Rang Rasiya, a film by Ketan Mehta, is based on the novel Raja Ravi Varma by Ranjith Desai, a celebrated Marathi writer. It becomes very challenging for me to review such movies, where real stories are told, or some sort of biopic is made. This movie also may not be devoid of shortcomings, but such movies celebrate the life of someone, and one gets to focus only on the story. It took more than five years to see the release of this movie in India. In Kerala, the release is further postponed.Rang Rasiya is an art-centric biopic, drama based on the colourful life of Raja Ravi Varma (19th Century), one of the greatest Indian painter of all time. The story lets us know, how he re-discovered our ancient culture for us. The movie begins with the auction of Raja Ravi Varma’s painting and then the story moves further in flash back. Ravi Varma showed his artistic capability right from his childhood days. Later, when he grows up (Randeep Hooda), he gets married to a princess and moves to her palace (as part of marumakkathayam system). Being an eccentric painter, he was inspired by the beauty around, even a maid in the palace became his inspiration. He was not born in a Royale family but the ‘Raja’ status was conferred to him by Travancore king who was very pleased with his artworks. He gets to stay in the royal palace and enjoys the colours of life with the girls, but soon is thrown out of the palace on the death of the King by the successor to the throne.
Raja Ravi Varma moves to Bombay and later on gets a big project from the Maharaja of Baroda Palace. He gets to travel all across the country and then he gets his idea of telling Ramayana, Mahabharata, rather the culture of India through his artwork. His muse was Sugandha (Nanadana Sen). Gods and Goddesses got face through his painting. He joined hands with the German printer Fritz Schleizer (Jim Boeven) and an Indian businessman Govardhan Das (Paresh Raval) to set up a lithographic printing press in Bombay to reproduce his paintings. His paintings took the icons of Hindu mythology out of the temples and royal palaces and made available to the so-called untouchables, common man. He was getting famous and respected by many people all across the country and on the other side he became the eye of the storm for many religious fundamentalists. Raja Ravi Varma had transformed by then into a highly talented and rebellious artist. He was dragged to the court for hurting the religious sentiments of people, trying to destroy the culture of our country. Story unfolds as part of court hearings.
Rang Rasiya questions that why artists are not given creative freedom. Issues viz. religious prejudices, deeply ingrained caste and class divides are also covered.The movie also mentions about Raja Ravi Varma’s illustrious protégé, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke who later became the Father of Indian Cinema (Dada Saheb Phalke).The relationship between the artist and his muse is explored so beautifully and shot so aesthetically.