Friday, February 24, 2006

Rang De Basanti - Film Review

The latest Hindi film released here in Jakarta is ‘Rang De Basanti’, by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. The dedicated website is very funky with cool graphics and music from the film but every time you want to open a new link you have to wait for the information to load again, which is a bit tedious. As for the film, in my opinion this is another hit for Aamir Khan.

Once again Khan has involved himself in a patriotic production that is provocative, wonderfully filmed, and inspires national pride. The last film he made was ‘The Rising’ which was about the revolutionary Mangal Pandey and set in the 1800s. Khan usually carries his film projects on his own shoulders as most Hindi film stars do, but in this film it was refreshing to see that the script did not center on one character but rather 4 young friends played by Aamir Khan (DJ), Siddharth (Karan), Kunal Kapoor (Aslam), and Sharman Joshi Sukhi.

The story is centered on Sue, a British documentary maker played by Alice Patten. Motivated by a journal/dairy that belonged to her Great Grandfather who was a prison warden in India during the British occupation, she is prepared to go into production of a documentary on the subject of Indian revolutionaries. However, at the final moment her funding is pulled and the project cancelled by her company. None the less, feeling so much passion for this venture she decides to carry on to Delhi on her own and complete the documentary.

She is welcomed in India by Sonia (Soha Ali Khan, who Inny is madly in love with) and together they venture forth to find a cast. Scouring the colleges looking for 4 young men to fill the powerful roles of Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sukhdev, and Rajguru, proves to be quite challenging. They only end up meeting VJ wannabees and some sketchy characters. These make for some pretty funny scenes and give the movie a colorful edge in contrast with its heavy material.

Finally she meets Sonia’s friends (the above mentioned fellows) and envisions them as her heroes. The only problem is that these guys are stereotypical party animals with zero personal commitment and interest. However through the course of the film Sue convinces them to get involved in her project and eventually they find that they have a lot more to believe in and fight for than they expected. But to find out about that you will have to watch the movie because I really do not want to give it away and it is worth watching. Here in Jakarta it runs at the MPX cinema in Pasaraya Blok M, and the film has Indonesian and English subtitles.

I was never educated in Indian history and when I watch a movie or read an interesting article about characters such as Bhagat Singh I am excited to do some research and find out more. In this case I was not able to find too much about his compatriots but there is ample information online about Bhagat Singh (1907-1931). He was executed at the age of 23 for acts against the British occupation. I guess what one could refer to today as terrorism. Singh was also an Atheist and a Marxist which deeply contrasted to the beliefs of India’s most famous freedom fighter at present and of that time, Mohandas Gandhi. However by facing his execution without fear and using the court as a pedestal from which to be heard by his fellow Indians he was equally responsible for liberating India.

‘Rang De Basanti’ does not focus on the beliefs of Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Singh’s movement) or even his entire life but rather it shifts between footage of the documentary Sue is filming in parallel with the current tribulations of the 4 young men at hand. The gap is artistically bridged and is finally tied together in the heart wrenching climax of the film. The dialogue is intelligent and refers to the current state of corruption and uncertainty of the Indian government and ultimately challenges the Indian youth to take a stand and make a difference. The film also addresses delicate issues such as the tension between Hindus and Muslims living on Indian soil.

Worth mentioning also are the actors performances. Khan is one of the best actors in India today with true dedication to his art. Although he is a lot older than his character and fellow actors in this film, he steps up to the plate and plays his heart out. There are scenes in this movie that make it very clear he is truly in a league of his own. Alice Patten also has the opportunity to shine in this film but I felt she really lacked the passion. However I will say that she did an awesome job speaking Hindi. I think she speaks it even better than I do.

One might find this movie to be a bit too long and the story drawn out but that is a necessity in Indian cinema. It is their own style and if you want to enjoy Indian films it is something you would have to accept. Ultimately this movie attempts to make a very strong point and I believe they hit this one out of the park. If you have the opportunity to catch this on screen then take it. It would be an evening well spent.


IndCoup said...

Interesting post.

I think it's a little unfair to compare Bhagat Singh with today's terrorists though.

As far as I know, Bhagat Singh only killed one policeman; and he was an intended target.

But today's terrorist kill indiscriminately: kids, women, passers by etc.

That's a huge difference.

Avi said...

I would never call Bhagat Singh a terrorist but I am mearly hinting that there is a thin line between how people are labeled now a days. What is it really that seperates a revolutionary from a terrorist? Is it just that one kills innocent people? Who is innocent? American bombs kill innocent people all the time? Just because you and I may not agree with what that person is fighting for? I was just toying with that idea. Glad you caught it. Try and watch this movie though. Its a good one.