Thompson on Hollywood

Big-budget Bollywood adventure Raavan, starring the golden couple Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai--from writer-director Mani Ratnam, director of Guru, with a rousing score by Slumdog Millionaire Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman--is a big overwrought dud. It's one of those dead-serious over-scale extravaganzas that boasts lavish resources--visual effects, swirling cameras, stunning scenery and lavish musical numbers--and comes up short. It's basically India's Robin Hood in more ways than one--all that money can buy in the way of production value and star power, but a big so-what? In some ways, Bachchan is playing chest-beating primitive King Kong to Rai's lovely Fay Wray.

Reliance opened the violent action romance this weekend on 119 screens stateside; Raavan ranked fifteen on the box office chart with an estimated gross of $551,375. Review links and trailer are on the jump.

Oddly, this mythic, primal retelling of The Ramayana (with touches of mud-splotched tribes running amuk in the jungle, cum Apocalypse Now) was treated roughly by Indian critics but was well-reviewed here from the likes of the NYT and THR. The Village Voice was more circumspect. Here's Metacritic. UPDATE: Here's an assessment of why American critics tend to give Bollywood a free pass.