Ram-Leela (and I am not going to bother with the long form name forced on it!) could easily have been christened Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam 2.
Not in the sense of being a sequel, but having a whole lot of similarities – from a tale of romance, from a proud parent who will not allow the daughter to marry someone she loves (including the SAME dialogue, “tum mera garoor ho..”!), from the Saurashtra / Kutch base of the story, the songs and the dances, the colours and the music, the vivid pictorials of the desert, etc. I absolutely loved (continue to do so, in fact) Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and considering that backdrop, I also liked Ram-Leela, though of course, it was nowhere close to the original HDDCS.
Highlights of the film for me, in 7 points below:
1. The film has the Sanjay Leela Bhansali stamp all over. In fact, you can see it in the credits to begin with. From editing to screenplay, production, direction, and even the music, its Sanjay Leela Bhansali all over. The rich sets, the colourful clothes, folk music and dance, etc. all bear his stamp.. and his class!
2. The story / plot / theme has been done before. SLB gives credit for inspiration to Romeo and Juliet in the titles. That may be the case, but there is again a unique way of presenting the same plot / story, and which SLB does well. In addition to HDDCS, there are shades of Virasat, QSQT among others..
3. My forefathers come from Saurashtra. I have not spent any decent time in Saurashtra, but I am fascinated by the place, and like in HDDCS, SLB brings out the richness of the culture really well. I love the traditional clothing (of men and women), the music (nagara and dhol to the fore), the dances (yes, amazing garbas), the beautiful visuals of the desert stretching out far and wide, the language, the names, etc. All of these tug at my heart, as there are few films that actually focus on Gujarat and Saurashtra and Kutch, to any extent.
4. Supriya Pathak has a brilliant role. She’s clearly an actress who has been grossly under-utilised by industry. After noteworthy supporting roles in films like Bazar, Sarkar, Wake Up Sid and the slapstick comedy, Khichdi (on TV and on the big screen), she’s got a big opportunity here, and plays an extremely strong character of Dhankorba, very competently. (I remember my childhood days, and vacations spent at Balodyan near 5-gardens, run by Supriya’s mama, Dr. Vipin Gandhi, and where, I had the occasion to work with Supriya, on some puppet shows that we did together!).
5. SLB ground his teeth with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, assisting him on films like Parinda and 1942-A Love Story. One thing I’ve admired about Vidhu Vinod Chopra is his ability to get his heroines look their best (for the films he directed). SLB has learnt that well. From Manisha in Khamoshi to Aishwarya and Madhuri and others, SLB excels in bringing out the inner beauty of his heroines. Does so again with Deepika here. And also makes her emote well, and dance really well too!
6. In Ranveer, we have a solid actor, who puts is hard work and dedication to do justice to his character. Had liked him a lot in Band Baaja Baraat, and he was not lacking here as well.
7. I am sure SLB and team would have agonised about the end. And I am not sure if they picked the best option. Like in case of Sholay, the end will continue to be debated for this film as well. As I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen it yet, won’t say more here.
In summary, I would say that SLB has made better films in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (his best), Black and Khamoshi. But would rate Ram-Leela as a good one too, perhaps as his 4th best one. I never like Devdas as a movie that much, though I had enjoyed individual performances there!
At a time when decent movies are rare to come by, I would rate Ram-Leela as one that makes the cut, and would recommend seeing it.