Ram Setu barely floats despite promise in its premise!

Akshay Kumar as Dr. Aryan Kulshrestha in Ram Setu. Photo: Hype PR 

Was the mythical Ram Setu, the bridge that Lord Ram’s army of vaanars (apes) built to go to Lanka (Sri Lanka) now, as mentioned in Ramayan, for real? The Adam’s Bridge, which exists at the same spot uncannily, is composed of floating stones. It is placed just below sea level and now, a businessman named Indrakant (Nassar), who owns a shipping line, wants it to be removed by the Indian government so that ships will not need to circumvent it and thus save on time and fuel. Why other shipping lines have never objected to its existence is never explained, of course!

How can the tycoon accomplish this? Simply by proving that the bridge has no connection with Lord Ram, and that it predates his existence. An elaborate setup is done aboard one of his liners, complete with modern techniques and the best scholars and technicians in the field, all, of course, overseen by project manager Bali (Pravesh Rana).

A credible authority is needed for backing all this, and Indrakant chooses Dr. Aryan Kulshreshtha (Akshay Kumar), he of the unruly long hair and salt-and-pepper stubble, who having done some commendable work in Afghanistan that happens to involve Gautam Buddha and ancient Indian kings, is a confirmed atheist. He is a rationalist who does not look beyond what he terms “facts” and “science”, which becomes a perennial source of argument between his teacher wife (Nushrratt Bharuccha) and him.

The government people use Dr. Aryan to propound the theory to the public that Ram Setu is no bridge that Ram built but a natural formation, and the poor man is even attacked and his young son Kabir (Anngad Raaj) is insulted in school, as he is playing with the sentiments of millions. Indrakant hires Dr. Aryan’s services to actually do research at the location and prove conclusively that Ram Setu is a natural, not man-made creation, granting that Lord Ram actually existed!

On board his ship are his hired experts like Dr. Sandra Rebello (Jacqueline Fernandez) and Dr. Gabrielle (Jennifer Piccinato) and a full team of scuba divers. Dr. Aryan takes up the mission, and soon finds that his theories were wrong and that the Ram Setu does not predate the propounded period of Lord Ram’s life, but in fact, supports it. Since this is inconvenient for the investor in the conspiracy, he is sought to be eliminated along with Dr. Sandra and Dr. Gabrielle, who have scientific findings that back all this. An unknown man in a speedboat, AP (Satya Dev), rescues the trio, who have been left to die, and helps them throughout.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court has to pronounce a judgment on the issue of whether they can allow the demolition of the underwater bridge. And now, Dr. Aryan, who is exploring fresh possibilities that can prove his new findings, has to race against time—and against those out to destroy him.

A revolutionary premise like this needed expert handling, and over here, Abhishek Sharma, director of such winners like Tere Bin Laden and the milestone Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran falls a tad short in his writing. Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s ‘creative producer’ inputs are on the same lines as his ineffectual handling of Samrat Prithviraj earlier this year. The script is too absurd on occasion, simplistic and over-convenient in many points, and does not explain many key points, like how Dr. Aryan reaches the Supreme Court from Sri Lanka in a few hours, or how he happens to know so much about Ram, Sri Lanka and the Ramayan when he is an atheist!

The court sequence, in the way it culminates, may be gallery friendly but on the whole comes across as ridiculous, especially in the way the trial plays out and the judges behave! The counsel defending the Ram Setu also looks totally inept.

As a director, thus, Abhishek falls short in these areas despite the impressive scale of the film and some terrific action and dramatic sequences (Aseem Mishra’s cinematography is spectacular throughout, and the VFX by NY VFX Waala and Shock & Awe Films is mostly impressive). The chase sequence in Sri Lanka and the seas, and the way Dr. Aryan obtains the floating rock and also survives the Taliban attack in the beginning are excellently done.

The background music by Daniel B. George serves its purpose, while the sets of the ship (production design by Amrish Patange and Dayanidhi Patturajan with art direction by Revati Raman) are superb. Given the material, the editing (Rameshwar Bhagat) is well-done.

Akshay Kumar is in fine fettle and Satya Dev Kancharana as AP gives excellent support. That touch of AP writing his expense account in a diary is interesting. Jacqueline Fernandez is decent as Dr. Sandra, but Nushrratt, in a flimsy role as Mrs. Aryan, not only looks too young to be his wife but barely gets to act. Nassar is his usual self, and Praveshh Rana tries to do his best, but is inconsistent. Jennifer Piccinato impresses.

On the whole, the film barely stays afloat, unlike the floating rock that plays such an important role, and barely has grip except in parts. Viewers will find both identification and empathy with the film difficult despite the end-vindication of their faith and the unusual twist in the end.

Rating: **1/2

Cape of Good Films, Lyca Productions, Zee Studios, Amazon Studios, Abunduntia Entertainment present Ram Setu Produced by: Aruna Bhatia, Vikram Malhotra, Subaskaran, Ashish Singh & Mahaveer Jain  Directed by: Abhishek Sharma Written by: Abhishek Sharma & Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi Music: Ajay-Atul, Vikram Montrose, Chandan Saxena & Ved Sharma Starring: Akshay Kumar, Jacquline Fernandez, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Nassar, Satya Dev Kancharana, Jennifer Piccinato, Praveshh Rana, Anngad Raaj & others






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