If I read one more review of Rang de Basanti¸ I shall scream. Which, of course, is the cue to dole out my own Rupeej Eight-tee Shebhen hwaarth on the subject. As my grandfather used to say after watching some film on television (this, girls and boys, was back in ’lebenteen-’lebenty, when not only did we have only ONE channel [OK, two, even], teleebhishaan was only in black and white. No, not because we hadn’t got a colour TV, my grandfather was big on modern gadgets, I remember he got us a Sonodyne music system with super 9-ply boxes and a separate amp back when stereo sound was a luxury, but because DD only telecast in black & white … now where was I?) .. well yes, as my grandfather used to pronounce gravely, “Good book”.
(Which again requires an explanation of the cultural context. Back in the days when my grandfather started on the bioscope, a film had to have (gasp!) a story. Forget about films riding on “bra-panty” ensembles [Supriya Debi was almost branded a loose woman because she wore “slibhless blaauj”, the Dark Ages precursor to halter-tops], forget about “slick” and “technique”, films were based on BOOKS. Real, printed, honest-to-goodness books with stories in them. Usually by acclaimed authors [the majority of whom were Bangali, from Sharat Chandra to Premendra Mitra]. As a result, films were also referred to as “boi” or books. Haven’t heard this usage for some decades now, wish I had, it brings back so many memories)
So the story on Rang de Basanti is that it has a story. A slightly far-fetched story especially in the latter half, great gaps in credibility, but nevertheless an entertaining story. All you self-appointed guardians of the public good who pontificated on the deleterious influence of such popular media, take a break. It’s a film. It’s not a manifesto. It’s not an instruction manual. Or a Do-It-Yourself guide. These guys made the film so people would PAY to watch it, in the hopes that these paying people would enjoy the film and then go tell other people to watch it (and pay some more) because it’s good fun.
And oh yes, because it has Aamir Khan. I mean, an Outlook article on the film? Get real, Mr. Vinod Mehta. I would humbly submit that you (or Namrata Joshi, for that matter) don’t give a damn (or a ‘big rat’s ass’) about the film in itself, you ran the article (with a mention of the 2234 blogs that have posted about it) because right now the film is news, it’s what your readership WANT to read about. It’s news because it IS entertaining, it IS a hit. And deservedly so.
Some things about the film are irritating. The technique of jump-cuts with a blurred background is done so often, my eyes turned to jelly. The entire friends-having-a-great-time-together angle went on a bit too long. Siddharth Suryanarayan was not only good but even hot (girls, switch off Kunal Kapoor, get your tongues back in your mouths and wipe the drool off the table), but in his big scene with Anupam Kher he didn’t quite cut it.
The assassination was too easy, the get-away was incredible. Rakeysh Omprakash, have you ever tried to get into AIR these days, let alone with a gun? (Though the RJ – Gaurav? [no, Cyrus Sahukar*]– is woven into the script very well, it’s not till the AIR sequence that we realize why he appeared in the beginning) The film-within-the-film would have been intolerable, it’s just too damn reverential. We don’t need to be reminded of the parallels every now and then, credit the viewer with some intelligence. Aamir Khan could pass as 32; if he wanted 25 he should have thought of Botox. And it’s only cerebral types like your FC who lose that much hair at 25 (he said with characteristic modesty).
BUT on the whole this is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in some time. The dialogue is crisp, it’s real (kudos to Prasoon Joshi), some of the lines resonate. When Aamir is in the jeep, venting to Alice Patten about why he still hangs around the University five years after passing out, it’s half a generation speaking. (Where are you today, Shibu Goon?) What’s more, it successfully treads the fine line between being hip and being real and only in one scene (Madhavan’s last scene) does it teeter on the edge of preaching. Even the radio callers are good.
Aamir is outstanding. Of course, that’s a given. We don’t expect him to emote through epileptic fits or stutters (now if only he were half as smart OFF-screen as the other guy). The surprise is that EVERY member of the ensemble is good. Not just good, but very very good. Atul Kulkarni, reciting Sarfaroshi ki tamanna, takes his entire theatre experience, flexes it, rubs it in the faces of the Masti-multiplex-moron types and walks away leaving them sitting on the pot with their pants round their ankles. Alice Patten is a revelation, Soha actually has a real role and does it justice, Sharman Joshi is brilliant in a role that could easily have been overlooked, Kunal Kapoor is developing a screen presence. Kir(r!)on Kher, Waheeda Rehman, Om Puri – the supporting cast need no commendation, these are old troupers who could do it in their sleep but are thankfully wide awake and on the job (though Waheeda Rehman is in a coma through most of the second half!)
The narrative structure of the film is good. Even the opening sequence holds the attention, sets the stage for the story that follows. The story-within-a-story is used for some very good transitions. One that stayed in my mind - when Kunal Kapoor runs up the stairs to his room as Aslam and emerges on the terrace as Ashfaqullah. Towards the end, Aamir is on screen in one frame as both DJ and Azad, a shot that may be trashed as corny but which succeeds because of the situation. Some of the sequences are actually touching, even for a hard-boiled old cuss like me.
The camerawork is a joy when it’s not being self-indulgent. The sound design is bloody brilliant. A.R Rehman finds himself again with this score. You pays your money and you chomps your popcorn for nearly three hours, youse comes out feeling all warm and toasty, then youse even gets to debate the social relevance of what is, after all, a commercial exercise. What more you want, chief, eggs in your beer?
I can unreservedly pay this film my highest compliment. Paisa vasool.* - thanks to "The Thing inside Me"