Friday, February 03, 2006

On Rang De Basanti

Rang De Basanti is getting flak for the way its director has handled the second half of the film. The film at one point borders on the point of incredulity. Five young students gang up to kill the defence minister because one of their friends is killed in a MiG-21 crash.

The film, however, is not about the killing as it is made out to be by “critics”.

That is why the director just glosses over it, slips it behind the veneer of the so-called “willing suspension of disbelief”. Killing, at the end, becomes a metaphor. It could have been any simple act that becomes the harbinger of a change. It could be a single man standing in front of tanks on Tiananman Square or it could be the nameless faces involved in Chipko Andolan, facing giant electric hack-saws. As one reviewer puts it, the film is more about humanity than anything else.

The film is, in fact, about the awakening of the characters, it’s about spring, and it’s about swathes of mustard field bursting into yellow. It’s about a new life. The problem is that big-city “film critics” are seeing the film through the prism of serious art-house mindset. Ironically, this is one of the successes of the film. It has got the elite talking. When was the last time they dissected a hindi film? I am sure they must have sneered when Sholay was first released. It was only after years that the film got them talking.

There seems to be too much of fluff that goes into film reviews these days.

It is easy for critics to say that the film promotes an adolescent view of political action. But have we Indians grown out of infancy when it comes to political judgment? Don’t we elect leaders like Laloo Prasad year after year…

And then there is the thin line separating sentiment and action. “Line them all up and shoot them,” is what one of the callers says on the FM broadcast towards the end. That’s a militant idea. But haven’t you heard this exact line before at coffee house addas and train compartment debates? That’s popular sentiment, not popular action. I have asked people who have seen the film whether they would like to pick up a gun and redress the ills of the society. Most said no. That’s not the absolute message of the film, they said.

Some say the film uses an absurd parallel from history to legitimise it, and at every stage superimposes the frame of history upon the action. True. We can’t pull down Babri Masjids because Mughals desecrated our temples 500 years ago. The film does send out an incendiary message through the parallel workings of the plot. But since when have started watching Bollywood films for messages and acting accordingly? If we had, we wouldn’t have waited for Rang De Basanti to bloody Parliament, lynch policemen and kill truant fathers.

Let’s see the film in a more “realistic” light. The pilot dies. All right. A candlelight vigil is organized. Not in front of the India Gate though. Media shows the pilot’s mother breaking down. Riot police arrives. Demonstrators go back to their homes peacefully. Bloggers talk about it. A Tehelka-like paper does an expose on how faulty spare parts are bought by the government. Special committee inquiry happens. Five years later, MiG 21s keep flying.

This is life. Maybe a documentary. But not cinema for sure. My question is would you like to see this after shelling out 200 bucks in a multiplex theatre. Or would you like to see Rang De Basanti? My vote goes for the latter.

31 Comments:

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Nana said...

I second you on the "realistic light", "Or would you like to see Rang De Basanti? My vote goes for the latter."
But the movie is definitely a propaganda, provocative (Provocative in the figurative self and not in the Bipasha Basu way as one friend snorted during a similar debate). No am not talking about killing or the much debated second half.
A movie influences a person. Be it fashion, ... or aping the 'antics' of a character.
While Rang De Basanti deserves the claps for tickling the curiosity of the elite and the backbenchers, my question is "Do we need a freak incident like the killing of a corrupt minister?"

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger Prerona said...

i really want 2 see it now! been hearing so much - would like to find out for myself ...

 
At 5:04 AM, Anonymous Ph said...

Good to have you back. :)

 
At 9:42 AM, Blogger Roshomon said...

Totally agree with u...cinematically brilliant...loved it!
I found it very realistic, we can't expect a bunch of young guys to take a well calculated step, go into the system and change it...such a drastic 'n impulsive step is what guys who want a quich solution will do.

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger ace of spades said...

"Line them all up and shoot them" is what i say about the critics.
Anyone for the sequel ?

 
At 9:56 AM, Blogger jarshad said...

Bravo! Bravo! Exactly what I feel about the movie. Why watch a movie as if we are part of the Oscar jury?
And Tuhin adds: Your review is the best I have read of the movie. Better than all the so-called critics.

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger Tridib said...

Good point, well made. But my only problem with the film is that the director has made one part of it so realistic — the way the movie's protagonists walk, talk, dress and have fun — that when he asks the audience for a "willing suspension of disbelief" it JARS! And there lies the rub de basanti!

 
At 10:54 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Nana: You are calling for a long debate. Pity you are running off to Mumbai.

Prerona: Watch it. ASAP!

Ph: Thanks. And viva le Phantasmagoria! Keep it up.

Roshomon: Yeah. Cinematically the film was great. And the editing (as you might now be able to appreciate more!) was very sharp.

Ace of Spades: Amir will have to play a professor in the sequel! No way he can carry on playing students 5 year down the line.

Jarshad: I agree. And for Tuhin: Thanks.

Tridib: Rub de Basanti? That was a good one!

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

nice analytical work. but that does not make me appreciate the film very much.
of course it's a nice movie, but not to go overboard with it. in bolywood standard, yes, the idea is revolutionizing...
may be because i was watching the movie thinking that the same director directed 'Aks', the asshole of a movie, i didnt quite appreciated the effort.

 
At 11:19 AM, Blogger Ghetufool said...

and one thing more,
doesn't it reminds of our naxal era? do we want it once again?

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger J said...

i somehow just don't feel like moving my ass n watching that movie. It seems pseudo to me for some reason. Or maybe i dont wanna break this i-dont-watch-movies spree that i've maintained for the last 2 yrs.

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

For once, I am completely in agreement with Tridib. After watching the film, I SMSd him: "How can a film be so flawed and so brilliant at the same time?"

 
At 12:17 AM, Blogger N said...

Absolutely agree with you. It's too bad that when we get a good movie amidst rubbish like Zinda and Aksar, people get on 'critic' high horses instead of celebrating it.

 
At 3:55 AM, Blogger ace of spades said...

anindita....not to wander too far from the topic of this blog, but WHAT WAS "RUBBISH" ABOUT ZINDA ?

 
At 4:18 AM, Blogger Chaila Bihari said...

I watched the movie at Paradises's previous show. (Guess, am among the few who skipped the multiplex routine.)
Neways, nice to have The Fool back. Nicer still that he is back with Basanti.
Couldn't understand what's 'Rub de' about Basanti, Tridib? And Ghetu, for why can't we watch a movie/read a book/gaze at a painting/listen to a piece with a free mind slate. And why compare with the naxals (that was a v Bong thing to do) — these guys had no ideological baggage.
I need some time to key a full post. But for now:
It was a VERY ORIGINAL movie. That's a rarity in our country, more so in Bombay school of filmmaking.
Second, it wasn't merely a movie. It was CINEMA. It spoke that language, albeit while addressing the masses.
My vote: Send it for the next academies. Correct the wrong done by not nominating Hazaron...

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Ghetufool: You can't judge a director by what he has done in the past. Aks was bad but surely "different".

J: Abstinence from cinema? Can't believe it.

MM: Hmmmm...

Anindita: Welcome aboard. But read rave reviews of Zinda.

Ace: No violence, okay??

Chaila: Yeah, Hazaron should have been there instead of Paheli.

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger J said...

i know i'm unbelievable

 
At 2:34 AM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

A lot of critics are calling this an 'irresponsible' film -- because it shows these young fellows taking the law in their hands, shooting people with amazing ease (really, how silly is it to show the defence minister walking out of his spaciously lawned bungalow for a morning walk with one bodyguard following ten paces behind?), storming radio stations etc. I have a problem with how much social responsibility a film is supposed to have, because that's just the kind of argument which makes them ban smoking in films. At the same time, the tagline of the film IS 'A Generation Awakens', so presumably it's not just about this bunch of young guys who have an awakening of sorts. So, it does have a 'message'. But that message, like what I'm trying to say here, is confused.

On one hand, Siddharth at the radio station says 'we don't have a hit list, we know killing is not the solution etc'. So why do THEY indulge in it with such gay abandon? If their act was an impulsive mistake, that is not made clear. Instead, it is glorified beyond limits. It is definitely not Paanch, which follows the psychology of rich urban kids killing for pleasure.

I guess the reason people are debating on it so seriously is because of the innate disappointment of the film buffs waiting for the one film that won't let them down. The disappointment that comes from watching a film that seems too good to be true, hoping it'll stay just as brillaint, and then having it let you down badly at the end.

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

I guess I'm the only one who hasn't watched the movie,yet :(

 
At 11:42 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

J: Do break your abstinence with RDB then!

MM: If they hadn't killed the minister, they wouldn't have made it to the radio station! ;-)

m (tread softly upon): Go, run to the nearest theatre!

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger Kusum Rohra said...

Completely agree with you, I don't understand why cant critics see that this is how the youth would behave (implusively) and i think they should appreciate the part where in these guys realise wht they did was wrong and say so on the radio too.

 
At 2:24 AM, Blogger Chaila Bihari said...

Here, here, finally someone talked about Paanch. Cheers!

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Kusum: Yeah, the confession at the end turned the table.

Chaila: Still haven't seen Paanch!

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger swar said...

"The problem is that big-city “film critics” are seeing the film through the prism of serious art-house mindset" - i swear. we have too many elite, arm-chair critics with their own baggage of rigid opinions and stratospheric thinking. too many pundits around tsk tsk tsk.

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger kaushik said...

To all those believers.. Stop reading reviews.. I have found a new vocation. Write reviews.

Dont defend Rang De Basanti.. Just let be. Rakesh Mehra has churned out a cult and thats the bottomline..

More on my blog..

 
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