If “YOU” thought that Saif’s most spectacular performance was in Omkara as Langda Tyagi … then you’re SADLY MISTAKEN … Saif Ali Khan has bounced back in to the scene! And who else to save the actor’s drowning career boat than “VISHAL BHARDWAJ”… His performance alone is worth the money of your TICKET!
At the pre-set of things – Rangoon is a sweeping tale of love, jealousy and valour located ambitiously, and largely effectively, at a fictional intersection of war, history and generic movie conventions. It is buoyed by superbly modulated performances from the three leads as well as the members of the supporting cast. Rangoon suffers a fair bit on account of its marathon, energy-sapping length and its disappointingly facile climax. But nothing can undermine its power as a risky but worthwhile cinematic idea that has been executed with flair and gumption. As one would expect in any push in an uncharted direction, not all of it comes off equally well. But why carp when the rest of the film is so magnificently manic?
The craftsmanship in Rangoon is from the topmost drawer and its retelling of a crucial chapter of India’s freedom struggle is radically revisionist and delightfully angular. Vishal Bhardwaj’s stylized film is unlike anything that we have seen in a while. The fact that such a film dares to exist in this day and time is itself not a small marvel. A war film with a woman at its centre? No mean departure from norm.
That apart, it is difficult not to spot the daringly subversive soul of Rangoon. It is best revealed by the three lead characters – none is a Hindu. Neither is any of them a single-toned, flag-waving, chest-thumping patriot striving to enhance his/her value in the eyes of the ‘nation’. Does anybody recall a Hindi mainstream film without a single principal character who isn’t from the majority community?
One character in the film asks another: could anything be more valuable than one’s life? The reply is: Yes, the one that you can die for. What is left unexplained is that the ‘one’ could be your nation, your people, the person you love and the cause you hold dear, but certainly not something that is constricted by a restraining ideology.
The film’s principal villain, Major General David Harding (Richard McCabe), an Englishman who deep down has no love lost for Indians, is a Ghalib-spouting, Urdu-speaking bon vivant. He isn’t your usual grim, grouchy brute hurling endless abuse at the natives: he does not lose any opportunity to crack a joke and also speaks Hindustani with great love and passion. What’s more, he also has a go at Sindh Bhairavi with the thumri Ka karoon sajni aaye na baalam and does a fine job of it.
Rangoon also reclaims Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana from its current narrow confines and, in Vishal Bhardwaj’s own voice, renders it in the form of the pre-Independence national anthem of the INA’s Provisional Government of Free India. The latter was, of course, adapted from Gurudev’s original composition that has now been reduced, in the hands of hyper-nationalists, to a stick to beat those that don’t fall in line with their thought processes.
Rangoon is set in 1943. Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful Quit India movement is at its peak. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj, too, has advanced to the subcontinent’s easternmost frontier and the British Indian Army is under fire from the air as well as on the ground. The two strands of the freedom struggle are at odds but together serve as pincer attack on the colonial government in the last years of the British Raj.
In a NUTSHELL – WATCH IT ASAP and come out saying the MAGICAL WORDS – which are “BLOODY HELL!!”
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Richard McCabe, Shriswara Dubey, Gajraj Rao, Saharsh Shukla, Kashmira Irani
Director – Vishal Bhardwaj
Duration: 2 hrs 47 mins