Loud, over-the-top, brave, ambitious, emotional, movie seeks suitable alliance from every single Hindi film fan in India.
The first thing I did when the credits started rolling at the end of this film is to exhale slowly, to get my breath back. To employ a DVD-sleeve cliche to describe Rang De Basanti, it'a "roller-coaster ride." It's a drama, a thriller, a comedy, an action movie, a love story and a social commentary all rolled into one colourful, brave, ambitious cinematic venture that scores so many points for effort, that the end product is almost irrelevant. And it's a good flick to boot!
After Mangal Pandey, expectations from the latest Aamir Khan project were suitably lowered. All the hype lowered them some more. But somewhere inside me, I had a feeling I was going to like Rang De Basanti, and I really really did. While I wouldn't say it's great cinema in the Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi genre, it's got so much heart that you fall in love with it, faults and all.
The story is about a film crew headed by Sue (a fine performance from Alice Patten, although you'd wish she spoke a little less Hindi), making a docu-drama about Bhagat Singh, Azad etc., Her Indian contact Sonia (Soha Ali Khan, looking absolutely lovely and real, unlike all the other Bollywood heroines these days) and her friends, who through happenstance form the cast of the movie, including DJ (Aamir Khan), join her in this project and the story starts off from there. There are shots of filming, of singing and dancing, some worship, some romance, more singing and dancing, until Flt. Lt. Ajay Rathod (played by Madhavan) appears on the scene. Events surrounding him, and the corruption in the Indian defence ministry transform this bunch of carefree jobless youth into revolutionaries in the mould of the characters they portray in their film.
Every frame in the movie is crackling with energy and this is aided to no mean extent by the fabulous sound. I haven't seen an Indian movie where the sound was so brilliantly recorded, mixed and split into 5.1 channels. The lovely soundtrack composed by AR Rahman, is a reflection not only of his musical genius, but of his technical wizardry, Live drums and powerchords never sounded so good in an Indian film, full marks to Rahman and his crew at the Panchathan Record Inn, Chennai. The film is well shot, competently edited and nicely paced. It's over the top, melodramatic and at times, corny, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it's a mainstream, big budget Bollywood blockbuster-in-the-making. Without some melodrama and some cheese, how would such a movie be true to its roots?!
The story never loses its grip on the viewer, with generous laughs and equally generous opportunities to shed a tear or two. The characters are well-defined, maybe a little too well-defined. The performances range from passable to inspiring. Those that stand out include Atul Kulkarni as Laxman Pandey, the well-meaning right-wing patriot, Sharman Joshi as Sukhi, an everyman, weak, cowardly and at the same time, incredibly brave. Om Puri dazzles in his brief role as the father of Aslam, one of the bunch.
The soaring super-dramatic, if slightly contrived, climax is again well executed and serves as a fitting end to this gobsmacker of a movie. It may not be great cinema, but it tries so hard to do so many things, and accomplishes a good lot of them with such effortless panache that you can't help but want to see it once more. Go watch Rang De Basanti, you probably won't regret it!