Friday, February 24, 2006

The Rang De Basanti Experience

WARNING: Spoilers ahead...proceed at your own risk :-)

I had pretty much made up my mind that I would like Rang De Basanti. After all, I have always liked Aamir and his movies (well, most of them anyway!). And I adore Atul Kulkarni. Rakeysh (what's with the spelling!?) OmPrakash Mehra had impressed me quite a bit with the strange, dark and very unusual Aks...I was eager to see his next offering. A R Rahman's tracks were already a rage. Did I need anymore reasons to head to the nearest multiplex?

RDB has a story to tell. It is not a rip-off of some Hollywood or Korean film. But the story is told at a rather leisurely pace. Is it a patriotic film? Yes and no. Is it a coming of age film? Yes and no. Is it a fun film? Yes and no. Is it a serious film? Yes and no. The movie is essentially split between intermissions as "A comedy caper" and "The Awakening" with a rather convoluted ending.

The story begins with the young British filmmaker Sue (Alice Patten) stalking off her budget-hit job to India to make a film on the young revolutionaries who so impressed her grandfather, a jailer, with their calm in the face of imminent death. In Delhi, aided by Sonia (Soha Ali Khan), she runs into DJ (Aamir Khan), Karan (Siddharth), Sukhi (Sharman Joshi), and Aslam (Kunal Kapoor). With them and the saffron-hued Laxman Pandey (Atul Kulkarni) who joins them later, she hopes to realize her dream of a making a film on Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Rajguru, Ashfaq, Bismil among others. Contrary to Sue's expectations, the youth have no feelings for their country. India is a no-hoper where corruption is rampant, and nothing can be done to salvage the situation, they believe. They even poke fun at Sue's attempts to make a film, till they come around. As they play the historical characters, their perspective about the present, and their own role in it, changes forever. This, in a nutshell, is what the movie is about.

Madhavan, as Sonia's IAF pilot fiancĂ© is the voice of conscience. It’s his unfortunate death in a MIG 21 crash, knee-jerks the group into action. They take it upon themselves to avenge his death. How they do it is where the confusion comes in. The graph of the transition from being no hopers to believers should have been more like a curve rather than the drastic step which it seems like. It also gives a dangerous message to everyone... in a civic society, how are we going to decide who are the Bhagats who will rightfully kill the Scotts and who are the Nathurams. It is here that the film sends the wrong vibe.

I couldn't help but think of the characters to be foolish to juxtapose Bhagat Singh's movement to what they were planning to execute in the hope of producing similar results!!

The cast, besides Aamir Khan (let me get back to him later), was quite a pleasant surprise. I liked Kunal Kapoor in Meenaxi, and in RDB he doesn’t disappoint. Sharman Joshi was a revelation. It about time he rises above B-grade movies like Style, and joins the big league. Alice Patten was brilliant (even though her Hindi was too shuddh at times). Soha Ali Khan was a big surprise. Until RDB I hadn’t seen any of her movies so I didn’t have any expectations from her. She definitely is a chip off the old block! Atul Kulkarni unfortunately didn't have much to do other than look at Aamir and Siddharth angrily from time to time. Eventually he does redeem himself, but I always expect a lot from the actor! But the real surprise was Siddharth. His underplayed, intense performance as the suave Karan was the most impressive of the cast. I particularly liked the way he handled the climax. I am told that Karan’s role was offered to Hrithik Roshan who turned it down because he wanted to play Aamir’s role. Well, your loss Mr. Roshan!

Coming to Aamir Khan, the 40 year old actor looked too old (even with his new haircut) to be someone who graduated from college 5 years back, unless of course we’re talking about a PhD here. His DJ was coarse, uncouth, loud and sometimes downright irritating! That might have been by design; in that case you have acted really well Mr. Khan. I personally think you were hamming in most parts. You need to lose about 10kgs, get some botox treatment done to fix the puffy-eyed look and please try not to look ridiculous and borderline obscene!!

A R Rahman’s music rocks, well…mostly! I didn’t care much for Paathshaala and Khalbali. In fact the Khalbali sequence could have been edited out to make the pace tighter. My personal favorite is Roobaroo. Prashoon Joshi’s dialogues are natural and the lyrics inspirational.

I feel the film is still a great one, but it lost focus somewhere in the middle of the road... and became only a shadow of what could have been... Nevertheless, congratulations Aamir, Siddharth, Sharman, Kunal, Soha, Atul, Alice! And thank you, Mr. Mehra!

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