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:
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? :)
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!)