Review: ‘Colors of Passion’

All the qualities -- strong casting, well-structured script, evocative look -- that made helmer Ketan Mehta's previous costumer, "The Rising," so powerful are in short supply in "Colors of Passion."

All the qualities — strong casting, well-structured script, evocative look — that made helmer Ketan Mehta’s previous costumer, “The Rising,” so powerful are in short supply in “Colors of Passion.” Biopic of late 19th-century Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, whose modernist, sensual oils shocked conservative groups at the time, is a good-looking but dramatically stiff item whose various elements (art, politics, religion) never coalesce into a dramatic whole. Offshore biz looks limited.

Framed by a modern auction of one of his paintings that’s barracked by protestors, pic crosscuts between the trial of the femme-loving Varma (Randeep Hooda, cool) for obscenity and offense to Hindu religious sentiments, and his prior life as a rising artist. His portraits of goddesses were inspired by a woman, Sugandha (Nandana Sen, ripe), who became his muse and lover, though Varma was also a smart businessman, pioneering lithographs of his works, which reached ordinary Indians. Choppy narrative checks all the boxes but lacks a broad dramatic arc, and Varma comes across as an unsympathetic, self-centered character. Scene of Sen (chastely) baring a breast for one famous portrait has already generated headlines on home turf.

Colors of Passion

India

Production

A Maya Movies, Infinity Filmed Entertainment production. Produced by Deepa Sahi, Aanand Mahendroo. Executive producers, Rupali Mehta, Guneet Monga. Directed by Ketan Mehta. Screenplay, Mehta, Sanjeev Dutta, based on the biographical novel "Raja Ravi Varma" by Ranjit Desai.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Rali Raltschev, Christo Bakalov; editors, Pratik Chitalia, Yves Belonnik; music, Sandesh Shandilya; lyrics, Manoj Muntashir; production designer, Nitin Chandrakant Desai; associate art director, Nitin Kulkarni; costume designers, Niharika Khan, Poornamrata Singh. Reviewed on DVD, London, Nov. 2, 2008. (In London Film Festival -- World Cinema.) Original title: Rang rasiya. Running time: 129 MIN.

With

Randeep Hooda, Nandana Sen, Jim Boeven, Paresh Rawal, Rachna Shah, Ferena Wazeir, Tripta Parashar, Ashish Vidyarthi, Prroshant Narayannan, Darshan Jariwala, Sachin Khedekar, Vipin Sharma, Chirag Vohra, Tom Alter, Rajat Kapoor, Vikram Gokhle, Suhasini Mulay, Shreevallabh Vyas, Gaurav Dwivedi, Reema Vohra.
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