Ram Setu is a throwback to the Hollywood capers of a generation ago, when Harrison Ford or Nicholas Cage set off on an adventure to uncover an ancient archaeological secret. Ram Setu takes this genre and mixes it with Indian history, mythology and socio-political commentary. The result is an enjoyable thrill ride that’s as fun as it is cliched. But once you get past the cracks in logic, Ram Setu comes across as a fun popcorn adventure, the kind Bollywood hasn’t produced in quite a while. Read also : Ram Setu: Akshay Kumar’s film set to open at half Sooryavanshi’s earnings
Ram Setu is about a veteran archaeologist, Dr. Aryan Kulshreshtha (Akshay Kumar with long hair and distinguished gray beard), an unbeliever, who is tasked with disproving the reality of Ram Setu, the bridge between India and Sri Lanka described in Valmiki’s Ramayana. However, he finds that the structure may in fact be artificial, implying that Lord Ram may be historical after all. The film tells how Dr. Aryan dodges obstacles to find a lost trail in search of Ravana’s Golden Lanka, aided by an ecologist, Dr. Sandra (Jacqueline Fernandez) and a local AP Lankan guide (Satya Dev).
First of all, Ram Setu is nice. It’s in parts slick and in other parts quite exciting. Credit goes to a good story backed up by some of the best background music used in a Hindi movie this year. The VFX and CGI are indeed questionable, as the trailer had indicated. The scenes with the spacesuit are almost caricatural. But what makes up for that is the stunning underwater footage. Director Abhishek Sharma’s way of capturing the beauty and grandeur of Ram Setu beneath the Indian Ocean is reminiscent of BBC Earth’s Blue Planet documentary.
Ram Setu works best when the protagonists are on the field, in the heart of the action. As Dr. Aryan and his comrades search for the historical evidence of Lord Ram’s story, the viewer is engaged. But it falters when there is a lull in the action. We suddenly start noticing how people can storm into the Supreme Court of India with an “I oppose my lord” and not be arrested (or shot). We notice that Akshay’s character is the only one making deductions and thinking and everyone else is just playing around, barely contributing much. And there are also small continuity errors, such as Akshay’s beard turning into stubble and then returning in successive scenes.
Akshay Kumar is given a golden opportunity in this film. His character – Dr Aryan – is unlike anything he’s done in the recent past. He is an atheist, who needs to convert to the cause. He looks different, talks different, and is conceptualized very differently than most of his recent roles. His recent filmography has often been criticized for containing numerous public service announcements disguised as films. Ram Setu gives her a chance to do something different.
Sadly, the women in the film weren’t even given the freedom to do anything differently or do anything. Jacqueline’s character is reduced to looking good and uttering scientific terms every 20 minutes or so to justify her place on “the expedition.” Nushrrat Bharuccha fares even worse as her character is reduced to the screaming woman, contributing little to the plot or other characters. It’s a disappointment for the actor after a rather heavy-handed outing in Janhit Mein Jaari just a few months ago.
The movie’s surprise package for me was Pravesh Rana. As the muscle of Nasser’s corrupt businessman, he is the film’s main antagonist. And he plays that role perfectly, bringing enough menace and charm to what is essentially a filler role. The other highlight of the film is Satya Dev. Even though his AP character is written as a stereotypical Lankan with a cliched accent, he brings through his performance enough charm and humor to make the role stand out. Between that and GodFather, the actor seems to be having a pretty good year.
In tone and tenor, Ram Setu is similar to a sleeper hit from earlier this year – Karthikeya 2. This one was about finding the historicity of Lord Krishna and this one is about Lord Ram. The action, pacing and other elements are also similar. But the films differ in their scale. Ram Setu, with his report ₹The 150 crore budget dominates the Telugu film, which was made in ₹30 crore according to reports. But maybe it’s a good thing that Ram Setu is calling back a hit film from the south this year.
Ram Setu takes the best of the Indiana Jones and National Treasure schools of storytelling and injects it with desi action. Unfortunately, it also injects Bollywood melodrama. Once you manage to look past it all, Ram Setu takes you on a fun ride.
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Jacqueline Fernandez, Satya Dev, Nasser, Nushratt Bharuccha and Pravesh Rana.