RAM SETU (2022)

Akshay Kumar and Satyadev Kancharana in a still
  • Release Date: 25/10/2022
  • Cast: Akshay Kumar, Jacqueline Fernandez, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Satyadev Kancharana, Pravessh Rana, Jeniffer Piccinato
  • Director: Abhishek Sharma

A decent one-time watch that needed better VFX and smarter writing towards the end

— Ambar Chatterjee

Ram Setu is a historic bridge that was built by Prabhu Shri Ram with the help of countless different species of animals, birds, fishes, humans, and apes. It covers a distance of nearly 30 Kms and connects the Indian Island of Rameswaram with Sri Lanka. According to Indian history, Shri Ram used this bridge to land on the doorsteps of Ravana and fought an epic battle to free Mata Sita from his evil grasp. In any other country, this bridge, which still stands tall today, would have been declared a structure of national, cultural, and historic importance but in India, there was a period when the UPA I government gave its nod to dredge around the structure. This would have caused serious damage to the bridge and would have desecrated a perpetual place of worship. The matter soon snowballed into a major political issue and the plan was subsequently dropped.

Akshay Kumar’s “Ram Setu” is based on a similar story but takes a fictional route. The story revolves around an atheist archeologist, Aryan (Akshay Kumar) who is engaged by a nefarious business house, Pushpak to find evidence to prove that the Ram Setu was a natural structure and that it predates Prabhu Shree Ram thus paving the way for dredging around it. Helping him on his quest are naturologist, Dr. Sandra Rebello (Jacqueline Fernandez) and tour guide Appi (Satyadev Kancharana). What happens next is what the film is all about.  

A strong message and clear direction: –

The film is sure of what it wants to say and it sticks to its core belief and points from start to finish. This is one of those rare films that dared to indirectly call out the beliefs of a particular government “Talibani” out loud. Generally, Bollywood films tip-toe their way around burning issues that need a head-on approach. I loved how the film busts the stupefying theory of calling Ram Setu, Adam’s Bridge and how it was only a ploy of the British to undermine our culture and history.

Dense story and visible effort to make proceedings believable: –

The story of Ram Setu is dense and filled with a lot of details. Unlike traditional Bollywood fairs, one can notice a conscious effort to gel well known facts with fiction and science fiction elements and present a story that feels believable and authentic. This does make the proceedings slow to start with but that wouldn’t be much of an issue for anyone. The story also uses facts and names that were associated with the original project to dredge around Ram Setu and implements them in its story. This further enhances the sense of realism of the film. Another aspect of the story that holds it in good stead is the fact that it doesn’t try to show anything too extravagant or unbelievable to prove its point but remains fairly rooted in things that we all know exist. They just dial it up a couple of notches and that is something that we all can live with.

Akshay Kumar and Jacqueline Fernandez in a still

Akshay Kumar and the efficient rendering of the protagonist: – 

Abhishek Sharma was smart enough to make his protagonist an atheist. It is a classic example of how one can take the most disbelieving of the audiences and resonate their skepticism through the protagonist and in the end when that protagonist becomes a believer, these skeptical audiences are also successfully taken into the fold and are able to enjoy the final outcome just as anyone else. Sharma does all this in a tad bit more hyperbolic fashion than was required but his efforts are noticed and appreciated. It is also a fact that Akshay Kumar looks comfortable playing a character that didn’t demand too much effort. There were also not too many shades to the character and all he had to do was look convincing in moments when he is under threat. That he pulls off successfully. The final courtroom scene where he lays out his findings was one of the highest points of his performance and it did resonate with me.

The character of Appi and what the film does with it in the end: –

Satyadev Kancharana plays the character of Appi, a man who rescues Akshay and his team when they are nearly drowning in a torrential storm with powerful people vying for their blood. This character then becomes their guide in Sri Lanka and is instrumental in most of the discoveries that they make. He is also constantly collecting and saving evidence that is later used by Akshay Kumar to prove his point in court. The introduction of this character was enough to tell me that he was not some random side character. With every appearance of his, this belief of mine was further strengthened. What Abhishek Sharma does with this character, in the end, was heartwarming even though I was able to predict something similar coming my way from a very early time. Satyadev Kancharana was immensely likable in his rendition of the character and gave out the kind of vibes that were in strong keeping with what his character turned out to be in the end.

Having said all that, the film has its share of flaws too.

Extremely poor visual effects: –

The visual effects of the film are unpardonably poor. There was no need for the exosuit to be in the film. It’s funny to see the deep-sea divers move side by side with the exosuit underwater. If that was the case, why not have Aryan wear the diver’s suit instead or send him down in the submarine that they use right after the suit is wrecked under water. He could easily instruct the divers to do what was needed from the submarine. It is not just that, every scene that is shot against a green screen is obnoxiously obvious. The problem is with the lighting of the foreground and background. It just doesn’t mesh. There needs to be physics in computer-generated images (CGI). That is something that is missing in every CGI aided sequence of the film and hence it becomes so evident that all of it is fake. This seriously brings down the effectiveness of the film by many notches. Probably they needed a higher budget or more time to make these sequences work the way they should have.

Poor performances from the two ladies: –  

I don’t think this was even worth mentioning as everyone expected Jacqueline to do her worst again but what was surprising was to see Nushrratt Bharuccha perform so poorly in the final few minutes of the film; Especially in the action sequence on the helicopter. The problem is not just that they did poorly with their respective characters but the fact that they ruined key moments of the film with their abysmal dialogue delivery and expressions.

Nushrratt Bharuccha and Akshay Kumar in a still

Lukewarm climax: –

While the climax of the film was to a great extent satisfactory, I felt that the way the story was building up, the film needed a greater thrust in the last 15-20 minutes. It is also a fact that that might have ruined the realism of the film but then the climax did feel a little underwhelming considering the size of the undertaking that Aryan undertook.   

Final Words: –

I had a good time with this film. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. Had it had better visual effects or thought its way around those portions and used different tropes and the writing towards the end of the film was smarter and better, this might have even ended up being one of the best Bollywood films of the year. That’s not saying much but it had the potential. For now, it is an above-average film that can be watched for its message, Akshay’s spirited performance, intriguing story, and the investing treatment. Satyadev Kancharana’s loveable act is an added bonus.  

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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