Rang De Basanti (2006)

The Aazaadi Sawaari is back this Republic Day (the site of the parade is the site of a car song from this film, see #1 here), marking three years since the release of one of the best films of our times. There is perhaps not a more effective moment in Rang De Basanti (color me saffron; saffron in the Indian national flag being the color symbolizing sacrifice) that defines more explicitly the intent of the film to get its audience to take a step back and analyze life and its purpose with respect to the past, present and future of their country of origin. A sample from the background score (at the outset of the film) clearly illustrates this intent as well, with distinct layers of music representing common situations across different generations:

The constant focus is on time lines (and their juxtaposition). Let's take Daljit Singh (Aamir Khan), nicknamed DJ, for example. **Spoiler Alert: Skip the next three frames if you have yet to see the film**. Here's his past:

His present:

And among the many other DJs (and Karans (Siddharth), Sukkhis (Sharman Joshi), Aslams (Kunal Kapoor), Laxmans (Atul Kulkarni), Sonias (Soha Ali Khan), Ajay Rathods (R. Madhavan)) out there who just need to be more vocal and resolute (and greater in number), this is his future (or so he hopes):

A significant change of the characters' attitudes toward their country is the result of their serious study of the founding fathers of the country. As they play these roles in Sue McKinley's (Alice Patten) film, they feel the emotion and selflessness of the characters they portray, and their appreciation of their contributions increases exponentially. Brilliantly integrated and well edited sequences illustrate these, while noting they were (as many of the youth in many countries are) unaware of or indifferent to the essence of the history of their country. Part of DJ's present, then, includes his role in the film as a legendary freedom fighter. The impact of this persona is the motivating force behind his transformation.

Aside: Another film in 2006 (Fall) addressed this issue of indifference to the founding fathers, Lage Raho Munnabhai starring Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, and Vidya Balan, a sequel to Munnabhai M.B.B.S. (2003). The latter was paid a little tribute in Rang De Basanti (the poster in the backdrop, and accompanying dialogue):

Since Sue is asking this question, she has obviously not seen Lagaan (2001) *shame :P*...

...and "Hollywood ka bhateeja" (Hollywood's nephew) Karan even has a response ready!

The film's applicability is what is to be appreciated most. Through each of its characters, it demonstrates an uncanny understanding of the positions of the Indian youth (at which it is aimed). The maturation of these characters is a revelation, as they go from careless to somber, zealous, revolutionary, impulsive, hopeless, and contented in adversity.

The effortlessness is remarkable of the effective comparison between the country's current political situation and its struggle for independence from its British occupiers. It works brilliantly when combined with the overarching message that all it takes for the bad (read: corrupt and genuinely evil) to succeed is for the good who outnumber the bad (this is true, and while this might be oversimplifying it, think of how fragile we are, and that that we're alive is evidence of the good being in the majority!) to do nothing.

Officer McKinley (Steven Mackintosh) wrote in his diary -- the inspiration behind his granddaughter Sue's desire to make the film -- that he met a 'the third kind' of people when he met the resolute freedom fighters. Well, how about the following for an analogy? I have not come across a film that so effectively held a mirror of life before me, smashed that mirror into countless pieces, and almost mockingly had each piece ask: so what good did you do with yours?

I have a long way to go before I can say I am satisfied with my answer, but hope to have one in my life time. In the mean time, there's this clip (mentioned in the soundtrack to my life), amazingly well depicted and powerful, and one that serves to inspire :)

Here's Aamir at A. R. Rahman's studio for it. This is amateur studio footage from Masti Ki Paathshala, a DVD of all songs from the film, also containing several specials (including Lata Mangeshkar recording Lukka Chhuppi), released by Sony-BMG:

There's a lot to be said of its soundtrack (A. R. Rahman) being seamlessly integrated with the narrative. While there's no playback singing involved, it offers a perfectly legitimate channel to understand and appreciate the sequence of events in the film through its music videos alone. This deserves a post of its own, so I'll save that discussion for later.

The film is brilliant overall, not only in its technical flamboyance (credit Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra), music, and power packed performances by every actor, but as a product of excellent social and political commentary with a tangible impact. Indeed, it is second only to Lagaan in my little world of film favorites. Need I say more? :)

Jai Hind.

Movie rating: 4.9/5 (almost perfect, a masterpiece!)
If you haven't seen it, the loss is certainly yours.

My classification: R (for plot, violence)

Music rating: 4.9/5 (Best in class!)


Nicki said...

This movie is amazing. I think it deserves a re-watch from me soon! I've let many of my friends watch it and they loved it. Aamir is the best!

theBollywoodFan said...

I've been re-watching it ever since I first saw it, Nicki. And every time, there is something new to appreciate. What a movie!

Bhargav Saikia said...

RDB's effect on the youth in India was phenomenal, it still doesn't cease to leave a mark. My most favourite part of the movie is when the Luka Chuppi track is played on screen. I truly feel that's a brilliantly shot sequence, so well integrated with the music. RDB definitely features in my top 10 list but I would rate Lagaan (like you!) and Swades a little higher. Swades to me will always remain a very important film in my life for many reasons.

Thanks for this post. I'll make sure I watch RDB again this week :)

Pitu said...

I'd rate it 5/5 actually. Absolutely a masterpiece. And phenomenal acting by everyone esp Aamir. I loved him in that scene where he breaks down. The music was gorgeous too. Actually, Rahman really amazes me with his versatility- here's a guy from TN who comes up with a totally Punju soundtrack! And the title song, wah wah wah! Lajawaab! Ooh and getting to see the awesome Waheedaji after ages :-D My only gripe with this movie was that I hated the gori chick. She couldn't act, she was so plain and she seemed like she was coasting along. I much much preferred that Rachel from Lagaan :-( But the movie was awesome. Grt review, TBF!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review of a great film - bollywood fanji.

This one of my all time fav movies. I remember enticing all my desi friends to see this on the big screen rather than wait for the DVD. All of them were bowled over by the movie and still thank me for making them see it in a theatre!

Pitu - the gori chick Alice Patten did a good job. She is a talented actress.

theBollywoodFan said...

Right on, Bhargav. I appreciated RDB much, much more after I saw it with the group of people it was primarily intended for, at a college campus with most who were raised in India. In that, I fear the film might be too specific to where I don't think even my Hindi-speaking cousins who were raised outside of India actually 'get it'! But I do know a good number of non-Indian people who don't speak Hindi who appreciate it just as much as I...maybe a cross-cultural survey would help? :)

I think one of RDB's biggest strengths is that it speaks the language of the 18-24 demographic, and hammers away at sending across the message to a point where it's almost seamlessly received during the viewing. The humor and seriousness, complemented by superb editing, really did it! Agreed on Lukka Chhuppi's integration. It's haunting, and to use it in the turning point of the film was brilliant.

As for Swades, I absolutely love it too, and invite you to this post. I do wonder how the film managed to be a box office dud (relatively). Quite sadly, I hear "it's all right" for the film among the NRI population at which it was targeted. I wonder if the mirror got to some of us...

Pitu: Thank you, and 5/5 sounds good! That scene in which he broke down was critical, but (and this might sound evil of me, but I mean well, LOL) he's broken down much more effectively in other films (even in the early 1990s). Rachel Shelley of Lagaan was certainly better overall than Alice Patten, agreed. Although I didn't mind the latter, really. Thought she fit in well with the gang. However, you do have me thinking of the sheer magnificence of the proposed dialogue, for outside the theater. Imagine DJ and Sue (Rachel, now) discussing song and dance from Lagaan in that scene! Wah! Oh yes, the soundtrack is amazing. Remember 'Kakori kabab' in the title song?! :D

I've been hearing rumors for three weeks now of Waheeda Rahman and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra approaching Aamir for a film on the life of Guru Dutt. It's been picked up by some above average reputable sources (assuming there are such sources, LOL), and I hope it's true. Aamir as Guru D. would be fantastic!

Anonymous: Thank you! And thank you for sharing your wonderful story. It's great when we come across a brilliant movie when we least expect it, and I'm sure your friends are always going to remember your gesture! I laugh about it now, albeit with some element of shame, but I had to be convinced to go see Lagaan on the big screen. Of all people, it was an older sibling who did the honors :)

Pitu said...

Wait, what does kakori kabab mean? Actually, who was that other Brit actress in Kisna? Even she was good. I'd prefer anyone over Alice :-p

I know what u mean abt breaking down better, he was swell in Ghulam and Rangeela. But I rly liked the placement and hsi dialogs in this scene esp. what he says abt still hanging around college. From a writing standpoint, it was grt, because you finally got to see the person within instead of this funny/cool/happy go lucky/timepass dude.

A movie on Guru Dutt sounds lovely and Mehra seems like someone who'd do justice to the subject esp. considering the circumstances of his death. Eagerly awaiting Dilli6!

Darshit said...

You have reviewed 1 of my most Fav.
Thanks a lot.
Gosh ! i missed on 26th. Actually I was travelling, as my post about is telling. And busy at work and home, both, as hell. So Still i haven't read your post, will read it soon and tell you abt it.

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: Kakori kabab is basically a variant of Seekh kabab (ab technicalities pe mat jaaiyo, khaana aata hai, pakaana nahin :D), from Kakori around Lucknow, which was where the train looting incident took place. Aamir's funny reference to it came 1:23 into this video.

Antonia Bernath starred in Kisna, but dude, I'd prefer Alice the way she was :P And I completely agree on the placement and dialogue in that other scene, made it so real. And yes to Dilli-6, should be fun! And more Waheeda Rahman!

Darshit: It certainly deserves a spot among favorites. Good luck with, and hope you had fun during your travels!

Anonymous said...

Rang de Basanti... What a movie... It seems to me like I have seen it dozens times so far. And as someone wrote before, everytime I see it, I discover something new. The music by A.R. Rahman is stunning and so are the lyrics by Prasoon Joshi. But that is only half the magic. What makes RDB so different for me (besides the story, the actors, the setting, etc.) is the picturization of the songs. Khoon Chala for example. A peaceful demonstration is beaten up... who would expect music like that. Same with the funeral scene. The beautiful lyrics sung by Rahman and Lata Mangeshkar make me cry each time I hear them and the music reminds me of a kite flying in the blue sky towards the sun...

The Comic Project said...

Great to revisit RDB with this excellent review. I wrote a review on my blog, arguably it was the first review written by anybody - I saw a pre-release preview and blogged at around 2 AM.

Am going to watch the film again this week I think.

ajnabi said...

I just don't know if I can handle the sadness of the ending... which I've only gathered from reviews, not been told about. If anything could convince me, though, this post would. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Bollywoodfanji - khana pakana nahi aata hai, to koi baat nahin. Hum sikha dengey hyderabadi pakwan! kidding. Hyderabad as you know is famous for a lot of things - its cuisine being one of them!

Yes true Alice Patten is any day better and fitted well in RDB when compared to the actress in Kisna. I recently saw Kisna on DVD and was disappointed to note that the talented dancer Isha Shravani has been wasted by Ghai - her role was minisicule and he has done no justice to her talents. The music of Kisna is good though. I am not surprised the movie failed miserably

Nida said...

Ahh, this was a one of a kind film...I went in blindly (not reading any reviews) and walked away shocked and saddened yet aware that I had just had one of those rare experiences where a movie makes you feel a whole slew of emotions that weren't expecting to. Its truly an incredible film.

Side note to Ajnabi--I'd be really really interested to read your review!!!

theBollywoodFan said...

Anonymous: With you on everything you've said! The songs are really well integrated, yes. Since you love Lukka Chhuppi so much (and rightfully so), this post has footage from Rahman's studios, I hope you enjoy it. The DVD I mentioned above has more. Thank you for your comment!

TCP: Thank you. I'll be checking out your review. Lucky you with the pre-release viewing! On an unrelated note, I've seen this more times in theaters than any other movie, so it'll always be significant in so many ways. Enjoy viewing it again!

Ajnabi: I think there's a case to be made for the happiness of the ending too! Okay, it's easy to interpret it both ways, I just think it's too good a film to miss. Even if you end up not liking it as much, I really think you should at least try to see it.

Anonymous: Haaye, Hyderabadi pakwan!!! Kya yaad dila diya?! :) Hyderabadi paya and biryani, amazing stuff. I'm sure there's lots more!

I saw Kisna when I was out in the middle of nowhere (read: remote central Texas) for work for a few weeks, with very little Bollywood around me...and it was such a God send, LOL. Agreed on the movie. The music is fun (I love that song with Sushmita, and the title song).

Nida: I remember discussing it at Bitten by Bollywood! 'Incredible' is a perfect word. I think it's fair to say it's the one film with which the slew of emotions you note are really difficult to not be impacted by. I haven't seen a film in which the audience was so engaged, to the point of responding to each moment of laughter and sadness. And I too would like to read Ajnabi's review! ;)

Darshit said...

RDB, is a genuine masterpiece in all aspects. I would rate it 10/5 [!!]. I am just so crazy about this movie, since its first day first show, i have seen this numerous times.

Each and everything is so fabulous that you cant take your eyes, even ears off this film. Rahman has scored absolutely fantastic background score, each track like the one you have put, is brilliant, and identifiable with each character. Remember music when 'the old time bike' is jumping in river - same music is used in climax when youth was going to radio station. And that too in a different way. Mind blowing track !!

Rahman has given his lifetime best track 'Lukka chhuppi' in this. Equally 'Khoon chala' was stupendous. I remember how India got inspired by that sequence, and Jessica Lal's case got reopened by similar oppose against India Gate. Many scenes including that, in the movie, gives me tears in my eyes everytime.

Camerawork is also worth to watch out for. Movie travels both times of India, very seamlessly. [Example: Aslam running from his father, into his room - opens doors and scene goes into past !! Brilliant ]
The aerial shots of 'the hang out' place, and scene followed by that - running against jets...ahhh...joy. I even have printed that Tshirt at that time. Also Provogue had released Tshirts with 'Paathshala drawing' kinda colorful designs !! [Though I missed them :-( ]

And great thing you've done, by sparing video discussion. It really deserves different post for it alone. Waiting for it. [I hope you'll not let us wait untill 15th August ! LOL] Also, I would like to see what Ajnabi has to offer in her review.

DVD of the movie is worth for collection. Director's commentary is best among any of out there. One can learn so many points of film making by that.

That scene where DJ brakes down, was one of Aamir's career best. I too agree on that.
And Alice, is really a good actress. Flawless hindi, she speaks, and similarly flawless act too. I loved her.

theBollywoodFan said...

I agree on everything you've said except about Alice (didn't dislike her, but didn't think she was perfect either) and that Aamir breakdown scene. For some weird reason, I did not like it as much, but only because I'm comparing Aamir in RDB to Aamir of other movies, in which he has done better in my opinion only. Everyone seems to like this one, so maybe there's something wrong with my analysis, LOL :)

Watching this in the theaters was just fantastic. I've never seen a crowd of college students get this emotional. It's usually very difficult to keep the 18-21 engaged for three hours, this film had no problems whatsoever!

Rohit Tripathi said...

RDB is such a amazng movie although I hav seen it after 2 year of relese but whn i saw it I became mad behind it, my favorite and you hav writtn amazng review of RDB, nice blog nice writing, keep it up


theBollywoodFan said...

Hi, Rohit, and welcome to the blog! Better late than never for RDB, right? It is a truly amazing film, and I'm really glad you enjoyed this write-up. Do stop by again, I'm sure you'll enjoy the next post a lot as well!

theBollywoodFan said...

All: Please also see this guest post on Rang De Basanti.

Tania said...

Estoy deacuerdo!
Aamir is the best!!!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Tania, and welcome to the blog. Thank you very much for your visit and comment. I, of course, agree with you on Aamir being the best! Do stop by again. :) Cheers.

Rohit Tripathi said...

and I am glad to say they used my office complex for its shooting :) yes guys I am India habitat center and saw that amphitheater yesterday,, :D