Sunday, February 12, 2006

Rang De Basanti

So well i blabbered something about Bhagat Singh in last week's blog. And is this day and age of pop patriotism, the mind invariably veers to the recently released Rang De Basanti in that case. I thought the movie would have evoked some strong reactions(which it did). I thought people would have been ambiguous about it (which they weren't). The movie has been almost universally liked, with India Today being the lone dissenting voice in its review. Since everyone is an armchair critic, and I fancy my reviewing skills too, here goes. Ladies and gentlemen...(crash, bang, drumroll) first formal(if it can be called so) movie review.

My one sentence evaluation, when the movie was nearing completion, as I have often repeated to all my friends, was 'first three quarters is the best Hindi movie of the last 5 years, last quarter grates terribly, especially when put alongside the previous 2- 2.5 hours.' Rakeysh Mehra gets it spot on for the larger part of the movie. The charming everyday wit of the dialogues, the brilliant balance between the real (the canteen with the 'slap it to work' TV) and the realistically apsirational (the off-road antics, cool no?), the character sketches et al were terrific. And this is before we talk about the really wonderful aspects - the great acting by each one of the lead cast members, the consistent distribution of role and screen-time to each one of the characters, the camerawork(a recreation of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre is absolutely thrilling), the seamless transitions between the past and the present(and thus the reel and the real), and the gradual, absorbing transformation of the youngsters' attitudes. But then it comes apart. Right from when the defence minister describes the dead pilot in derogatory terms and Soha Ali Khan says the apocalyptic "Maar Do'. For some time, I thought it was probably a sequence from someone's dream or something (did they really show this bunch of guys from DU assasinating the Def. Min., did they really?!). Alas, it wasn't and the movie trapped itself in a downward spiral then onwards. Some ludicrous reels later, the movie jarrs to a halt.

There is a line of thought which says that the message of the movie makes up for the melodrama. But melodarama isn't really the problem. Life, I believe can be a lot more melodramatic than fiction, and when rightly presented melodrama makes for intensely satisfying cinema. The problem is trivialisation of a great idea, unintentionally mocking the very message that the movie sought to propagate. The first half of the movie is positively visceral in its visual and substantive content, it made me challenge my long held beliefs of evolution(as opposed to revolution) as the only method of sustainable change. That is the power of great cinema. Two hours that can rattle two decades of multi-layered thought. The final few reels though, unfotunately, make a mess of the execution of that message of revolutionary change. And by the time the excruciatingly stretched parallels between the acts (and death) of the great revolutionaries and these young rebels with a cause draws to a close, the movie fails to do requisite justice to itself, its message, and my expectations, expectations which had been raised solely due to the previous reels.

Incidentals - the music is great(duh). Personal favourites being the bass and acoustic guitar driven 'khalbali', and 'luka chhippi' , the song which comes after Madhavan's death (what lyrics). The firangs in this one can (for a change) actually act. Aamir Khan looks a lot younger than he's looked in recent times. It is surprising that the movie has yet not run into any trouble, even in the BJP-run states. Kunal Kapoor should go a long, long way.

Rating - 7/10. Yes, I use a 10 point scale. And I'm unafraid to use diffrences of half points. Those who know me will tell you that it's uncharacteristic of me to stop at a single decimal point.

Random assertion - Linkin Park is the best band to come out of the Nu-Metal era. Chester Bennington, and lyrics which seem like they took atleast some reasonable time to write are the qualities that set them apart from the poop crowd.

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