Movie Review: Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)

Goliyon_Ki_Rasleela_Ram-Leela_poster3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (henceforth referred to by the shorter, original title used by most American theaters: Ram-Leela) is a fresh update on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The story may be familiar, but Bhansali’s film offers plenty of surprises.

In this rendition, Romeo and Juliet are rechristened Ram Rajadi (Ranveer Singh) and Leela Sanera (Deepika Padukone). The youngest children in their respective warring clans, they want nothing to do with the centuries-long family feud. Ram serves as village peacemaker, defusing situations by distributing pornographic DVDs.

It’s love at first sight when Ram and Leela meet at a party. They are reckless in their courtship, until deaths in both families force them to realize that they will find no peace in town. Even their elopement is foiled by friends intent on perpetuating the feud.

In Bhansali’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the two leads are much older than the original characters, meaning they have more prominent positions in their family. Both Ram and Leela eventually assume leadership roles in their clans, proving the naiveté of their assumption that they could run off and leave their families behind. It makes for an interesting examination of the public aspect of romantic relationships.

Singh and Padukone are an extremely sexy pair. Had Ram-Leela been rated by the MPAA, it would’ve been rated PG-13 or R. Keep that in mind if you’re considering bringing your kids to the theater. Adults in the audience will appreciate the chemistry between the lead couple.

Singh’s Ram is initially more fun than a traditional Romeo, but he loses his spirit as the obstacles to his romance with Leela mount. By the end of the film, he’s mostly glum and passive.

Padukone is sensational as Leela, and the character is especially well-written. Leela evolves from a bratty princess into a force within her family. She’s sexually aggressive, initiating the couple’s first kiss and telling Ram, “I want you.”

In another refreshing update, the female characters are the power players in Ram-Leela. Both Leela’s and Ram’s sisters-in-law (played by Richa Chadda and Barkha Bisht, respectively) influence the destiny of the central romance and the town as a whole. The Sanera clan is led by Leela’s mother, Dhankor (Supriya Patak Kapur), who is ruthless and terrifying.

Like all of Bhansali’s films, Ram-Leela is great looking. Major plot points occur against the backdrops of colorful festivals. The garden at the Sanera palace — the setting for the famous balcony scene — is stunning.

Bhansali also composed the music for the film, and as a result, Ram-Leela features a lot of well-integrated dance numbers. The music and dancing (especially Padukone’s) is very good, and only the movie’s lone item number — starring Priyanka Chopra — feels out-of-place.

I appreciate Bhansali’s decision to re-imagine Romeo and Juliet as an all-out Bollywood spectacle, with sequences ranging from frequent dance breaks to a slow-mo fight scene in which body-slammed victims send up volcanic plumes of dust.

Ram-Leela is great for newcomers to Hindi films. It offers the full Bollywood experience, while presenting a familiar story. The crew responsible for the English subtitles made a smart decision to subtitle the first verse and chorus of each song, but not subsequent verses. It allows those who don’t understand Hindi to get the gist of the song’s subject matter, but then be able to focus on the dancing. This should become an industry standard.

Links

  • Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela at Wikipedia
  • Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela at IMDb
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18 thoughts on “Movie Review: Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)

  1. Shah Shahid

    Awesome review Kathy. Kind of relieved that you thought the movie wasn’t a compilation of ‘Bhansali’s Best Hits’ or anything. That’s how it looked to me from the Previews.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thanks, Shahid! It’s an interesting update on a classic story, and it gave me a lot to think about afterward. It’s worth checking out.

      Reply
  2. Deepak C.

    Great review! I also really liked this movie, but my main problem with it was that I never really believed that Ram and Leela were in love. Yes, they were very obviously in lust, but I never really saw any actual romance develop between them. It’s a credit to the two actors (who are an item in real life) that their chemistry and performances are strong enough to compensate for their underwritten roles. Romeo and Juliet was kind of the same way though, so I guess it can’t be totally blamed on SLB.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      You bring up a great point about how Romeo and Juliet isn’t really a “love story,” Deepak. My husband described the play as being about how stupid young teenagers are when they start dating. In SLB’s version, the couple is in their twenties, but they are still just as dumb as a couple of teens. Perhaps Ram-Leela’s relationship is more one of extreme devotion and lust rather than love, but a little more romance would’ve been nice. Cheers!

      Reply
  3. ashokbhatia

    I find it disturbing that SLB who gave us Black, HDDCS and Devdas comes up with something like this. You are right that the chmistry between the lead pair is great, but it sounds more of a chemical one than a mental congruity of sorts. Lavishly produced. Personally, I found the item number somewhat unnecessary and music a bit on the metallic side. I would rate this at 2.5 out of 5!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I totally agree about the item number, Ashok. I was perhaps a little too kind in the review, because it was really bad.

      Reply
  4. Andy

    This movie has detail in all the wrong places. There could have been more background on how the lead pair fall in love, and the last 30 minutes could have been made shorter.

    2.5 hrs is actually a forgiving run time for the filmmaker, and I believe Bhansali has not made the best use of the run-time available to him.

    It seems to me that Bollywood hasn’t learned its lesson about how to make movies that seem short, even though it has learned how to make short movies.

    This movie is barely a one-time watch, and the music needs to be a bit more up-to-date. Perhaps Bhansali should leave this aspect to people like Amit Trivedi next time, and focus on the film-making, He is capable of much more, and should keep in mind that more sensible cinema can also rake in the moolah.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      It seems to me that Bollywood hasn’t learned its lesson about how to make movies that seem short, even though it has learned how to make short movies.

      I like the way you put this, Andy. A four-hour-long film can seem short if it’s done well, while a two-hour-long movie can feel like an eternity if done poorly. In general, I think most filmmakers — Indian and American — can’t fill up 2.5 hours of film adequately. Aim for 90 minutes, and stretch it to two hours if need be, but that’s it.

      I would’ve liked to see Bhansali use the second half to explain the incentive each side has in maintaining the feud. We get a bit of that from the Sanera’s perspective, but nothing from the Rajadi side. Then again, the original play doesn’t elaborate on the reasons for the feud, and inertia is a powerful force.

      Reply
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