Dil Chahta Hai + Swades + Footloose + gun ≥ Rang De Basanti

As you may have heard, I recently got to see Rang De Basanti in the theater, thanks to an occasional film series hosted at our art theater (and organized by an unidentified group to whom, in my infinite gratitude, I will gladly turn over my share of the Mehta group of companies). And as with my other experiences watching Bollywood in the theater, the audience was half the fun. It's such a treat to be part of the group experience when so often I just watch on my own - it's so fun to share! It's also a foolproof way to know with certainty that the subtitles really aren't conveying all the fine nuances - for example, when Sue rips into her boss at the film company in Hindi, the laughter in the theater was far beyond what was merited by what appeared on the screen.

I also have to say right here that at one point the friend I saw this with leaned over to me and whispered "That man is beautiful" and I nodded in silent agreement, our eyes wide at Kunal Kapoor (if you don't know who he is, go look - it's for your own good). This is a testament to the seductive powers of Bollywood - I have a lifelong fear of men with beards, but somehow, in this world, they're growing on me. (Not my original joke, by the way. But a good one.)

On to the actual movie. Probably more than most others I've seen, I really am not the target audience for this movie, and I think that matters here much more than most others, so please read with that in mind. While the message of taking responsibility for your country can be applied universally - which made me weep, by the way, as there's a lot to be upset about in the US these days - my impression is that it came out of specific experiences and situations in India - and maybe it was aimed at specific groups of people within India, too. But the way the story unfolded just didn't quite work for me, mainly because I hold killing people to be wrong. Just wrong. And I think the boys' big, bold, stupid actions overwhelmed the more important message, voiced by one of the interviewees on tv at the end, that corruption and flawed leadership are the fault of the constituency, that a society gets the leaders it deserves.

On the other hand, I was really touched by the present and historical stories of the Hindu-Muslim relationship - theirs was the struggle and bond that affected me most, maybe because I see that sort of antagonism as some of the most ultimately destructive there can be (certainly in the US), and I know I am at my ugliest when I get dismissive of others because of what I see as religion-based exclusion, limitation, and oppression. Anyway. I felt for Laxman when he saw the truth about his party leader and I rejoiced when he reached out to his true peers.

As usual, I have a host of smaller comments, but they just don't seem relevant to say here. This movie was trying to be something important, and I don't want to mire it down with my snarking about lack of big dance scenes. As Obi Wan said, I laughed, I cried, I boogied in my seat. But it did less for me than either Dil Chahta Hai or Swades, which between them very effectively and meaningfully cover similar points of valuing your friends and committing to and contributing to the place you call home.

Aside to Aamir: I read somewhere that you had concerns about playing a college student. You were right about that. In terms of your talents, you were perfectly cast, but...it just didn't quite work, did it?


Unknown said…
Funny you mentioned Kunal Kapoor, I saw him today. He was getting out his car, I was walking my dog. I took a passing look at him and I recognized him though I didn't make my recognition felt. The friend who I was with on the other hand had quiet the opposite reaction. She started nudging me and in a failed attempt at a whisper repeated his name [quiet loudly actually] . After we walked ahead I did turn to her and acknowledge that I saw him but by then her face was a plush red. At which she started into an endless dabble with would best be described as swooning. On hindsight her argument was pretty similar to yours.
Not to say you where swooning.

Yes, Rang de Basanti was brilliant. I saw it in the lower stall of thus seedy theatre with made the experience all the more memorable. If you are wondering about my reference to the lower stall, theatres in India have 4 distinct types of seating. We have the lower stall, the upper stall, the balcony and dress circle. The lower stall is the 4 rows before the screen. The loudest, craziest, whistling bunch sit here. They are of course also the cheapest seats
Oh my that's a long comment.
illusory motion said…
Kunal Kapoor's nick name is Kunnu. His closest buddy since school days is Hrithik Roshan.He used to date Deepanita sharma, a hot model who then went out with abhishek Bacchan. He made his debut in "Meenakshi, a tale of 3 cities" opposite Tabu but that film was pulled from the theatres one week after it's release due to certain objections by Muslim fundamentalists about the lyrics of a particular song. The director belived he would rather not show the film than censor it. So poor Kunal's debut was lost in the ever so deep film vaults.Hope that's enough info...
Yeah, I agree with you Beth. RDB isn't as powerful as DCH and Swades. But it's a much much much better film than the regular stuff that we see. And technically, I would put quite close to Sholay. Almost technically perfect. And the music?? You haven't said anything about the music?
Good question about the music. I listened to the soundtrack quite a few times before seeing the movie and enjoyed it - but it certainly doesn't rank among Rahman's best, in my opinion. And, oddly, I liked the music less in the context of the movie. For me, the plot overwhelmed the music, probably because I wasn't much for the plot.
adi said…
There is hardly a Bollywood film made in the last five years or so to hold a candle to this one.It is simply awesome.As an entertainer it is superb, as purposeful film it goes even further.As a fearless, bold crusader for just causes it is beyond compare.The whole team deserves to be congratulated.

Apart from the tremendous contribution made by the writers and the director of the movie, the people who need to be singled out and applauded for the high quality of their work are Aamir Khan(his best role yet),Soha Ali Khan(who finally claims our attention with this role and is destined to be as distinguished as her mother Sharmila Tagore). And all the boys from Kunal Kapoor to Atul Kulkarni.All have turned in amazing performances. But before I forget, I must mention Alice Patten. She is a joy to behold.And she makes a great pair with Aamir.

The film does not have a single dull moment in it.It can be repeated again and again with increasing returns to the viewer.It is a crossover film and needs to be seen by every one in the world.Its publicity and promotion should be geared to that.It should be sent to every international film festival in the world.
Anonymous said…
This is a fantastic film especially for anyone who's family serve in the armed forces. They would apperciate this more.....

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