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Perhaps this is the most anticipated film in recent times. Rightly so given the cast and crew assembled. Produced and directed by Mani Ratnam, `Raavanan' stars Vikram, Aishwarya Rai and Prithviraj in the lead roles. The other cast comprises Prabhu, Karthik, Priyamani, Ranjitha, Munna and others.

`Raavanan' is inspired from the Asokavanam episode in Ramayanam. It is a modern day version of the episode where Raavanan kidnaps Sita and keeps her in Asokavanam. Later Raman ventures to save his wife and bring her back.

The story of `Raavanan' is said to be this. Dev (Prithviraj) is a police officer who falls in love with a classical dancer Ragini (Aishwarya Rai) and marries her. Post marriage Dev is posted in a tribal town controlled by Veera (Vikram) whose writs alone control the people of the town. Veera, the warlord is seen as challenger and the law enforcers lead by Dev believe the key to bringing order to the place is to crush Veera.

In an attempt to vanquish Vikram, Prithviraj misses the target and kills Priyamani who is the sister of Vikram. An infuriated, Vikram kidnaps Aishwarya Rai and takes her into the forest. This draws Prithviraj into the forest and the forest becomes their battle ground.  The dense, confusing and scary jungle sets in motion a string of events which test their beliefs and change their fortunes. When Prithviraj finds Aishwarya in the jungle he suspects her womanhood. A new battle then begins which becomes a battle between good and evil; Raavanan and Raman and at the end they all confront many truths. You can be sure of a startling climax typical of the creative genius Mani Ratnam.

So how are the characters in Ramanyam linked?  Prithviraj plays a character inspired by Raman, Vikram enacts the role of Raavanan and Aishwarya the role of Sita. The supporting characters are also worked out something like this. Karthik is the modern day Hanuman and Munna is the brother Lakshmanan. Priyamani plays the role of Raavanan's sister Soorpanakai. The role played by Prabhu and Ranjitha are not known yet.

`Raavanan' brings together Prabhu and Karthik after more than a decade. The have the same fire they had in `Agni Natchathram'.

Vikram has said "Acting in `Raavanan' is like being part of three Mani Ratnam projects, because, each and every scene was shot thrice"

Aishwarya also has an equally powerful role. Probably this is the film which would bring out the real talents of Aishwarya.

The contemporary and modern Indian classical dancer Astad Deboo has choreographed a climactic life and death dance sequence with a tandav of passion, revenge and liberation for Ash. This is a fusion of kathak, ballet and contemporary dance which will show Ash in a new light. The steps are complex and new and Ash had danced bare feet on slippery ground. She also did the steps twice over and in quick succession, first with Abhishek for the Hindi and then with Vikram for the Tamil.

Another surprise from Aishwarya is going to be her voice in Tamil. Ash has painstaking dubbed her voice for Tamil and nobody will be able to say she is not a Tamilian after hearing her speak. And making her more beautiful in the film is the celebrated fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee who has designed clothes for Ash in `Raavanan'.

The film was extensively shot in numerous locations around India including Pollachi, Ooty, Chalakudy, Athirapally of Kerala, Jhansi, Kolkata, Mahabaleshwar and in the Malshej Ghats in Maharashtra. Picturesque locations like the forest near the Athirapally waterfalls in Kerala is going to be real treat to the eyes. Athirapally waterfalls seem to be Mani's favourite location as had filmed `Uyire' song "Ennuyire", and the `Guru' song "Venmegam" at the same location earlier.

The cinematography is by Santosh Sivan, who replaced Manikandan as the cameraman and he has given the film a never before seen look and feel. Mani Ratnam - Santosh Sivan duo has worked wonders before in blockbuster like `Roja', `Thalapathi', `Iruvar' and `Uyire'.

`Raavanan' has numerous action scenes of the Kerala martial art form kalarippayattu. Kalatipattu exponents Sunil and his brothers who have trained celebrities like SRK and Jackie Chan have composed the action scenes.

`Raavanan' is a tri-lingual also made simultaneously in Hindi as `Raavan' and `Villain' in Telugu. With Abhiskek Bachchan playing the title role and Vikram plays the role of Rama. Aishwarya Rai plays the role of Sita in all three versions.

Audience expects `Ravannan' to be the best of Mani till date. By raising intriguing questions on the protagonist like did such a man ever exist? Is `Raavanan' the line that divides Good from Evil? Is there a Ram inside Raavan? And a Raavan inside each of us? Mani Ratnam has opened our minds to question our conscience.

Music of the movie is composed by Oscar winner A R Rahman with lyrics penned by Vairamuthu. It features 6 songs and the music was soft launched on May 5 by Sony Music.

`Raavanan' is produced by Mani Ratnam under the banner of Madras Talkies at a budget of Rs. 55 crores. Being his home production, Mani Ratnam has not compromised anything for the quality. He has even brought specific dogs that look like wolves from Australia for a whopping Rs.3 crores for a particular scene.

`Raavanan' is distributed by Madras Talkies and Big Cinemas and will hit the screens on June 18, 2010.

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