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.