Not a single scene, line or character is wasted in the film. In fact each character is used to the maximum by employing the fitting metaphors and allegories. Each line carries so much weight that the film packs more than thrice the film’s length in it.  The screen time is so judiciously used that one can feel how serious the film is both for its makers and viewers. It is one rare Indian film that invites the viewer to take part in the film and not just sit back and wait for things to happen. A truly multi-layered film that delivers different amounts of entertainment, thought and excitement depending on the viewer’s perception and perceptibility.

The quality of the techniques employed in the film has “class” written all over. The music in the film never becomes emotionally manipulative as less confident directors would have opted to use. Kamal uses the right amount of amplitude and tempo for the music that Ilayaraja has given which ranges from classical Carnatic, Hindustani and Lavni to western classical and choir music. The compositions were done using the Budapest orchestra and symphony group in Hungary. Alternatively, silence is also used effectively in many places. Being a period film, Art direction becomes vital for description of the story. Sabu Cyril has taken care of that big time. Right from the old Pears calendar in Birla House to the British cement advertisement in Calcutta, from the Tanjore paintings in Srirangam to  the vehicles and instruments in the cities, not one object or concept is anachronistic or out of place.

Costume designer Sarika Haasan cruises through the project, probably her biggest yet. The costumes range from traditional Iyengar, Bengali and Marathi to conventional British and Gandhian. Her work perfectly provides the soul for Kamal Haasan’s narration. Thiru’s camera work comfortably underlines the emotions that the director wants to convey. Employing high and low angle shots to respectively contrast the saviour and the saved, the majority and minority and the violent and non-violent, the cinematography is effective in capturing the romantic and physical closeness of humans and also the emotional alienation and friction between individuals.

It is just a cliché to talk about the greatness of Kamal Haasan’s performance. I will just skip that and assure you that Hey Ram will easily count in his top five performances ever. With an army of India’s finest grade-A actors that includes Nasseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Girish Karnad, Hema Malini, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Atul Kulkarni, one cannot complain about the performances. All the actors have dubbed for themselves, though making it difficult to follow at times, adding to the depth of the characters.

Perhaps the biggest asset to the film is its refusal to employ black and white characterization. Right from Gandhi to Govardhan, no body is projected as an all good person and everybody has their own selfish reasons in their life. As these flawed yet lovable characters lead their routine lives, Saket, another deeply flawed character, completes his pitch perfect character arc. A rare thing to see in Indian films is this transparent treatment of their characters.

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. And a film is worth a 1000 pictures. I say a movie like Hey Ram is worth a 1000 films. With the help of his top grade technicians, his most personal and riveting script, fabulous performances and brilliant direction, Kamal Haasan has woven a film that is truly anti-violent and makes a heart felt appeal to stop the atrocities carried out in the name of God.

“Hey Ram” is not only the call of the victims towards God for help, it is also one man’s cry to himself, to find the reason for his spiritual disappearance and the quest to restore humanity and peace within him and outside him. The film, way ahead of its times, was a box office failure but will be hailed as a classic decades after its release. It will be recognized as the turning point of Indian filmdom and these two words will resonate as the Vande Mataram of Indian cinema: Hey Ram!

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