play, with one major twist. Despite the families being the reason for the couple to be split apart, it’s real world complications that keep them apart. Even when everything is hunky dory between the lovers, the way the complexities of reality that creep into their relationship is shown is something that every couple who have ‘compromised’ can relate to. Love does not conquer all, and bitterness and resentment almost always follows compromise and sacrifice.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is an effective storyteller, and there is no doubt about that here. But with RAM LEELA, he took an adaptation that by all means is the story of two immature and emotional young children, and adapted it for a modern time, while keeping the setting in a very rural area of India… while updating the relationship concepts into something very relatable by the audience of today. Even the infamous ending to their tragic love story is logical and practical instead of being derived from misunderstandings and confusion. It’s also a better rounded story when Bhansali lends depth and a voice to the other characters in the story, fleshing them out with their own motivations, making it more than just a story about a couple in love. Most notable of which being the performance of Supriya Pathak as Leela’s mother and the matriarch of one side of the rivalry. Her eery intensity and aggressive characterization is brilliant from an actress usually known for comic roles.
RAM LEELA is embellished and very grandiose, but within the usual hyper colorful and the traditionally visual feast that is Bhansali’s movies, there is a layer of relationship realism that the original work failed to generate. The performances by the lead couple are amazing. Ranveer Singh can so adequately shift between playing the idiot, to the charming lover, to the grim action hero that it’s almost reminiscent of a young Salman Khan. My biggest complaint with Deepika Padukone is her choice of movies. Despite her obvious range and talent, she chooses to be typecast in rom-com that are derivative and insulting to the audience`s intelligence… i.e. COCKTAIL (My Review here.) However, she truly impresses in RAM LEELA. A most definite must watch for fans of Shakespeare, adaptations of our of the box Bollywood films that hits all the right notes.
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Do you think ‘Ram Leela’ was a worthy ‘Romeo & Juliet’ remake?
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