Monday, January 30, 2006

Rang De Basanti


Movies with a patriotic theme have to walk a tightrope. To really work, they must appeal to our heart and ignite, so to speak, a patriotic fervor in us. But they must do this without overdoing the jingoism factor. Rang De Basanti walks the tightrope perfectly in the first half. It loses its balance a little and stumbles a little in the second half but not enough to fall off the rope.

Sue(Alice Patten), a documentary filmmaker in London, is the granddaughter of one of the commanders in the British army during India’s freedom struggle. From one of his diaries, she learns of the bravery of freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad and wants to make a film about them. Travelling to India, she meets her friend Sonia(Soha Ali Khan), studying in Delhi University, and through her, gets introduced to some more of her friends(Aamir Khan, Sidharth, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi). Soon Sue realizes that finding actors to play the parts in her film is not an easy task.

The film is a patriotic film crossed with a coming-of-age film. So instead of love, friendship, romance and all those other emotions that the protagonists in any film from the coming-of-age genre usually discover, the youth here ‘grow up’ by discovering a love for their country. The film gets everything right when the group is growing up but once they have grown up, there is a tendency to oversimplify and dumb down things.

RDB has one of the freshest stories I have seen. The plot device it uses - the British filmmaker trying to film a documentary - to provide the connection between the past and the present is very innovative. The way the screenplay has been developed to draws parallels between the different time periods is brilliant and leads to some exhilarating moments as we see the present mirroring the past. It conveys, in a rather different way, the same message conveyed by Indian - though the enemy might have changed, the fight must go on…

Everything works in the first half. There are genuine laughs; there is sweet romance; and there are goose bumps as we realize where the story is going. With likeable characters, bright colors, trendy music and fast cuts, the film radiates a sense of fun even as the patriotism factor is slowly brought in. But there is subtlety in subtlety in the way it is presented and nothing is pushed down our throats. We believe in the gradual changes the group undergoes and we understand the factors causing the change.

It is almost as if the director realized during the intermission that the film might be too high-concept and appeal only to the urban, college-going crowd. So he ends up dumbing it down it so that it could have a wider reach. So we get a simplistic scandal that we can relate to, a straightforward way for the protagonists to get drawn into it, Hindu-Muslim bonding, a single bad guy representative of the ills of the country and unbelievable happenings. Even the past-present, parallels, which I loved initially, end up being overdone until I felt like screaming “Yes, I get it!” There are certainly some powerful moments and effective sequences but these don't have the same effect as before because of the over-emphasis.

Aamir has a remarkable ability to generate myriad expressions with just a small twitch of his face. I first noticed that in Dil Chahta Hai and he does the same here. He is delightful in the first half as he goofs around. His expressions when he realizes Alice speaks Hindi or in a hilarious one-sided wrestling match are superb. And when he breaks down in a key scene in the second half, it is completely natural. An underplayed, great performance. Sidharth has as much screen time as Aamir and makes a mark. The most cynical in the group, he is able to convey intensity and sadness remarkably well without a need for words. Alice Patten speaks in Hindi effortlessly and makes us believe in her passion. There is not a false step from any of the others in the cast either and they fit their roles perfectly.

Songs are woven into the screenplay wonderfully and a couple of them are placed perfectly to increase the effectiveness of the happenings on screen. Rahman’s background score is also soaring in many of the sequences. The cinematography is gorgeous and the scenes in Punjab give us the feeling of being right there.

20 Comments:

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Kaps said...

I saw this on Monday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although I agree that there were some flaws in the second half, they have somehow ensured that the ship dies not sink

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger Bart said...

This is certainly a good attempt.But the cliches aplenty in the second half would include: a) Hindu and Muslim characters coming together (as pointed out by you), b) The Hindu orgn backstabbing the honest party worker, c) What Sidharth does to his father, d) Sharman Joshi fight and truce with Sidharth, e) the climax sequence of Sharman Joshi and so on..
I thought it dumbed down totally in the end that I liked Yuva's ending better...
Anyhow, a good original hindi flick offlate with good, funny chitchats and repartees interspersed throughout..

 
At 12:12 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

kaps, yep the ship defly did not sink. i think this is one movie where the flaws in the 2nd half were magnified simply because the 1st half was so good and set us up for something superior. overall the movie was much better than other crap coming out but seen on its own it had its share of flaws.

bart, could list a few more but didn't since i didn't want to reveal more about the story :) but yeah, there were some very nice lines and conversations scattered throughout...

 
At 4:22 AM, Blogger Prasanna said...

gr8 review balaji.Vent seen this movie yet.Guess i get to see it soon.Was Madhavan also in the movie?Saw a few snaps in which Madhavan too was there.No mention abt him.I hvnt come across a single review bad abt this movie.And any movie which has Aamir in it is turning out to be gud ones. I just loved him in DCH.Have watched this movie countless times.

 
At 4:58 AM, Anonymous F e r r a r i said...

Prasanna,

Maddy is in a guest role. Its funny to see maddy as a air force officer with tummy and all :-)

 
At 5:39 AM, Blogger Me too said...

Aiyoo!! Poraamaiya irukkudhuya, ungala paathu!! God knows when I will get to see this movie. Even at the rate at which Aamir does his movies, I don't catch up! ('The Rising'-e innum paakale!)!

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

On eof my fave movies of Aamir was Earth. Never realised how versatile he can be until i saw him scouting outside the house when they pull Nandita...sent a chill down my spine :)

yet to watch RDB :( Mr vetoed it in favour of vettiyadu Vilayudu, whenever that hits NE coast :)

 
At 11:06 AM, Anonymous ram said...

namma iyengarvall pathi onnumey sollala, review-la?

btw, bb, think i wrote abt this in your review of black...your lengthier reviews, where you go into a little more detail, are very well-written...RDB is a case in point...keep up the good work...

 
At 11:08 AM, Anonymous ram said...

kumari, that image from Earth is unforgettable...the way he expressed his pent-up rage was incredible...

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Balaji-

Haven't had a chance to watch it yet, was waiting to read your review first, before we hit the theatres...

Why haven't you mentioned anything about my favorite Madhavan? Isn't his role significant?

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Yes, I had the same question as mitr.. why no mention of Maddy?.. Yeah, I know his role is a cameo.. but yenna irundhaalum namma ooru aaLu illaiyaa?.. Of course, considering you write so many blog posts and reviews on tamil movies and tamil stars.. Maddy-ya vittaa eppadi? :-)

On a tangent, Mani padam paththi onnum pEchche illaiye indha blog-la?.. Mani, enna old news-aa yenna? :-)..

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram/mitr/sandya, maddy had a guest role. i thot he was OK but ferrari sonnadhu right. big tummy made more obvious by a leather jacket :)

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger TamilPonnu said...

B, I'm gonna see it tomorrow.. Cant wait.

Thanks for the review.

-P

 
At 4:54 AM, Blogger Maverick said...

Nice movie !! Was surprised to see Siddaarth getting more screen space. More than even Aamir Khan !!!

 
At 7:49 PM, Blogger Jam said...

Hey there,

For me, more than Aamir, Sidharth was the actor revealing himself in RDB. Although his debut in Boys and Aayutha Ezhuthu provided him with opportunities to work with pretty much the best directors in the industry, this guy has seriously come a long way in RDB. Rakeysh Mehra has used this guy in a way like no other director can probably ever can. Can't wait for the next one from Sidharth.

Cheers...........Jam

 
At 7:03 AM, Anonymous rekhs said...

hey guyzzzzzzzzzzz back fm ripvan winkle's land..just wanted to say i xist, ram and balaji:)and will try my darn best to b a regular reader:0

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger ashwin said...

great review as usua,but 1 wonders y siddarth smokes much!Definite change from the million rubbish hindii flicks produced every year

 
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