Rangeela (1995) and the ideal boy with bad habits

Two interesting postcards I found at the Los Angeles Central Library provide an interesting framework for the character of Munna bhai in Rangeela (1995 -- the title means 'colorful'). This one confirms Munna had cultivated some bad (very bad!) habits:

If a trash can occupied the street corner at the destination of this projectile, we did not see it. So we can assume with a decent level of assurance that he littered.

No, wait, in one of my favorite scenes of the film, he did throw a cigarette to the ground. Let's treat it as fact. Shame.

He was ever prepared to quarrel.

Let's see, what else?

Rowdy he certainly was.

And he did attempt to steal (albeit very infrequently).

Yet, Munna demonstrated characteristics of 'An Ideal Boy':

He tried to read attentively (attending school wasn't applicable).

He took part in games.

There's more.

Decent taste for desi food, of which no one needed to remind him to consume, he did have...

...and the ways in which the orphan related to and respected the parents of the woman he loved...

...won them over.

Mrs. Joshi too knew Munna was an ideal boy with bad habits!

Munna is just one of several very interesting and colorful characters in a film that remains a favorite for many reasons. In addition to stellar performances by the entire cast, the music to the love triangle was A. R. Rahman's first original soundtrack for a Bollywood film. It also resurrected Asha Bhosle's singing career, and gave director Ram Gopal Verma (of whom I'm not the biggest fan) one of his biggest commercial successes.

Rangeela is the story of Mili (Urmila Matondkar), who lives with her parents (Achyut Potdar and my favorite filmy mom, Reema Lagoo) and younger brother in the same community as her best friend, admirer, and tapori (rowdy vagabond) Munna bhai (Aamir Khan). Mili, who always aspired to be an actress, goes from a supporting performer to lead actress courtesy her favorite actor Raj Kamal (Jackie Shroff), who gives her the entree. They star in a musical titled 'Rangeela' -- the film within the film -- during which Raj realizes he loves her, forming the love triangle. Does Mili love anyone? To what lengths will she go to advance her career? Will she lose a friend if she reveals it? And would it be too late if she does? Rangeela answers these questions using an excellent narrative that is extraordinarily engaging for the most part.

It's a good example of the film fraternity reflecting on itself. This is done primarily during the making of the film within the film, which, for viewers, is a delightful musical. There's director Steven Kapoor (Gulshan Grover) who has budget issues with the producer. There's the meddling assistant P.C. (Avtar Gill) who loves to talk of his greatness despite his failures. There's an actress who arrives late to the sets, refuses to step outside her comfort zone, and must be accompanied at all times by her mother.

There's involvement by the onlookers at the sets. There are audiences and their reactions to film at various points in the film's supply chain. And there are even those, including our very own ideal boy with bad habits and his best friend Pakya (Rajesh Joshi in fine form) who make a living selling movie tickets in the black market! (I take back the 'infrequent stealing' comment above :P). They all serve their purpose well. And one gets a sense of the consistency of the narrative with the opening credits, which are remarkably well done. Sample these frames of some of my favorites:

Aside: I was somewhat concerned when I saw this; I am not free of biases, but if you ever think my comments on films starring my favorites stem from blind loyalty, please wake me up! :o)

Urmila Matondkar and Jackie Shroff are very good, especially the former who is afforded more room to showcase her work. Her acting is as much the reason for her success here as the sex appeal she brings to a role that requires it (for better or for worse). She easily and consistently switches between a girl next door and glamor queen, and does it quite well.

Jackie dada is cool as he usually is. He even enjoys video games!

Aamir Khan's casting is probably the best thing that happened to the film and to the careers of everyone who stood to gain from it. His behavioral attributes -- speech, walk, wardrobe -- are extremely well depicted. But it is mostly his effortless assumption of the character which is art at its finest and a thing of beauty.

Having said that, Rangeela has much more to offer than merely excellent performances and a different approach to love triangles. The dialogue, cinematography, background score and soundtrack are brilliant. The film within the film carries some potential to diverge from the plot. My only complaint with it is that there is about a 15 to 20 minute sequence in the second half in which things becomes slightly less engaging, most likely because of one song too many.

But the songs are all so very good, I think fans of musicals would only enjoy them, which combined to win A. R. Rahman the Filmfare Best Music Director Award. This YouTube video has a medley. Udit Narayan, the voice of Aamir ever since their debuts in Qayaamat Se Qayaamat Tak (1988), gave us my favorite song of the film in Yaaron Sun Lo Zara (watch it here). Mr. Narayan's son Aditya sang in the film too, and even appeared in the title song.

Mangta Hai Kya? (watch it here) had vocals by A. R. Rahman and Shweta Shetty (who shot to fame in the pop music scene with this song) -- in addition to being an excellent song, it featured a magic love seat ride (we've crossed the carpet chasm)! :o)

At the surface, the songs featuring Mili and Raj inherently restrict the film's appeal as family friendly. However, if we skip these that were bolder than most of their counterparts during and around 1995, especially when it came to treading the fine line between the artistic and the vulgar (there's at least one song in which Shroff of all people could have used better swim wear -- his was rather silly), Rangeela is cleaner than one expects.

Many including myself credit the film as much as any other as the one in which Aamir dared to, as Robert Frost would say, take the path less traveled by. That has since indeed made all the difference. If you want to get a better understanding of why some of us believe he's the best actor by far of his generation, and one who is tremendously skilled at operating at the intersection of art and commercial film, I'd highly recommend you see Rangeela and judge for yourself. The ideal boy with bad habits will most likely make it worth your while!

Movie rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
A 5/5 for Aamir, but better choreography in the film within the film (the music some what makes up for it) could have made the overall product even better.

Music rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
Aamir and Rahman went on to work on several more soundtracks, those to 1947 Earth (1999 - discussed here), Lagaan (2001 - discussed here), Mangal Pandey (2005 - discussed here), Rang De Basanti (2006), and the upcoming Ghajini (2008).

My classification:
PG-13 (for song picturizations).

And finally:
Director Steven Kapoor in the film talks of his competition lying with directors from outside of India.

I finally saw Steven Speilberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) this past weekend, in which John Hurt's look...

...almost reminded me of Nasir Hussain's in Kashmir Ki Kali (1954)! :o)


bollyviewer said...

I loved this movie. It was so much fun and Aamir's comedy was awesome, not to mention his yellow suit! I remember thinking at that time that Jackie Shroff looked too old to be paired with Urmila (one of my friends actually remarked that ab to budhhaape ki hadh ho gayi) but your screencaps are making me revise that opinion! Guess after 13 years its time to rewatch.

lol at John Hurt's and Nasir Hussain's looks! And your library seems to carry pretty interesting material! It reminds me of the illustrations in my moral science (yes there were schools that actually had that as a subject!!!) text books. Talk about Bollywood using blunt instruments.

ajnabi said...

I think Nasir Hussain looks *way* better. And the "Rangeela" picturization--the fantasy one with her dancing on the street?--is so dumb and yet so completely suck-you-in that I am addicted to it. LOL

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Totally w/ Bollyviewer on the yellow suit- that scense remains stamped on my memory :)

even the serious fashions were so mad in that movie- denims buttoned to the neck, suspenders, shirts tied on the waist- fun times.

Filmi Girl said...

Rangeela remains one of my all-time favorite movies! Everything is just so perfect... And you will appreciate that when I was waiting in the (long) line for tickets to Dostana, I heard more than a few guys joking about "Dos kartees, dos kartess" and of course I thought of that hilarious scene where Aamir hides his tickets in the cop's hat!

Anonymous said...

I really like the film as well as comedy, it's one of the best I've ever seen. Aamir did a great job. In fact, that's why he's called Perfectionist!

I've heard that Aditya (Narayan) has sung a song in it. I don't remember correctly, is it true?

Darshit said...

Classic revivals !!
Can u post a pic of ur library? Must b interesting.
That yellow outfit of aamir was hillarious. I remember that AK din't even bath for making his look perfect.
U din't mentiond funny one liners.
This is bible of tapori language. Like 'fan on chalu kar'
'AC idhar ghuma' 'tu pair dekhne aaya hai ki picture'.
Only AK can do that.
And only AR can put out of stream song like 'Mangta hai kya'.
Agree that 2 songs were so exposive, it does not make family viewing.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi all, and thank you for your comments!

Bollyviewer: You've got me thinking...at the very least, at least Jackie Shroff was doing his bit to convince us of his status as an evergreen actor! In which case, Rangeela is more accurate in its depiction of Bollywood than I'd thought! You know, the actor who's been around for a couple of decades at least, the actress who's still closer to her teens than she is to the actor's age :)

The Library does have plenty of interesting material, although they have very very few older films, if any at all. And Moral Science is a subject I'd find very interesting! (A couple of my teaching assignments in grad school were structured around Science and the role of religion.)

Ajnabi: For all the silliness, that song and at least a couple of others have aged remarkably well and held on to the 'suck-you-in' appeal that you rightfully refer to. I think it's the music and a very appealing Urmila. I was almost in high school at the time, and I'd be lying if I said Urmila in that desert sequence in particular (the Indian wardrobe and all) didn't have a role in shaping perceptions of beauty.

Shweta: That scene in the yellow suit was hilarious! The waiter at that hotel was very unaccommodating, though. I'm always like, "speak in Hindi, dude!" A tremendous lack of respect for the customer, used to good effect :)

The fashion sense in the movie was interesting, LOL...

Filmi Girl: I'm really glad you liked it! And it's even better that you could relate to the 'Dus Ka Tees' comment so easily. I'd almost go up to those guys and ask in the same tone as that gentleman in the film who had a strong nasal tone, "Ek ticket milega kya?". That has to be in the five best scenes in the film!


theBollywoodFan said...

Thanks for your comments!

Saurabh: The comedy is very classy. And after this film is when many started taking Aamir very seriously. I know I did. I liked this more than Raja Hindustani (1996), which was a bigger box office success. He's held on to that title of 'perfectionist' ever since. It has its pitfalls, like the Ghulam (1998) railway track scene. We'd all be talking of how dumb he was if he'd been killed in that.

Aditya was the kid singing (in his own voice) in the second half of the title song, 'Rangeela Re'. "Chocolate khaane mein tension hai, doodh peene mein tension hai. Tension! Tension! Tension!" =) He also sang with his father in 'Tu Mera Dil' in another Aamir film, Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995).

Darshit: I know, you'd just mentioned Rangeela in this post! I didn't know that about Aamir and that yellow suit! That's an interesting attention to detail, LOL. He was sounding so perfect in that hotel. "Apun kaaij hai." You're absolutely correct about the tapori language and its brilliant use here! "Fan on chaalu kar", ROTFL.

'Mangta Hai Kya' is a really cool song. And Udit in 'Yaaron Sun Lo Zara' was so perfect, he was sounding like Aamir at the end of each paragraph!

The library is all over the place, LOL...I really need to do a better job of cataloging my DVDs. I even have some old school video cassettes that I refuse to get rid of, in a box somewhere, with tapes of India-Pakistan cricket matches at Sharjah! (The ones we won, of course ;)

Cheers all!

Anonymous said...

LOL at the Nasir Hussain-John Hurt comparison! So true!

I love Rangeela, one of my favorites, although I think RGV is a sleazebag :-)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Memsaab: That Nasir look was so vivid (because of the character, as you know), I immediately thought of it when watching the new Indy movie, which was just weird enough at the end to make me want to visit the older ones.

Totally with you on RGV. Rangeela was probably an outlier in his career.


Anonymous said...

Aditya Narayan is going to be very successful, mark my words!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous: He certainly has more going for him! And even if he is half as good as his dad, I'm sure he'll do well too! Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Love this post TBF! "Ideal boy with bad habits" ROTFLOL.