58. Rang De Basanti (2006) — A long-overdue blog-a-thought, this! How do weeks pass by before you get around to doing something? Is it procrastination or preoccupation with plenty of perplexing pains on a person’s plate? Uh, where was I? OK! Colours of Patriotism (that’s how the subtitles translated it)!
I breezed into Jade cinema (now selling Indian snacks and drinks and videos!) having refused to read a single review of RDB. I heard it was good and I expected a jolly good Monday afternoon at the movies. Everything went along quite well, quite entertainingly, even quite thoughtfully — then somehow, the seemingly harmless frivolity of youth gets turned on its head towards the finale and the seemingly cool ‘n’ charming cross-cutting between a powerful past and a powerless present turns out to be driven by a much more sinister and cold-edged logic. I’m trying not to include spoilers!
I was frankly aghast at how things turned out plotwise. I was even a little disgusted at how the need to make a statement appeared to compromise the integrity of what was a brilliant production. (I thought Siddharth, Kunal Kapoor and Soha Ali Khan — man, does that intense stare run in the family? — stood out. That Aamir Khan was delightful at times. That the Hindi-speaking Brit gal actually fit in beautifully. Heck, the whole cast was commendable. And what can I say about the Lata Mangeshkar-AR Rahman’s mother-son duet?) So the movie got me rationalising, tugging and pulling at my hapless synapses. (I didn’t have much success with why Aamir Khan has developed a penchant for playing the moustached freedom fighter.)
I think what I’m really taking issue with is the oversimplicity of it all. Yes, some things remain the same no matter how many generations you move through — angst vs ambition, the downtrodden vs the dominant, the questions of religion, gender, race, national identity and belonging. RDB makes a move towards examining how the approaches and attempts at answering these dilemmas have changed since the fierce and terrible years of warring for independence. It does so in a way that will get it watched by millions, by employing all the right people and contrivances. OK.
But what is it saying about the political leadership and governance in India today? What is it saying about what youths should do? What is it saying about where things are going? The bad guys are so dumb and the good guys are so … aimless? It makes me afraid that somewhere out there, some fool will get it into his/her head to emulate his/her “hero” and undertake a similar mission to avenge some grevious wrong. Let me be the foolish one here!
I don’t know why but I feel that the scene in Swades in which the bearded teacher regales his young students with his experiences during Independence is somehow more striking, evocative, poignant and compelling than the whole of the crushing tail end of RDB. It’s worth the watch for the sights and sounds and even its spotty storyline but bring your pinch of salt with you.