Rangoon – Movie Review (Bollywood)


(Spoilers ahead!)

There is a reason that story telling is an art and not a science. In the latter, definitions exists, explanations restricting behaviour. If X is defined to act in Y manner, it will act in Y manner and Y manner only. Mercifully, stories are not limited by such boundaries. Primarily because layers exist. Layers that give depth to a story ensuring the possibility of every individual interpreting it differently. And you need a certain level of mastery in your art to showcase such depth on screen.

Vishal Bharadwaj (Producer,Director, Co-Story/Screenplay, Dialogues and Music Director!) displays his mastery on the art of movie making in abundance with Rangoon.

The idea of a love triangle set up against the backdrop of India’s freedom movement is a bold stroke. To use World War II and Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA as the canvas for painting the story is just sensational. Then there is that depth in character and storyline that VB brings to his movies. The philosophical divide between Gandhi and Bose, the dichotomy of the British adapting to Indian culture yet being the iron fisted masters, the sadness of the Japanese soldier and the cursed joy of forbidden love (my favourite of the lot). These are just a few, there are many more to discover in this voyage to the North East.

And all this in a movie that is primarily a simple love story, a tragic one at that.

Rangoon begins with us being introduced to Julia (Kangana Ranaut, just give her all the awards right away), ruling heartthrob of the Bombay film industry. Her lover-mentor (or is it master?) is the much married Rustom/Rusi (Saif Ali Khan, aristocracy defined), a former action star himself. Similar to Omkara, here too the greyness of Saif’s character is reflected via a physical deformity, a menacing mechanical hand no less.

Shahid is Nawab, an Indian soldier in the British Army, given the task of protecting Julia when she travels to perform at army camps to lift the sagging spirits of those fighting the mad War.

The Director spends the first half of the first half indulgently setting up the principal characters yet keeps the audience engaged. Some gorgeous cinematography (Pankaj Kumar) and average VFX later, we are thrown bang into the middle of the love story and a twist in the background that my usually deductive brain did not see coming.

This part of the movie with love blooming between the two who should not love is where the director takes the movie a notch higher. You know their love on screen has no future, Nawab and Julia know it too and yet the gay abandon with which they fall for each other is a joy to watch. As the audience you would have done the same (or have done it) and the fact that the director has made you think on those lines, shows he has succeeded in making you invest in the characters. The vanquished wretchedness of a forbidden love story could not have hoped for a better director than VB. Notice how he gives not a single jealous bone in Nawab while Rusi is all swords and daggers filled with the divisive emotion.

Interspersed with crackling dialogues and seamlessly blended songs, the story moves towards the doom that could make this one a true classic. Lamentably, the director falters big time here and ends up filling the screen with melodrama and contrived patriotism. The last 15 minutes comprise the weakest part of the movie and will make you leave with a slight sense of disappointment than the delight of watching a masterpiece. And have no doubt about it, VB always intended this to be one, the scale of thought itself underlines it.

Rangoon would be nowhere near the vision of its director had it not been for the fabulous performances of the lead cast. Saif and Shahid, in an interesting casting coup, are in top form while working with the director who has extracted career best performances from them in the past. However, Kangana truly steals the show with an effort that cements her position amongst the very top bracket of actors in Bollywood currently. Watch her be the 1940s movie star, the vulnerable lover and finally the daredevil fighter, all with a conviction that has to be seen to be believed. Those dialogues would mean nothing without her, this movie would be nothing without her, you yearn for her to have a happy ending but then the tragicness of forbidden love and all that.

If only the writers could think of an alternative ending this would have been a great movie, it now lands somewhere in between good and very good. Rangoon has all the tenderness of forbidden love, the fearless-senseless nature of the passion it comes with and the gloriousness of knowing its pre-determined defeat. It’s all there, if you manage to peel through the layers.

Rating: 3.5/5. A movie for the slow Sunday brunch loving variety, don’t go looking for an express fare. Half a star deducted for the overly melodramatic climax.

Dessert Note (as desserts are served at the end of the meal, a dessert note is served at the end of a movie review):

On a scale of Preity Zinta in Lakshya and the same Ms. Zinta in Dil Chahta Hai for evaluating best Bollywood actress hairstyles, Kangana truly smashes the scale on the positive side (Dil Chahta Hai side ofcourse). Her curls have never looked better and really compliments her look as the vintage Bollywood star. Hopefully, the gorgeous hair style catches on. And those from the Eastern part of the country living in the Western part contemplating it, get pushed over to try it.