New Delhi: It is an intriguing idea to find out how the popular Indian perception of gods and goddesses came to existance. And theoretically, a subject like India’s famous artist Raja Ravi Varma’s life seems like a great melting pot to bring together varied subjects such as religion, art, censorship, love, lust and consumerism.
But then again, theory and reality rarely do go hand in hand, especially in Indian cinema.
Based on the book ‘Raja Ravi Varma’ by Marathi writer Ranjit Desai, ‘Rang Rasiya’ follows the life of the 19th century artist in a series of flash-backs and flash-forwards that need a little time getting used to.
A still from Rang Rasiya
The film opens in preset-day India, at an art auction, where Varma’s paintings are being sold. It then jumps forwards and backwards and backwards yet again, in ‘Inception’-like manner.
Director Ketan Mehta’s Ravi Varma is a kind, impulsive and immensely talented artist. Hooda shines in this poorly-scripted role, with his looks, mannerisms, and lets be honest, his well-oiled abs.
After being made to move from his hometown in Kerala, Raja Ravi Varma moves to Baroda, (erstwhile) Bombay and other parts of the country to make art, with the idea that he wants to put faces to the gods, goddesses and mythological characters in Indian cultures. That’s when he finds his muse, the doe-eyed Sugandha (Nandana Sen), who looks the part, but her acting leaves much to be desired.
There are many things wrong with the film: from poor dialogues that don’t seem to fit in the 19th century India, to terrible costumes and hairpieces, that look like they’ve been borrowed from B-grade television mythological shows. There’s also the obnoxious background score; with the exception of the beautiful track ‘Sun balam’ by Rajashwari Pathak.
But there are several things right with ‘Rang Rasiya’: a stellar supporting cast that includes critically-acclaimed actors such as Vikram Gokhale, Tom Alter, Sameer Dharmahikari, Prashant Narayanan, Rajat Kapoor and Ashish Vidyarthi; to the shrewd parallels drawn between modern-day India and the late 19th century India. The much talked-about and controversial frontal nudity scene, too is very artistically shot, with no hiNt of voyeurism.
With so many things working for the film, we were pained to see the complete product falling short of what could have been an important biopic. From choppy editing, to poor script and dialogues, it is too easy to pin-point what went wrong in this Ketan Mehta film.