Ram Leela Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

Rating: 3.5

November 15, 2013

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Supriya Pathak, Richa Chaddha, Gulshan Devaiah, Barkha Bisht, Abhimanyu Singh

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cut off from the world, tucked away somewhere in Gujarat, a fictional small town named Ranjaar is a battleground of sorts for the eons-old enmity between the Rajadi and the Sanera mob clans. But even with guns blazing, beer bottles being shattered, and harsh words flying about in the air, Sanjay Leela Bhansali turns Ram Leela into such a passionate celebration of love, you can’t help be seduced by it.

To be fair, 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.

It’s lust at first sight for Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone) when they run into each other during a Holi celebration in Bhansali’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Perfectly matched – she just as fiery and brazen as him – the pair would rather make love, unlike their warring clans…and they say this repeatedly while flirting boldly and stealing kisses in her balcony. But their romance is thwarted by bloody vendetta, forcing them to stay on the side of family instead of each other.

In a refreshing change for a Bhansali film, Ram Leela crackles with light humor, cheeky dialogues and sexual irreverence, and is never burdened by its inherently tragic premise like his Devdas was. Borrowing a page out of Baz Luhrmann’s book, Bhansali stages a dazzling light-and-sound show, capturing the ecstasy of first love, the thrill of clandestine meetings, and even the obsession of great rivalries. Despite its fictional setting, Ram Leela has contemporary touches; the lovers are glued to their mobile phones, and in one scene Ram even requests that a ‘selfie’ he took be uploaded to Twitter.

In his first collaboration with Barfi cinematographer S Ravi Varman, Bhansali gives us indelible moving images…from the breathtakingly filmed song sequences (including a raunchy item number featuring a toned Priyanka Chopra), to an artfully captured chase, and later, the riotous burst of color at a religious procession. Even as bullets are sprayed freely and much blood spilled, Bhansali mutes key violent scenes by taking the action off-screen, creating a much stronger impact. You’ll never look at a betelnut crusher the same way again.

The problem, predictably, with such melodrama is its excess. Ram Leela is bloated in length and so it bears down on you and tests your patience in the second half. Some scenes come off trite, like one where a cop is easily bribed by a stack of porn DVDs, or when a little boy melts the cold-hearted don Dhankor (Supriya Pathak), who seemed hardly affected by her own daughter’s heartbreak.

It’s impossible, however, not to be taken in by Pathak’s menacing eyes and her threatening demeanor. When her son-in-law-to-be enquires about the family business, she replies coolly: “Shooting, smuggling, killing”, before putting a gun in his hands and declaring “Welcome to the family.” A terrific Richa Chaddha, as Leela’s empathetic sister-in-law, is that rare supporting character that doesn’t come off as one-dimensional, and Barkha Bisht gives a quietly dignified performance as Ram’s bhabhi. Gulshan Devaiah, meanwhile, is reduced to a stock villain despite his earnest acting.

It’s Bhansali’s leads, expectedly, who steal the show. The gorgeous Deepika Padukone uses her eyes expressively, both in her feisty banter with Ram, as well as in the tragic portions later when she must assert her position with her family and clan. As if powered by an inner fire, she brings raw energy to Leela’s every scene. The film belongs as much to Ram, and Ranveer Singh struts confidently, much like the peacock in the balcony that he pretends to be. The actor goes full-throttle funny, horny, heartbroken, and then particularly touching in the scene where Leela and he must reach a compromise for their clans. Deepika and Ranveer scorch up the screen in their romantic scenes, their intense passion a bold change from Bollywood’s mostly tame embraces.

In the end it is Bhansali – credited for screenplay, editing, music, and direction – who leaves his stamp all over the film. He brings great style and aesthetic to an unapologetically commercial film, which I’m happy to say is far more engaging than the lazy blockbusters we’ve seen lately. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Ram Leela. It’s great fun – not the word you’d normally associate with a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film.


  1. Author
    aryan 8 years ago

    Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela Movie Review by Sukanya Verma

    Deepika-Ranveer’s romance shines but doesn’t soar!

    Ram-Leela is a lavish visual spread and is filled with moments of thrill, ingenuity and splendour but falters somewhere due to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s confused priorities and half-hearted romanticism, writes Sukanya Verma

    Hues, so many hues, red crowned their queen here, dominate every single frame of Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela.

    Seductive, screaming, sly there’s enough colour in this one film to both — compel you to pack your bags at once and set off exploring Gujarat’s sweeping landscape or flee from its pulsating sound of blood-thirsty bullets and bottles.

    Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s pays ode to one of his favourite shades with bang, bluster (and blips) in a Romeo and Juliet-inspired fantasy about warring clans and star-crossed darlings set in a universe that is meticulously choreographed for cinematic perfection.

    It’s a familiar, much-adapted scenario — of rage, rivalry, romantic rebellion and immortal third act witnessed in films like Mansoor Khan’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and more recently, Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade.

    Ram-Leela’s temperament is somewhat closer to Ishaqzaade but its soul wears the mark of extravagance one has come to expect from Bhansali’s school of drama and dynamism. Moreover, where Ishaqzaade faltered most – dumbing down its feisty heroine’s spirit, Ram-Leela devises a peculiar twist just to uphold it.

    Its lavish visual spread is filled with moments of thrill, ingenuity and splendour courtesy Wasiq Khan’s dazzling art design and Ravi Varman’s blazing camerawork. Together, they mount a marvel out of Ram-Leela’s bold dalliance and Bhansali’s festive style making its first half a stupendous dream to behold.

    Alas, those fine flaws that were previously (voluntarily) overlooked to partake in Bhansali’s eternal carnival of song and dance surface far too prominently in the second half to flout.

    Every single sweeping romance on screen depends on the two actors to convince us they are madly in love and truly cannot get on without another.

    Ranveer Singh’s Ram and Deepika Padukone’s Leela demonstrate a personal connection and physical comfort in enacting their furious intimacy. Chemistry, however, is a special word. Let it not be concerned with its biological connotations alone. It was felt in abundance even though the characters didn’t share a single frame together in The Lunchbox.

    This love-at-first-sight fallacy needs something more than burning expressions of lust to underscore its potency. It needs growing space and dialogue — wonderful, quotable dialogue. Romeo and Juliet enjoyed that privilege thanks to Mr Shakespeare. Ram and Leela are left with cheesy lines, the kind you are spammed on SMS with, the kind you reflexively delete.

    Let me throw light on the difference. In the celebrated play, Juliet tells Romeo, ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Bhansali conveys it as, ‘Gulab ko pulao bulaaon toh khaoge kya? Naam mein kya hai

    Apart from its clunky writing (Woh lover toh hum killer) teeming with sexual innuendoes, Bhansali’s fondness for indulgence and theatrics leads to frequent awkward displays of revolting chauvinism and contrived melodrama.

    As a result, the strategically planned *epicness* of Ram and Leela’s romance is diluted in the excessive politics of endless revenge and mindless honour, which only takes a breather for one needless song after another (Priyanka Chopra stars in one such tantalising number).

    Still, it’s ever so watchable for Deepika Padukone. If ever there was any room for doubt, Deepika cancels it with her recently acquired aura. She embodies the lack of reason, the all-consuming ‘junoon,’ the bitterness, the sauciness, the arrogance that constitutes Leela so effectively, the film could well be titled after her. Only her.

    As for the rest, Ranveer Singh’s energy is unquestioned but he plays Ram like a rambunctious tapori who appears to be channeling Govinda in wardrobe, Madhuri Dixit in dance, Dharmendra in anger and Amitabh Bachchan in comedy.

    Supriya Pathak does a lady ogre in all her jeweled, kohl-ed glory with relish. If Agneepath makers ever decided to do a prequel, she’d be perfect to play Kancha Cheena’s mother. Richa Chadda doesn’t have a big role but she owns the scenes she walks in with her inbuilt fire. Gulshan Devaiah does well as a wily troublemaker.

    There’s Raza Murad too. His presence somehow only highlights the silliness of the premise even further.

    What began on a staggering note with stunning opening shots and rousing bottle-shooting sequence between boastful rivals somewhere is led astray in a Bhansali-constructed chaos of confused priorities and half-hearted romanticism.

    Rating: 2.5/5


  2. sanket porwal 8 years ago

    My review of Ram-Leela

    Let me give it on the very onset, Ram-Leela is predictable with every path of its way. You have seen all of this aplenty times and recently in that delicious romance-drama ISHAQZAADE from which Ram-Leela borrows lot of the screenplay chunk. Yet, there is a distinction point that Ram-Leela cracks, and that is SLB’s unapologetic, in-your-face grandeur and larger-than-life feel of the film. Every frame looks beautiful and monumental.

    The film never really takes the romance seriously. Before you know it, our love birds has already kissed and before they both know it, they are sharing beds. SLB derives the humor mostly out of double meaning jokes, which works immensely, and also by referring to corny noises out of the porn videos. The zany love angle is really sumptuous and entirely enjoyable. Although we don’t really have the real feel of their undying and devotional affinity towards each other, thanks to inefficient script material, still whatever little over-the-top chemistry they share is what one can relish about. But soon in the first half itself, Ram-Leela lose focus and thus throws random songs like “Ang laga de” and “Ishqiyaun dhishqiaun” only adding to the length. The intermission point is poignant and very nicely executed giving you the thrills. But the uneven pacing ails you.

    The film comfortably breezes post-intermission unlike many Bollywood films. The proceedings are sharpened and the politics draws the heed. The plot twists although cliched, works at couple of places. The film ends on a note which neither evokes love nor the sympathies.

    Longing for 150 minutes with 7-8 songs, Ram-Leela strikes a chord for the spot on casting. Richa Chadda is someone to watch for. She takes you by surprise in every scene of her. Supriya Pathak, as the menacing ruler of her realm, hits the bulls eye. Her look, her dialogues, her persona and her acting all gives life to the character that she plays. Ranvir Singh commits very soothingly to the flamboyance initially. His comic dialogues are well mouthed but somewhere in the half way part of Ram-Leela, you have no accountability of his character. He does gets the nuances wrong. Not that he messes it up, but he is just insufficient in later part of the film, especially while emoting. Its however Deepika who will woo you once again, and how! She is full of energy, expressions and acting. Notice how comfortably she slips into broken, disheartened after showing her convincing sexiness.

    SLB’s few songs nicely gets the space like “lahu muh lag gaya” , “Nagada” , “Ram chahe leela”. They also pleases because of the terrific composition. But the other few songs just don’t possess life in them. The sets designed for the film are sheer priceless. They play as the substitute when the film is falling. Sheer treat for eyes!

    SLB’s direction too has the strength. Some scenes, like that nail-biting one where the warring gang takes a gun-shot at one another to spread tease. Although, the editors clearly couldn’t realize where did they have to use their profession.

    Ram-Leela might not emerge a winner, its not even proper romance in first place. But the film offers many excellent scenes, although very shoddily jointed, which hooks you to your seat. Also, the scintillating chemistry in few scenes are remarkably written and shot. The whole look of the film adds like a cherry on the cake. And if not for anything, watch it for the three female pillars – Riccha Chaddha, Supriya Pathak and especially Deepika.

    Rating – 3/5

    • narad_muni 8 years ago

      Good review Sanku bhai..
      What I fail to understand is how can a love story survive just on grandeur and chemistry if the soul is missing… is it a soft porn?
      Anyways, I dont like SLB’s way of film making – excess of everything – excessive melodrama, excessive set design, excessive songs
      And 3/5 is a very high rating from you.is it because of Deepika? 😉
      Btw, is she looking really hot n yummy? She is becoming beautiful by the day. 😛

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