Film: Ram Setu
Director: Abhishek Sharma
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Jacqueline Fernandez, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Satyadev Kancharana, Shubham Jaykar, Jeniffer Piccinato and Nassar
“I am man of facts, I believe in what can be proven…”
That is Dr Aryan Kulshrestha (Akshay Kumar), an atheist archaeologist. Clearly he is the right man to prove Ram Setu is a geographical creation and not a man-made bridge created by Lord Ram. Faith vs science, religion vs fact is as good a thesis for a film as any. Only if Ram Setu’s exploration of the same had been worthwhile and worthy of your time.
Of course, as it begins reminding us of the destruction of Bamian Buddha in Afghanistan, it appears it has its heart in the right place. As Aryan and a Pakistani archaeologist are involved in the restoration project, there is no Pakistan bashing, only a few good humoured jibes. The film emphasises upon our collective heritage. All very well…. But though it throws some tangible facts our way and we hear of the Silk Route et al, it also reminds us with superstar Akshay Kumar in the saddle, action can’t be far away. Thus all through the narrative propelled by VFX while the movie takes us into the bylanes of history and mythology and unravels a few scientific principles of archaeological research, it also is an adventure-actioner.
So, if in Afghanistan Taliban is on the tail of Aryan, in India and in Sri Lanka the very commercial interests who hire him now want him dead. For he believes in history and now ‘facts’ favour that Ram Setu indeed was created during Sri Ram’s reign.
The quest that also takes him to Sri Lanka is clearly on questionable ground. How he and his team members, including Jacqueline Fernandez as Dr Sandra Rebello, manage to get in the strife-torn country? Well, don’t you dare ask questions in matters of faith! As the judge in the courtroom where a case about Ram Setu is being heard tells us if Ram is a pure figment of imagination then those who don’t believe in him ought to establish so. So dear viewers, the onus to decode suspension of disbelief such as Akshay walking on water in the sea lies squarely on you. The film offers some bunkum explanation that holds no water.
Of course, this brings us to the all-important crux. Is the film a pure flight of fancy or steeped in facts? Well, Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, is a 48-km chain of limestone shoals between Rameswaram on India’s Southeast coast and Mannar Island near Sri Lanka’s Northwest coast. The Shipping Canal project which is shown as the villain of the piece in the movie is a factual reality too. So, is the fact that ASI officials were indeed suspended for questioning the historical veracity of our mythological texts! So, if the same fate meets our hero in the film…don’t be surprised.
But the problem with Indian movies is when nebulous facts marry fiction, we as viewers don’t know what is real and what isn’t. In Ram Setu, however, it is easy to know as much is unreal. In fact, the writer director Abhishek Sharma of Tere Bin Laden fame follows an outlandish hypothesis. If we can prove Raavan existed clearly so did Ram. Q. E. D. So, we are taken to The Ravana Falls, which are indeed located in the misty mountains of Ella, Sri Lanka, a secret cave and hold your breath sanjivani booti, which comes with a botanical name and more.
And, the identity of the mysterious guide, who appears out of nowhere to steer our team of researchers, is loaded. From purely cinematic point of view the actor Satyaraj playing AP brings the right degree of verve and energises the proceedings. Akshay too fits the part, plays his age, never mind his much younger lovely wife (Nushrratt Bharuccha).
Despite a few heroic stunts, he is convincing and credible. The film with an Indiana Jones feel, however, is not meant to be credible or slice of reality but a mytho-religious ride which works in fits and starts before it chugs to expected and predictable conclusion.