Monday, February 06, 2006

Nothing Great About Rang De Basanti

I wished to write this piece yesterday, but was simply unable to gather my thoughts. The post might be a bit haphazard since my mind still seems a bit confused.

Thought I was probably the last blogger in the world to watch Rang de Basanti. But, she beat me to it. Big Deal, you might say. But, with all the hoopla surrounding its release and the umpteen reviews posted on every Tom, Dick and Harry's blog, the expectations from the movie had reached a new high. The general consensus was "What? You haven't watch RDB!!!" Alright, now I have.

If a frame by frame dissection of a movie reveals infinitesimally minute loose ends, only then can it lay claim to greatness. Sadly, Rang De Basanti fails in this respect. On its surface, the movie appears seamless, without any apparent flaws and bereft of stereotypes. Scratch harder, dig deeper, scan it under a microscope and RDB gets exposed. Technically brilliant (Ah! Those sepia tones), effective characterisation backed by praiseworhy performaces, mindblowing music by A R Rahman, parallel drawn between the Bhagat Singh episode and the current happenings in the lives of the characters, etc, etc. This film has it all. Yet, it fails somewhere. Honestly, I do not know where. The je ne sais quois that constitutes great cinema is missing.

The movie attempts to tread two different paths, that of a feel-good bindaas movie a la Dil Chahta Hai and a take on social awakening a la Swades minus the preachy sermons. Unfortunately, it ends up nowhere. The insouciant humour of Akash is missing, so is the conviction of Mohan Bhargava. You neither leave your seat yelling, "paisa-vasool" nor does it chain you to your comfy multiplex seat for that extra second longer and compel you to introspect.

The first half drags on for a wee bit showcasing the carefree materialistic existence of a bunch of friends. I could find very little humour and whatever I could, found it a bit induced. And to think that the entire theatre was in splits every few seconds made me check whether my auricle was obstructing sound waves from reaching the cochlea. But, all seemed in perfect order. My only real laugh came somewhere during the second half where Mohan Agashe's character is depicted as Gen Dyer shouting orders at Jalianwala Bagh with a smirk on his face. Somehow, it seemed comical.

Where the film goes horribly wrong is in the last half-hour giving rise to a strong suspicion that the director probably got into his Aks mode. Hindi film-makers age-old obsession with a grand ending proves to be its undoing.

The transformation of the characters from self-indulgent individuals into revenge seekers gunning-for-the-Defence-Minister's-blood seemed unreal. The shift in their convictions and priorities could have been dealt with much better by employing the Bhagat Singh backdrop than through the cliched callous statements of a politician.

The means adopted by the group is, of course, open to debate. The very fact that they believe in their action made them lose my respect and whatever sympathy they had garnered. Also, in today's world where each and every move of the Govt is being tracked by media hawks, the brutal lathi charge on demonstrators and final sequence of commandoes bumping off five unarmed self-confessed non-terrorists, both in full public view, is a bit too far-fetched.

Irrespective of these flaws, the film will be a hit. As a friend of mine quipped, "The Hindi film watchers are treated to so much of mediocrity that their definition of 'Great Cinema' has plummeted."

Will the movie actually awaken the youth? Naah. What it will help popularise is the till-now-restricted-to-the-North term Behn di Taki. I prefer the good old Behnchot....

Magic Moment: The intensity in Karan's (Siddharth) eyes when he hugs Sonia (Soha) and Ajay (Madhavan) right after they get engaged. Those eyes....


Anonymous basanti said...

Entertainment is not only in the form of "Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi" or "Iqbal" (not denying that both the movies were excellent), but there is something called Production Value, which this movie definitely had. Please dont tell me you didnt carry an emotion of being slightly more responsible or even slightly more patriotic towards your country at the end of the movie! If not, then your just a rebel to the extent of being cynical!!! Nevertheless everyone is entitled to an opinion!

8:45 AM  
Blogger Surya Ragunaathan said...

@ Basanti - First of all, the stimulus that touches ur emotions and that which makes you more patriotic need not necessarily be the same for somebody else. The death of a MIG-21 pilot, does arouse the anger and wanting-to-do-something-feeling within me, but the assasination of the Defence minister as a solution for the same does not arouse my emotions in any way. And, in this movie the 'solution' to the issue is so loudly yet incompletely told that it overshadows any kinda slight patriotic feelings that might have been aroused due to the pilot's death and obviously, leaves people like me confused and the moot questions unanswered. So, production value of a film need not do complete justice to a lot many people who might think differently.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Surya Ragunaathan said...

Dhananjay, didnt really discuss the lathi charge...if you go to see it was all so exaggerated...also Waheeda Rehman -bad cameo

9:37 PM  
Blogger aShWiN said...

Aamir's ad-lib, A R Rehman's euphony, Siddharth's style and those 'sepia tones' were really amazing.
Political angle displayed, was politically incorrect and leaves us with no message at all. But seriously, how many movies are acually crafting the right message to the youth?
Brilliant movies like Swades, Yuva, Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi, etc. (with the real patriotic effect of cleaning uncouth government or the nation as whole) bomb at the box office. Atleast a movie like RDB sends across the stats. of 78 pilots who lost life because of MIG-21 blunders. Completely in agreement that killing the defence minister is no solution at all. The only effect movie will have is that ministers having more body-gaurds then required. But, would being a REBEL like that ever help? I would rather prefer Michael of Yuva (Ajay Devgan) and be poltically and technically correct for a rebel. All said and done, Ajay (R. Madhavan) quoting, "Koi bhi desh perfect nahin hota, usse perfect banana padta hai..."(hindi), wish i could quote the same for movies!
In-the-End, if you do not objurgate with my first line of this comment...RDB is worth a watch!

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Will the film actually awaken the youth?"!! Dude, which world are u living in? Whatever your and the remaining public's take on the movie, this is a stupid angle for a movie reviewer. Which fricking movie in history can claim such an honor? If movies could awaken masses, we'd have revolutions non-stop.

Consciousness changes in humanity do not happen in a jiffy. If this is kept in mind, we will not judge a movie by the efficacy of its potrayed 'solution'.

4:17 AM  
Blogger Dhananjay Shettigar said...

When readers do not agree with the blogger's point of view, they generally comment under assumed names or as anonymous. I find this a bit surprising. Anywhichways...

@ Basanti - Irrespective of what I have written above, I should say, "Nice Pseudonym". I completely agree with you that the movie had 'Production Value'. But, was that the sole intention of the director? No. He wanted to convey a message. Does the message come across effectively? I don't think so. And yes, it is among the better Hindi movies I have watched in recent times. But, it is definitely nowhere close to being labelled GREAT as what a lot of people are claiming. Coz., the film has a lot of flaws. That is my point.

@ Surya - Regarding the Karan-Sonia angle, I just read somewhere in an interview given by Rakesh Mehra, that he did not continue with the theme due to time constraints. Like an idiot, I forgot the link. I guess, that pretty much clears our suspicion. But if the director intended the subtlety, then hats off. Have to say, he managed it brilliantly well.

@ Ashwin - During the scene where Karan goes on air, I was waiting for him to say, "We killed the Minister. But, we realise that it was a knee-jerk reaction. And such actions take us nowhere." But, No. They go on to justify their act. WHY???

@ Anonymous - You are absolutely right that it is foolhardy to assume films will lead to revolutions. But, is your idea of 'Awakening' restricted to a 'Social Revolution'. All I meant was, will the film make us act a bit more responsibly towards the society? I repeat, A BIT MORE. But, as a friend of mine said, "If the movie inspires even one-in-a-million, then the directors job is done."

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Pradnya said...

You forgot to mention one thing: Aamir looks too old and overweight :)
Watched it last night. Didn't read your post earlier so that I wouldn't be biassed. But having watched the movie, and now having read your review, my comment - "EXACTLY!!"

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Pradnya said...

You forgot to mention one thing: Aamir looks too old and overweight :)
Watched it last night. Didn't read your post earlier so that I wouldn't be biassed. But having watched the movie, and now having read your review, my comment - "EXACTLY!!"

11:16 PM  
Blogger cloud9ine said...

"reaches nowhere" defines RDB perfectly..

5:33 PM  
Blogger Shruthi said...

Nopes, one blogger still left who hasn't watched RDB - me :)

8:13 PM  
Blogger Bombay Addict said...

Lovely review and I largely agree with it. I've seen the movie twice and enjoyed it more in round #2. "Enjoyed" - that's right. It didn't and won't make me want to shoot Vilasrao. Just like "Zinda" wont make me lock my boss away for 15 years.

@ Surya - Perfecto jawaab to Basanti. While I believe that drastic situations probably require extreme solutions, the youth killing ministers is just not a solution. I think even Karan also admits this in the interview in the end.

@win - touche man. That's why I saw the movie twice.

@anonymous - Fair point. Movies aren't supposed to change people. And in India ? No one has time to be a rebel. Spans of attention beat those of a fruitfly. The minute the movie's over, everyone's heading for the exit, checking their cellphones. But hang on, I dont think that takes away the right of the reviewer to examine that angle, given that this movie's main plank is "change yourself, change the system, etc".

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey dhano,

manoj shroff from jaihind bms - remember

got ur mail on quiznet - hence came on the blog - kewl job bro.

hehe - anyways - dont u find a movie gathering such strong reactions wow.

i am in the group who loved it and thought it was very funny -- when the english chick says " teri maa ki aankh" too funny.

anyways - its just a movie and if it can this response..that one will actually go through it strand by strand.-- must be good - eh - Cheers mate -

wish you luck and success in your first quiz.

Do kick ass.



11:24 AM  

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