Monday, January 30, 2006

Review of Rang de Basanti

I watched the movie on thursday itself the day it was released. I took this long to pen this reaction down because I thought letting the movie sink in, would help me make a better judgement.

The movie was billed as a youth film and then an Aamir Khan film. Two interesting things, the last two of AK's films all had British chicks in them, Mangal Pandey and Lagaan. Mangal Pandey was obviously ignorable, irnoically I do not remember the British actress in the film either. So the big QUESTION, what is with Aamir and the British! There are allegations that Aamir is the father of a love child from a British journalist, which he denies.

The British girl in this film is Alice Patten. According to media reports and her surname, she is the daughter of Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong in 1997, when sovereignity was returned to China after 150 years. The British had secured Hong Kong from China in 1839-40 after the First Opium war. This was so because in trade with China, the British realised that they wanted a lot of Chinese products but the Chinese did not want any of theirs. So to balance trade the only commodity the British could supply was opium which they did despite the Chinese government's protest and the opium was outsourced from India. The opium that the British supplied to the Chinese market was grown in India and the politically correct Tata family was one of those biggest opium merchants.

The digression was my own personal quirk and not so unrelated because the movie in question is about being aware of your past. Rang De Basanti has had great collections in this extended weekend run. Most of the people I have talked to have loved the film and in my opinion not without reason.

Despite a slow paced first half the movie succeeds in building characters, registering their political/apolitical positions and their incredulous reactions at Bhagat Singh's life and times which sets them thinking. It is the second half in which ths script writers hard and patient work bears fruits when a group of lazy, unemployed youth realise their duties as citizens. A personal tragedy makes cynicism a crime. The plot is executed very persuasively with great acting from the actors. Rang de Basanti, could be called the Dil Chahta hai meets Hazaar Khwaisein Aisi film. Though its political message, does not have the sophistication that Hazaar Khwaiseain had. In fact that was my major issue with the film. To assume that the Indian youth are uninterested in their country is a gross travesty that only the Bombay Film industry can perpetuate. The current generations ambition to success/ money/power are as important a contribution to the country as Bhagat Singh's probably was. The more important questions is that of morality. Sucess but at what price?

Being involved in politics and having an active concern for the country is not the only way to be a good citizen. Being a good docter, an engineer or countless other professions are important ways to give to the country too. This important distinction is not clarified in the film. From the film, one gets the impression that the only way to give is by cleansing politics. Thus, while it is a commerical Hindi film and should not be expected to go into such debates, considering the positives of this film, such a clear stand and philosophy would have been an amazing entertaining mix with a political message.

Rakesh Mehra who had earlier impressed with the complex Ak's proves his worth as a man breaking new ground. The star cast are all extremely competent. But I think the script doesnt allow the character of Kunal Kapoor much footage. Siddarth, the guy who plays Anupam Kher's son in the film is brilliant. Aamir does his job pretty well and fits in with the crowd much to his credit as well as the script especially given his star status. But in my opinion in such camaraderie movies, it would be advisable to leave out such big stars, for the benefit of the film. Soha Ali and Alice Patten also do a good job. The lines in this movie crackle with energy and freshness. One of the highpoints of the movie are when Aamir's character flirts with Alice Patten's character in Punjabi assuming she does not understand it. The reactions to Bhagat Singh's life and his writings about giving life for the country are something we can all identify with.The parallel drawn with General Dyer (the man responsible for Jallianwala Bagh massacre) and the corrupt venal political leaders is a master stroke even if it was not developed.

Many have expressed reservations about the manner in which the film concludes. But in my opinion,in context of the political message that flows out of the film, the climax was justified and very well executed.

The final word is that it is a great film, with a lovely message and extremly entertaining. Go watch it. These years are probably the most exciting years for Hindi films and Rang de Basanti is part of that intellectual process.


Abhigyan said...

Guys i know Satya fairly well, and believe me I thought he had totally degenerated and lost it. But it is when you read stuff like this that you think there is still hope.

I think the guy who captured RDB best was another Patna-based critic Subhash K Jha, it might not be great cinema but it is mightily different. Outlook further accentuated the feeling by calling it "New Wine in New Bottle". I sometimes agree with the accusation on Aamir of being a pseudo-intellectual, but he has managed to simply shut me down by continously acting in path-breaking movies. While people remember Lagaan and Dil Chahata Hai, for me the turning point was Sarfarosh - one of the most intelligent thrillers of Indian cinema, which did not call the enemy as "Padosi Mulk" but instead Pakistan, and thankfully also met box-office success.

Coming back to RDB, the sheer juxtaposion of the present with the past is a masterstroke. I agree with Satya, while many have considered the climax weak, for me the movie comes alive in the coimax. I found the lathi-wielding and the song at India Gate a bit cumbersome and far-fetched, but what works for the climax is the reinvention of the an old reality. Those who have seen Raj Kumar Santoshi's decent effort on Bhagat Singh would know that the primary efforts of the revolutionaries was actually to spread their message. While they managed to do it in a gagged and relatively primitive India, in today's environment of media boom, the use of radio for the same purpose was extremely imaginative.

I thought both Aamir and Siddharth were brilliant. Madhavan is one of the most dependable actors going around. And the counterpoint to Satya's feelings on Aamir is that he actually never manages to overshadow his gang. Apparently for all marketing efforts using the movie, Aamir refused to appear alone (check out the Coke ad using RDB). And after seeing the film one knows why. If a star's noble mission is to attract eyeballs for a good film to put it in the blockbuster genre, them Aamir scores a perfect ten. After all, don't forget that an equally brilliant Hazaar Khwaishon Aisi was a flop.

xanjukta said...

Leni to hai hi, after yesterday's plan...i'm sorry to see that you didn't mention Kunal Kapoor taking off his shirt, sending countless kitchy girls, a part of me included, into a tizzy. As Shayari said to Raj, "Bapu, bolu hu na, Kunal Kapoor jach gi hai, suthra chora hai, kara do na byah?"

And the fact that espite being in some Institute for International Studies (IHC sic!), none of the guys talked sense...we're in SIS, and we do talk about shit like Bush te Ahmedinejad te Englishtani DBE...

So basically they wasted their lives while in college, couln't mourn their dead friend; i mean really isn't more intimacy on the cards when you cry...i don't believ Amir's character just went off to sleep in Sue's lap that night, (tu jaanta hai yaar kya hota hai); killed a political type; then went on All India Radio, (what about Radio Mirchi etc.), fifteen minutes of fame in Warhol's words and then got badly massacred by some police unit (they never come on time do they, thus allowing them to speak their mind), thereby wasting their lives again....

All said and done, wasn't it cool to dance to the song your words: Bhagat Singh must have never imagined the song in a club where some people were making out....and dancing.

Baas, aur kya, this is our brand of patriotism, i guess?...Mera dhinchak rang dhinchak de dhinchak basanti dhinchak dhinchak dhinchak....