Director: Ketan Mehta
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Nandana Sen, Gaurav Dwivedi, Paresh Rawal
Sometimes as the winds blow down from the past to the present, it loses the scent of many a tales, worthy of being retold and worthy to be listened to, on its way. These stories when rediscovered are often become the site for debates and discussions on their genesis or validity. Then again sometimes, the truths that the same winds blow down to us, threatens to strip us naked of or garb of lies, a fear that racks our bones to dust. Such is the story of Raja Ravi Varma, a painter who celebrated life, body and the soul through his paintings and faced criticism from the society for his ‘bold’ and ‘revealing’ paintings. He gave a face to Hindu deities and painted several mythological scenes from Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Ketan Mehta brings to screen an adaptation of Marathi writer Ranjit Desai’s biographical novel ‘Raja Ravi Varma’, which brings out an artist’s struggle to find a space for his art to be appreciated instead of being labelled obscene.
Set in 1890’s Raja Ravi Varma(Randeep Hooda) faces a court case against him for spreading obscenity through his nude paintings and painting a human face to deities. More so because, the woman on which he models his paintings is a common woman. Sughanda (Nandana Sen) is in love with Ravi Varma bares to him her body and soul to paint and to be painted upon. Ravi varma starts his own printing press and prints copies for his paintings for the common man. He tastes success, wealth and admiration. But the conservative moral police take it upon them to teach him a lesson, set fire to his press and file a case against him. Will Ravi Varma be able to defend his art in the courtfull of religious fanatics? Or will Sugandha lose the battle between her love and integrity?
Ketan Mehta needs to be applauded for the effort he has put into making the movie and ensuring the movie gets a release date after 6 years of court battle. But once in awhile when a passionate artist loses himself in perfecting his art, he also forgets to not lose sight of his art itself. Rang Rasiya is a visual treat in terms of the colours, aesthetics and settings. However, the storyline is confusing in places with an apparent lack of information to supplement the situation. Sugandha’s background is confusing and the two characters who are supposedly her family are a blink and a miss, leaving us wondering how they were related. A Parsi journalist played by newbie Feryna Wazheir, is one of the most ill-sketched characters in the movie. A disrupted narration by Raja Ravi Varma’s brother Raj Varma (Gaurav Dwivedi) does not really help the situation. Randeep Hooda does a fair job as Ravi Varma however Nandana Sen though sensuous and exotic, is seemingly lost as Sugandha. Though, the concept of nudity has been extremely aesthetically handled, perhaps only a niche audience maybe able to appreciate the same. The movie brings out a very important message, but the total impact is ends up messy.
This isn’t your typical Bollywood movie. It is a biopic with a storyline that may or may not attract you. Read the review and make your choice!
My verdict: **