Both dream and nightmare
ON MODERN DAY REBELS: Rang De Basanti
Rang De Basanti
Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Aamir Khan, Alice Patten, Siddharth, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni, Soha Ali Khan, Madhavan
Storyline: A British filmmaker who comes to India to make a film on young revolutionaries of yore finds a carefree, indifferent generation of rebels, who are destined to change during the making of the film.
Bottomline: It just cannot get better than this.
After a pleasant dream, you wake up smiling.
After a nightmare, you wake up sober brooding, thinking, hoping it never comes true. And then, you probably smile.
When Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's alarm bell `Rang De Basanti,' goes off, you will wake up to a bit of everything: the bitter and the sweet, the smile on your lips and the butterflies in your stomach, the food for thought and the cola to chill out.
Unlike anything we've seen in Hindi cinema before this, comes this light-hearted yet serious-minded, instant cult classic that could drill home a sense of nation and responsibility, into the collective conscious of the urban Indian youth.
RDB would have been an incredibly difficult film to make or even conceive, salutes to Kamlesh Pandey for the script.
But to make a script like that come alive needs super-human sensitivity. Brave old Rakeysh Mehra has achieved this.
Imagine his confidence if he uses an actor of Aamir's calibre as just one of the guys in the movie. In fact, sometimes you wonder if Siddharth is its leading man.
But the truth is that everyone in this ensemble cast has something significant to do to the narrative.
They all shine. If Aamir sweeps you with his charm throughout and has you under arrest in the scene where he breaks down, Alice bowls you over with her Hindi and presence.
Siddharth-reinvented is a revelation, the surprise package of the film. Kunal Kapoor scores with his understated performance and intensity. Sharman Joshi is instantly likeable and emotes like a veteran. Atul Kulkarni lends his soul to the role. And Madhavan and Soha make you fall in love with them and their pairing. So right from the casting, RDB seems to have got it all right.
The first half of the movie is where Rakeysh scores in his experiment: delivering the tricolour to those lost in denim.
Imagine well-orchestrated sequences of freedom struggle beautifully captured in sepia tone and set to funky rock music! Truly inventive. Binod Pradhan is likely to sweep the best cinematographer awards for the year and this movie might just be this year's India's entry to the Oscars.
The reason: RDB alternates between genres, moods, sensibilities and yet manages to keep its twin narratives cohesive and seamless.
So, MTV-meets-BBC as Rakeysh tells us two parallel stories: one about the rebels-without-a-cause of today and the other about the revolutionaries who died for one.
Midway both these narratives merge as the aimless youth find their purpose. It is exactly at this point that RDB begins to fumble.
But to give Rakeysh due credit, it is difficult to marry a realistically subtle ``Dil Chahta Hai" sensibility to a surrealistic ``Dil Se" sensibility or a docu-dramatic ``Hey Ram" or a ``Gandhi" sensibility, all within one movie.
So it does seems like a laboured effort when you force the laidback narrative with every day simplicities into a cataclysmic, dramatic plot-point, just to make the subsequent transformation of the heroes of the film, seem poetic.
But, despite the inherent inconsistency in the intended feel, the director works hard to keep the plausibility intact.
Rahman's songs turn out to be a neat alienation device but the pace slackens.
But when the music is what anthems are made of and lines so deep and visuals that enslave your soul, why would you complain?
The movie demands three hours of devoted attention because there is so much to savour, absorb and relish.
The interplay between the characters throughout is so well-crafted that despite its slow pace, the screenplay remains tight.
The pace is intentionally slow because a theme like this needs to be served carefully, and little by little, as subtly as possible. Like Anupam Kher says in the movie: ``SMS generation. Char line kya bol diya, lecture samajne lagtey hai." ("Speak four lines and the SMS generation thinks you're giving them a lecture").
The only big flaw: Though it seems like a fascinating idea to replace imperialistic villains of yesterday with the fascist politicians of today, the context is not quite the same or that simplistic. It is that political context that makes RDB a little weak.
Modern-day democracy, increasing literacy rates and an active competitive media ensuring political transparency, provides rebels of today more solutions than the ones available to the revolutionaries of yore.
As a result, ``Rang De Basanti" is great cinema but not effective as mass communication or politically correct.
Unlike `Yuva' that ended tamely with just a promise, waking you up before you can live the fantasy, RDB goes all the way.
But here, instead of making you fantasise about what heroes of today can do, it turns all that activism into a really bad dream just so that the parallel lines between the two narratives remain intact.
But again, consider this: a dream makes you go back to sleep with a smile. A nightmare wakes you up.
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