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?