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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 5.13%
Average: 3.85%
Pretty Bad: 2.56%
Total Crap: 3.85%

1 review, 72 user ratings

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Rang De Basanti
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by Abhishek Bandekar

5 stars

“No country is perfect…it needs to be made perfect”, voices a character in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s sophomore effort ‘Rang De Basanti’(Paint It Yellow). To the characters in the film however, as it is true for the rest of the youth in India, India is a gutter in which a new insect is born every minute. And if gutter be the simile of a nation, its youth is most definitely a teenage wasteland. Aimless and disillusioned, they drift towards a common end- an unknown death to an unknown existence. ‘Rang De Basanti’ bellows for a change though, demanding the youth to act and not just remain mere onlookers while their country is bent over- bureaucracy and corruption standing behind her! If that makes you wonder whether the film is angry, it is. Still, like graffiti, it delivers its message with such colourful flavour that you cannot help but remain fixed…not just in awe but reflection as well.

On the surface, Rang De Basanti might seem like a Dil Chahta Hai meets Lakshya meets Swades meets Mangal Pandey- The Rising. It is not! Aamir plays DJ, a character that resembles to his Akash of Dil Chahta Hai in many ways. He has the same carefree(not careless) attitude to life, giving two hoots to any analysis of it. The difference though is that unlike Akash, there’s an undercurrent of resignation, loss and alienation beneath DJ’s jokes and every time he drinks more than he can handle, you can taste the bitterness on his tongue. Siddharth’s Karan is like Sid of Dil Chahta Hai, again only on the surface. Karan’s silence is not contemplative, it is angry…and it is contained! Then there’s Sharman Joshi as Sukhi, the total opposite of Dil Chahta Hai’s Sameer when it comes to his luck with women but very similar in his naïveté and jollity. Add Aslam, essayed by Kunal Kapoor, a bohemian artist who expresses himself through poetry and spray-paint. DJ, Karan, Sukhi and Aslam are joyful not because they are unaware of their potential, as was with Karan of Lakshya, but because they are afraid whether their potential will be realized and their talents acknowledged once they step out of college and start dancing to the monotonous tune of life. And they don’t suffer from the internal conflict of self vs. nation that Mohan Bhargav faced in Swades. To them, patriotism is simply an island that is not on the map of reality and sacrifice- a notion that makes no sense.

Q. Why the comparison to Mangal Pandey- The Rising?
A. Rang De Basanti is also about Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Ashfaqullah Khan, Durga Vohra and Ramprasad Bismil!

Sue(Alice Patten) is a London based filmmaker. After her funding for a documentary on Indian revolutionaries is cancelled(apparently Gandhi sells, Bhagat Singh doesn’t!), she arrives in India intent on making the documentary with fresh unknowns. Her Indian contact is Sonia(Soha Ali Khan), a student of Delhi University. A hilarious mass audition later(watch a youth trying to mouth Vande Mataram with gusto, but ending up mispronouncing it), Sue meets up with Sonia’s friends- DJ, Karan, Sukhi and Aslam. In their banter and camaraderie, Sue finds her Chandrashekhar Azad(Aamir Khan), Bhagat Singh(Siddharth), Rajguru(Sharman Joshi), Ashfaqullah Khan(Kunal Kapoor), Durga Vohra(Soha Ali Khan!). For Ramprasad Bismil, she chooses Laxman Pandey(Atul Kulkarni), much to the chagrin of others. Laxman Pandey is a radical Hindu youth leader whose belief in the country’s past and its glorious freedom struggle is exploited by those over him into hatred for the Muslims. Laxman, however, appears to be the only individual who believes in sacrificing for his country, misguided may his reasons be. So begins the documentary on these revolutionaries, based on the diary of Sue’s grandfather, James McKinley, a jailor to Azad, Bhagat and the others.

Initially indifferent to the story of these revolutionaries, DJ & the gang slowly begin to realize that their life isn’t much dissimilar. The same choices stare them that faced Bhagat Singh. If the British Empire was the villain then, it is the present state of politics now. The metamorphosis is forced into immediate action however when Sonia’s beau Ajay Rathod(Madhavan), a Flt. Lt. in the Indian Air Force, is killed in a MiG-21 mishap. Tragically, rather than giving him a celebrated death for his bravery(he averted a bigger accident by not crashing his plane into a populated area after it failed) he is labelled as a novice by the Defence Minister(Mohan Agashe) who is worried lest the shady details of the purchase of old Russian MiGs become public. DJ, Karan, Sukhi, Aslam, Sonia and Laxman vow revenge and suddenly, fighting for your country and dying for it doesn’t appear all that boring and useless. It is to the script’s credit(Kamlesh Pandey) that the transformation of the youths is neither sudden nor late. Their early lack of interest is cleverly delineated in Khalbali(chaos), a brilliantly shot song that juxtaposes the group’s revelry with the grit and determination of the revolutionaries in the prison. Plus, the dialogues(Rensil D’Silva and Prasoon Joshi) are in sync with the young-lingo and that only helps get the message across without sounding archaic. The MiG-21 scam is just an excuse(and a silent doff of the hat to Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’); Rang De Basanti could’ve been just about anything else. The movie wants you to act, not just crib. It asks you to clean your own mess.

Until the third act, one can hardly recognize Rang De Basanti as a Rakeysh Mehra film. Unlike his underappreciated debut Aks, Rang De Basanti is vibrant and vigorous right till its concluding act when it shocks you with its gloom and austerity. If Mehra gave us a haunting world through Kiran Deohans’s lens in Aks, he makes Binod Pradhan give us a colourful present and a sepia past in Rang De Basanti. The cast is up to the challenge of portraying two contrasting roles. Sharman Joshi is fabulously in character as Sukhi, while Kunal Kapoor is very much the arty Aslam and the lyrical Ashfaqullah. Atul Kulkarni emotes with his eyes and were it not for Siddharth’s intense and brooding act, Atul’s would’ve been the performance to talk about. The multi-talented Siddharth(he writes, acts, directs and speaks five languages) makes a confident Hindi debut and one only hopes we see more of him. Soha Ali Khan is a spitting image of her mother, but other than that there’s little to talk of her. Alice Patten is efficient and does a good job with her Hindi lines. The crowds will come for Aamir Khan though and let’s set the record straight- Aamir was, is and will be the poster-boy for Bollywood! Here is one actor who manages to work within the commercial machinery of the industry and yet deliver quality projects every single time. Following his superb work in the misunderstood Mangal Pandey- The Rising, he amazes with his makeover into the young DJ from his mustachioed Mangal Pandey. It is Khan’s respect for the story and script that enables him to bury his ego(not that he has any) and allow his fellow actors to take centre-stage when the script demands. Which other actor would feel secure with giving a climax to a debutante? And which other actor would agree to an ending as bleak as this?

Mehra is in complete command of his craft. He succeeds in achieving the right feel to the movie- the crisp editing(P.S. Bharathi), the everyday costumes(Loveleen Bains and Arjun Bhasin), the freestyle choreography(Ganesh Acharya, Vaibhavi Merchant and Raju Sundaram) and the brilliant score(A.R. Rahman). Rahman is back in form here and gives an apt score. The fact that Mehra uses the songs innovatively and unconventionally adds to their charm. The title track and the closing Rubaroo(face-to-face) especially deserve special mention.

‘Rang De Basanti’ is also Mehra’s love-letter to Delhi. The city has been shot with sensuous laziness and it looks beautiful. As the movie faded out to an arresting final screenshot, I sincerely awaited The Who’s Teenage Wasteland to start playing over the end credits! If ‘Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi’ was a eulogy to the youth of the 70’s, ‘Rang De Basanti’ is a preface to the fortunes of this generation- one that is driven by the addiction of ambition, one that is letting life slip by. I doubt if I’ll see a better movie this year, and this is just January! If I do, then 2006 will surely be a great year for Bollywood. For the moment though, thank you very much Mr. Mehra!

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originally posted: 01/26/06 16:27:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2007 Portland Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
9/01/10 Supriyo khan This film is one of the best film of "AAMIR KHAN". 5 stars
9/24/09 shikha very romantic and superb movie 5 stars
8/29/09 brian Pretty good, but takes wa-a-ay too long to get where it's going. 3 stars
8/05/09 Me Words cannot begin to describe this movie 5 stars
8/21/08 achal madharchodo 3 stars tumhare baap ne film banai hain aisi 5 stars
9/20/07 sanjana really candle burning movie 5 stars
1/15/07 bhawana malik happy to see that it has nominated for BAFTA awards,hope 2 gt nomination in oscars as well. 5 stars
12/10/06 shabana real awards winner movie 5 stars
11/12/06 deepak really superb, words to explain 5 stars
10/07/06 yadni r_d_b is great movie i wacth movie 22 time 5 stars
10/04/06 NEO 1 of d best film ive evr SAW and i will evr SEE!!!! 5 stars
10/03/06 Rahul Phukan it is a mini masterpiece! 5 stars
10/02/06 jimmy IF u want to see variety perfomance and different movie watch AAMIR KHAN not SRK 5 stars
10/01/06 Huh It is a commercial movie with half baked ideas (Ye Banegne, Wo Banenge) with no substance 2 stars
9/29/06 ashraf hame umeed hai app ki film rdb oskar jeet ke aigi 5 stars
9/29/06 madhuri lage raho aamir bhai 5 stars
9/26/06 Shanky A potential oscar winning movie after Lagaan 5 stars
9/23/06 ashraf shaikh r.d.b is great movie& excellent acting in this film 5 stars
8/30/06 Cosmic Conundrum Direction with direction 5 stars
8/21/06 sen Bring on the oscars! 5 stars
6/17/06 milan karthik the movie is mind blowing 5 stars
6/09/06 kalpit varshney undoubtly a very good film!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/08/06 John a truly great film 5 stars
6/06/06 sohini aamir, you rock.... mindblowing man!!! 5 stars
6/06/06 sanniv excellent 5 stars
6/05/06 sarthak tripthy awesome 5 stars
5/24/06 bimbita das mind blowing moovie 5 stars
5/23/06 Vishal Exceptional! 5 stars
5/19/06 phurbaq tshering lama Fantastic! good dose for youths 5 stars
5/10/06 nik sulay i hate it thers a kiss in it 2 stars
4/22/06 tisson too good!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/18/06 Ismail Inayathulla I just saw the movie yesterday and regret y i didn't see it earlier. Motivating. 5 stars
4/17/06 D.Visishtha It's one of the best movies i've ever seen in my life 5 stars
4/16/06 Aslam havoc movie 5 stars
4/14/06 anu a different kind of revolutionary movie 4 stars
4/09/06 priyanka mishra simply amazing, intelligent script. 5 stars
4/07/06 GibinJacob if you plan to see only one film this year "make it this one" 5 stars
4/04/06 rudrajyoti great movie 4 stars
3/11/06 keyareena Haven't seen it yet, but am dying too. I think the film deserves 5 stars just 4 advertising 5 stars
3/11/06 Raunaq thank u rakesh mehra 4 makin the best film in the history of cinema! inimitable work!! 5 stars
3/10/06 Shyam Pandit Awesome cinema 5 stars
3/01/06 Ron Should go to the Oscar's next year!! One of Aamir's best!! 5 stars
2/22/06 simone it has tried to look practical but its not the concept it wanted to raise got dilutedat the 3 stars
2/19/06 Farzana First half lacks content , second half makes up for it.Impeccably directed 5 stars
2/17/06 Tapas Panda One of the few very good movies in the last couple of years 4 stars
2/14/06 prashant flawless..shud be sent for '07 oscars. ppl who didnt like it shud stick to craps like KKKG 5 stars
2/13/06 somsubhro banerjee awesome 5 stars
2/11/06 Rajendra Sharma Frist time i watch this type ultimate movie 5 stars
2/11/06 Parwez Surprise from bollywood 5 stars
2/09/06 tc arora simply one of the best bollywoody i ever saw 5 stars
2/09/06 ahmad faheem simply awsome 5 stars
2/07/06 Ritu One of the best Bollywood has ever produced 5 stars
2/06/06 sheba a good start but an equally pathetic 2nd half! a MAJOR disappointment 1 stars
2/05/06 Ashwin What a way to awaken the youth without much preaching. Kudos Mr.Mehra 5 stars
2/04/06 Barry Wow!!! 5 stars
2/04/06 hardeep singh awesome movie 5 stars
2/03/06 JOY The best Movie in Bollywood I have seen till Date 5 stars
2/02/06 purnima direction is fantabulous ,the acting is appreciable as is the story line. 5 stars
2/01/06 md a hussain beautifully protrayed characters, underplayed emotions, and gud narration 4 stars
2/01/06 peter not worth watching..bad story..bad music..bad dialogs 1 stars
2/01/06 Juliana Excellent...all stars!!! Everbody was amazing! 5 stars
2/01/06 omkar wagh i think film is definitly not worth of giving 4 or 5 stars!t 3 stars
1/31/06 Rohit ***** 5 stars
1/31/06 Raj Mind Boggling and Mind Blowing 5 stars
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