Ram Setu good only as meme fodder

AMIT JOSHI

This Deepavali, it has been all hail the Almighty when it comes to Bollywood as Thank God released on Oct 24 and Ram Setu on Oct 25.

I chose to watch Ram Setu and hoped I could say, "Thank God I watched Ram Setu," at the end of it. But alas, it wasn't to be.

Ram Setu starts on a different note and terrain from expectations.

The film is set in 2007, when a team of international archaeologists arrive at the Buddha destruction site in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

Atheist archaeologist Aryan Kulshrestha (Akshay Kumar) arrives in a helicopter but sans his all-action signature style.

He quietly jumps out of the chopper only when it lands. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by this feeble act.

Akshay also surprisingly plays a sensible character in the first few minutes, showing the required amount of "bhaichara" (brotherhood) towards his fellow Pakistani and Afghani archaeologists. He seems very practical and quips that he is a "man of science" and has no time for patriotic or emotional drama.

At that point, I was tuned in for an interesting movie. But moments later, my expectations were shattered.

The Taliban arrive at the site and start firing at the archaeologists. But Akshay manages to hang on to the treasure, which he discovered within minutes of his arrival.

He also finds the Reclining Buddha after "accidentally" falling into a trench. So convenient.

His wife Gayatri (Nushrratt Bharuccha) has a wardrobe that looks way out of place for a college professor. Akshay too looks questionable, sporting a wig and a white-stubble beard.

There is no chemistry between the mature-looking "nastik" (atheist) Aryan and damsel-looking "astik" (believer) Gayatri.

Maybe that is the reason the couple seem to start all their conversations with "sorry" - they are apologising to the audience.

From Afghanistan, the focus switches to Ram Setu or Adam's Bridge, a chain of limestone shoals between Rameshwaram island off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu and Mannar Island off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka.

Businessman Indrakant (Nassar) has a vested interest in getting the Ram Setu demolished to help his shipping line.

Aryan's initial report to the Supreme Court, confirming that the Ram Setu is a natural chain of rocks, sparks the stereotypical boycott of his family and also results in his suspension from the Archaeological Society of India. The court demands scientific evidence to substantiate his claim.

Indrakant immediately offers support to Aryan, including sending a team of international scientists, who all look like Indians.

There is an Indian-looking Brazilian with a fake accent and another one from Goa, played by heavily-accented Jacqueline Fernandez.

I was completely lost after that as the state-of-art floating laboratory is equipped with the latest iPads and MacBooks - remember the film is set in 2007.

I also almost fell off my chair when the "personal submarine suit" designed for Aryan made its appearance. It looked no more than the Doordarshan serial super-hero Giant Robot. But Aryan manages to retrieve a "floating stone" from the ocean bed for the so-called research.

The scientists deduce through some random calculation that the stone is 7,000 years old, which dates to the Ramayana era.

The "floating stone" looks like a durian. The only difference is that a durian is real.

And suddenly our "man of science" starts believing that Ramayana is not just a great piece of literature but a fact.

At this point, Aryan is helped by none other than "Hanuman" himself in the form of Sri Lankan tourist guide AP (Satyadev Kancharana).

Together, they discover Ravana's Lanka as well as the Sanjeevani plant (mentioned in the Ramayana) without any hassle.

The court scene which follows is a tedious piece of rant from Aryan trying to prove that Ram Setu was indeed created by Ram.

The film ends with the court ruling that Ram Setu is indeed man-made, which was truly predictable given the film's trend.

Writer-director Abhishek Sharma's 144-minute film disappoints throughout.

The storytelling is tedious and the filming of crucial scenes, the dialogues and the CGI are passe.

The dialogue seems to be taken from WhatsApp forwards. Sharma could have made an all-out fantasy thriller sans the courtroom drama and could have worked as a children's film.

The movie is a confused presentation between fantasy and propaganda. However, it provides ample fodder for memes and will add to Akshay's long list of flops, which he has been consistently delivering this year.

tabla@sph.com.sg

Financial industry professional Amit Joshi is a theatre enthusiast who has performed for various productions in Singapore.

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