Sanjay Leela Bhansali - the name is synonymous with magnificence. Ram Leela, SLB's version of William Shakespeare's universal love story Romeo and Juliet, is a painting that moves on a huge canvas. Picturesque, colourful, passionate and dramatic, it portrays a sublime love between a boy and a girl who belong to different castes. The flipside is some climactic changes in the story which turn out to be an exercise in futility.
The Saneras and Rajadis are two communities of a fantasy town in modern Gujarat. Ranveer Singh's Ram is a Rajadi who is Casanova's new avatar. Even as he moves through the streets, maidens drool over his enviable Greek-God physique.
Deepika Padukone, on the other street, is a Sanera lass who falls in love with Ram without any great attempt on his part.
But it is due to these two actors who deliver a rock-solid performance that the first half becomes powerful and carries the audience with them when they elope, leaving behind both the communities with murdered leaders and burning for vengeance.
Though the story is centuries old and repeated much too often to reveal any new facet, SLB's prowess lies in extracting mind-blowing performances from these two lead actors. Their love scenes set the screen afire and when they are separated, Deepika Padukone's scream 'Ram' reverberates through the theatre and slices through your heart. When Ram jumps into the river to swim across to the other bank to save Leela, you feel that SLB has finally lost it. But the cinematic vision of a helpless Ram struggling in the waters to save his lover leaves you gasping at the sheer brilliance of the imagery.
SLB however stretches the separation too long. Perhaps the editor should have been allowed greater freedom - that might have helped the film to earn much, much more. The crowning of Leela as the godmother of the Sanera clan is far-fetched and does nothing to uplift the fast-drowning screenplay. So much so that the audience finally prays to God that Ram Leela kill each other, if only to end their agony.
The music, composed by SLB himself is rich in Gujarati tradition and not easily forgettable. The lyrics lack the depth of his previous movies. 'Ishqyaun Dhishqyaun', a track designed to perhaps entice the young generation, however is a misfit in the entire milieu and is not something you would expect from Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It seems to be written to test a new writer's capabilities when SLB was on a holiday and the song had to be picturised in a hurry. It's like an alternative for an item song, which SLB does not need, and is completely ineffective.
The film has its moments - SLB can't make a totally bad film. Once you enter the rural world of Ram and Leela (where the only proof of it being 2013 are mobile phones and a DVD player), SLB forces you to leave the real world behind and jump headlong into one created by him specially for this movie.
So it's worth watching once, though you'd do better to give the climax a total miss.