Saturday, January 28, 2006

Did I like 'Rang De Basanti'? Like is too strong a word. Did I dislike it? Dislike demands too much involvement. At best, the language and the lines hover at the periphery of my attention; at worst, it threatens to be an irritant.

Not a preachy film, yet moralistic.
Not demagoguery, yet borderline.
Not unaware, yet superficial.

I wouldn't even mind if the film were nihilistic. But it is not. What it is is a surefire attention grabber, the movie equivalent of a 30 second Amul ad. The parallels lack integrity, the homology between freedom and recapturing the essence of the Indian nation, again commits the fatal mistake of assuming an Indianness and a unity. On the contrary,ruptures in this assumed notion are what cause the very condition of conflict. And further, drawing upon Bhagat Singh and Azad assumes as legitimate the notion of violence against a valid and named oppressor. Straw dogs and straw hats. Save me from the sun.

The characters are paper warriors.
Aamir Khan is the loud, Punjabi-speaking, good-at-heart neo-bumpkin, happy and safe in the coterie of friends who admire and crowd around him. His transformation though is real, his confusions empathetic, his sadness touching. Kunal Kapoor, playing Aslam is suitably restrained, bringing as best as possible to a role that is a marginal improvement on the good Muslim citizen. Siddharth tries his hand at intensity, threatening to overplay cynicism to the point where it comes across as another Freudian childhood emitting another shaken infant. Sharman Joshi is a revelation, bumbling, joyous, confused and schizophrenic. Atul Kulkarni...hmm, now that's a tough one. Do I believe that there exist people like the role he plays? Sure. Do I think transformation is effected that easy or that late? Duh, no. This underlying appeal to humanity bothers me. Aren't we too far gone for this? Can evil sometimes not be unreasonable, out-of-control, running amok evil? Or is that not what we see? Yes I know that a constant last breath appeal to humanity is what will probably keep the human race with a voice loud enough to appeal, but for chrissakes can we move beyond good heart, bad company stereotypes? This is why I loved Abhishek Bachchan's character in Yuva so much more!!! He just was. Unreasonable. Out-of-control. The face of rage, with the power to sustain it. The difference is the difference between Mani Ratnam and Rake(y)sh Mehra. One delves even if he finally tries to wrap himself up into a neat package, the other rants in order to come to where he has already decided to be. Ptsk.

And why are Madhavan, Soha Ali Khan Pataudi, Waheeda Rehman, Kiron Kher and Alice Patton afterthoughts in this review? Well, I'm just going with the movie, what do I know?In keeping with historical authenticity, it's only the men who are at the forefront of revolution it seems. Even if the woman sounds the call, it is her fiance whose intensely righteous life triggers this reaction. I have a number of peeves with this literal obsession with the famous five, but that I will leave for another day.

In the end, do I think Rang De Basanti to be more than reasonably entertaining? Sure. Have the actors done a good job? Absolutely. Does it have glitz? Yup. Does it score well on technical mastery, comic timing, the colour of Soha Khan's kameezes, the intonations of Alice Patton's accent? Yes, yes and all yes.
Does it have soul? Only the appearance of.