After more than a decade, Sanjay Leela Bhansali returns to the turf he is most familiar with – the rural terrains of Gujarat, brightened up with the colours of its festivals, costumes, dhols, opulent sets and striking dialogues. Add to this the intensity of a shakespearean drama diffused with countless splutters of blood, along with elements of Bhansali's previous movies and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela is ready.
The movie is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and tells the story of love between Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone), who come from two warring groups in the hinterlands of Gujarat. The relationship, that begins flirtatiously during a Holi celebration, ripens as the movie proceeds and the couple find themselves held back by deep rooted hatred, which has grown between the two groups over the past five centuries. They elope and try to set a world of their own in an attempt to erase their bloody history with their love.
Right from the opening scene to the closing credits, you can hear echoes of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas. Sometimes they appear in the form of song sequences, tunes or even a few dialogues and picturisations. You are likely to admire this movie only if you loved the above mentioned films. At some points, the roses of the lovers seem to get lost in the firing of the guns. The songs, composed by Bhansali himself, are not consistently good. Some even stand out like a sore thumb in the album.
But there are many reasons to celebrate Ram Leela. For a change, he places this movie in a real time and space, unlike his last two ventures which were set in some fairy land. The background score of Monty is among the best this year and it beautifully enunciates the emotions and high decibel drama of the film. While Ranveer Singh delivers a commendable performance, it is Deepika who shines bright all through the film. Their chemistry sets the screen ablaze, especially in the sensuous notes of Ang laga de re. Performance is indeed the high point of the movie. From Richa Chadda and Barkha Bisht as the widowed sisters-in-law of Leela and Ram, to Abhimanyu Singh as Ram's brother, they are a delight to watch. But it is Supriya Pathak who steals the thunder as the matriarch Dhankor Baa (Deepika's mother), who never for a moment seems out of character. The closing song Laal Ishq is a gem, that seems to be a fitting ode to love.
But besides being a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, Bhansali beautifully incorporates elements of the Ramayana. From the abduction of Sita and the toughness assumed by Ram as a king to the metaphoric killing of Ravan at the end, the director blends a shakespearean drama with the Indian epic seamlessly. All these merits aside, the rich visual splendour of Ram Leela itself is worth a watch in a theatre. In spite of the director going overboard at many instances, Ram Leela is a romantic battle that is worth a watch.