Friday, February 03, 2006

Rang de Basanti: Aamir, you owe me 75 bucks

Now that it’s been a week since RDB was released I can safely write about it. I saw it the other day at a multiplex. Each ticket costs Rs 150. (And we were a family of five!). I mention this, because in an informal session with members of the public on NDTV, Aamir Khan and his fellow actors stated (jokingly, of course) that “if you don’t like the movie, I’ll return your money!” So, I’d like my Rs 75 back please, because I liked only the first half. Actually it is not so much liking the first half as strongly disliking the second half.

Everyone knows by now, that the movie is about five young men who are drifting in life, and they find a mission in clearing the name of a friend who dies in a MIG-21 crash and is blamed for it, whereas the actual culprits are the dealers and politicians who buy substandard parts for the aircraft. Wonderful theme.

Music: Beautiful(ARR after all!) Especially the track that accompanies their mobike racing, was pure adrenaline pumping. Lyrics: sparkling, refreshingly out of the ordinary.

Aamir Khan is not the sole hero. All of them are heroes, not sidekicks. The treatment is very today, no ‘dialogues’, no dramebaazi. The hero doesn’t fell ten men with a single blow. On the contrary, he gets thrown out of the ring in a village wrestling match by an eight foot tall wrestler (well he looked eight feet tall!). Aamir has worked on a Punjabi accent, not forgetting the choice Punjabi cuss words! After passing out of Delhi University, his character DJ still remains a simple son of a dhaba owner. The latter being Kirron Kher, playing yet again the loud Punjabi with ease(remember Hum Tum?). Before that it was the feisty Bengali in Devdas. I would like to see an understated, subtle performance by her some time. Her character is typical ”Jewish mother” bent upon feeding everybody until they are ready to explode.
In choosing Waheeda Rehman to play the mother of the young pilot, the filmmaker has made things easy for himself---Waheeda brings grace and dignity to the role just by being herself. She shows iron strength at the funeral, but when her son’s trunk full of his possessions is brought home, she almost collapses. Nice touch, that.
Anupam Kher and Om Puri are wasted in their roles as fathers of two of the boys. No opportunity for their immense talent.
The alternating between the present and the sepia past was interesting---that technique is a personal favourite, so I may be biased.

Aamir is vulnerable. One night he confesses to Sue that he sticks around in college even five years after passing out, because here he is “somebody”. He has some “aukaat”. But in the outside world, he would be a nobody. Now, though that shows him in a human light, it has the makings of a loser.

And that’s what they all are---losers. It was soooo disappointing, the way they dealt with the problem. It was downright dangerous, all the more so because the protagonists are not supermen, they are ordinary people. Somehow, in a regular Bollywood film, when the hero does a back somersault from the ground onto a balcony, takes on all comers single-handedly and then kills all the baddies, the killings are taken with a pinch of salt, just like the stunts are. But here, because the heroes, the conversations, the situations are so real, the “solution” might be taken as possible too. And then they turn around and say, “We are not terrorists”. Of course they are! Our run of the mill terrorists also call themselves freedom fighters. That doesn’t change the fact that they kill.

DJ and co. in RDB differ from terrorists in that they don’t kill innocent people. But that’s about all. It cannot be a justification. The very fact that they easily resorted to slaying, shows how weak they were. Did they explore other avenues? Did they try a sting operation? Did Karan try to tap his dad’s phone and record the dubious arms deals? They had a movie camera at their disposal, for heavens sake! Did they try to garner support for the dead Madhavan by getting testimonials from his senior officers? They could have made a secret tape, then taken over a TV station and telecast it. That would have taken care of the drama element. When they take over the radio station, their college friend is on air, but we were told earlier he was on the graveyard shift—midnight to 6 a.m. So how did they get so many listeners? OK, maybe some owls were listening and woke up the larks, and by then it was early morning.

They say, “Join the IAS, IPS, and reform the system,” but why don’t they do so themselves? Because they have not really studied in college (a fact they are very proud of!) It needs brains and a lot of hard work to join these elite services, which they are not willing to put in. Also, it symbolizes the instant gratification that seems to be the order of the day---they cannot invest time in finding a solution, hence—gun down the cause of trouble.
There is a thread of weak moral fibre running through the characters. The impression one is left with at the end is that acting in Sue’s documentary made them believe they were our revolutionaries reincarnated, and could repeat those actions and no questions asked. Especially when Soha repeats her lines from the documentary, “Kill them.”

Where is the angst they are supposedly feeling? They just state that the state of the country is horrible. Have they tried looking for jobs and failed? Have they stood in lines endlessly? No, they refuse to leave the cocoon of the campus---they are putting off entering the real world. Contrast with the controlled anger and frustration of Sunny Deol and his friends in “Arjun”. There was the added humiliation of realizing that one has been used as a pawn in the politicians’ game. Something similar happens to Atul Kulkarni’s character in RDB, but it is not taken forward.
By all means, make them martyrs to keep the historic parallel, but after they do something intelligent and right, not after they kill two people in cold blood!

Yet---whimsical montages---when General Dyer’s image is replaced by the Defence Minister’s, and Madhavan is being shot at—he walks towards the guns, puzzled, saying, “Hey you are ruining my sexy bomber jacket!” Aslam, the gentle pacifist, who cannot conjure up hate at will, like his brother urges him to. Upset, he pushes open the door of his room—and emerges on the other side, as Ashfaqullah Khan, spouting poetic dialogues.

Looks department: Aamir Khan needs a facelift, if he wants to continue playing a 26 year old. And watch those close-ups: I could see white stubble! Madhavan needs to lose weight; he’s looking too chubby---so also in the TV program “Deal ya no deal”.

Promising: The actors who played Aslam,(so handsome---can we look forward to a nice romantic movie? And a sparkling comedy?) and Karan. The latter has potential which his baby face belies---he could even cultivate an underlying menace.

Common thread running through Lagaan, Mangal Pandey and RDB: One sympathetic Britisher at least. Also, underlining Hindu-Muslim unity.

Summing up:A brilliant idea derailed midway.


Blogger ... said...

Ohhhhh :-( I really really liked the movie and what's more, I watched it first day-first show (at 10.30 am!)on Republic Day! I do agree with all you has to say though. But the "losers" part - I think even the director's intention was infact to show them as losers - good for nothings.

I cried my heart out :-( Aamir looks 40 but I still love him :-)

3/2/06 10:05 PM  
Blogger Shankari said...

Hey, I'm feeling so bad- I haven't seen it yet- not even 75 bucks worth! boo-hoo...

4/2/06 9:25 PM  
Blogger LAK said...

Hey, by no means have I advocated not seeing the movie! The very fact that I wrote so much about it shows how involved I got. Sometimes a strong negative reaction is favorable too! Do watch it, please! I only objected to the last bit, so lets pare the Rs. 75 to say about 15!

4/2/06 10:32 PM  
Blogger Shankari said...

Et tu, telugu? :))

5/2/06 6:28 PM  
Blogger LAK said...

Shankari,Yep!Can speak, but can't read or write easily.

6/2/06 1:09 AM  
Blogger B o o said...

Lak - Awesome review. I wish I could write movie reviews like you! But you have given out too many spoilers. (But I could nt resist reading it, so my fault!) Planning to watch it as soon as the baby-sitter(my mom!) comes to Bangalore this weekend! :)

6/2/06 9:37 AM  
Blogger Kiwilakhs said...

Hey Lak,
Looked for your piece on 'fair and handsome' could not find it. Can you send me the link? And also you email address? Ta.
And I did read the first half of your RDB review, and did not read the second half as I am still wanting to see the movie, as in spite of everything I am a die-hard Aamir fan.

6/2/06 2:22 PM  
Blogger LAK said...

So am I a die-hard fan! He still has that mischievous glint in his eye! Do see the movie!

6/2/06 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lak,
Just saw RDB.I liked your review immensely.Yes the first half was terrific, but kya yaar,the movie was really disappointing,though well made.Violence only brings more violence.Violence is foolish except in self defence.
The film turns out to be a lost opportunity for someone as great as Aamir .The rest of the team was brilliant too.But the expected inspirational high never came.I felt lost with the losers.India needs more and more positive impetus not negative solutions like violence.Yes we need a revolution but violence can never be the right one.
One flaw:No Defence minister will be so foolish as to condemn an airforce officer on national television.The story writer took an easy way out by showing the def min as plain evil.
The film was thought provoking, though.It did stir me up.But ultimately it was a let down.

13/2/06 4:02 AM  
Blogger confused said...

Now, thsis is interesting...

I have not actually watched the movie but most of the people who have had a very postive impression about it...

You dont sound all that impressed...

Nice to have a different take on it..about AAmir playing a guy who is 26, i dt even know why actors cant play their own age....the script could very well have been altered to make sure Aamir played his own age...

but then King Khan is still running around the tress so cant really blame Aamir..

13/2/06 3:03 PM  
Blogger LAK said...

confused: welcome. Do see the movie, though.It is meaningful,whether it brings out a positive or anti kind of feeling. Ya, SRK does play those roles, but he can carry them off bec of his inherent energy---I don't mind aamir in younger roles either---all I'm saying is with so many techniques these days, he should go in for a facelift or something. There speaketh a big fan of both SRK and Aamir!

14/2/06 2:08 AM  
Blogger Shruthi said...

At last, at last, at last!!! A review which mirrors my opinion! I agree with you absolutely! Fantastic, adorable characters, all of them... great theme, could have been handled totally differently. Your last line sums it up perfectly.
I cried buckets through the movie, but that does not mean I liked it.. I think I was almost angry for having been let down :(
If I had written a review, it would be just like this, except that I would have mentioned one more thing. Soha. Her acting when she sees on TV that Madhavan is dead - it deserves an award. It was the best piece of acting I have seen in a long, long time.

Oh, and yes, I like your style of writing too!

7/3/06 2:58 AM  
Blogger LAK said...

Well,shruthi,You know what they say about great minds,heh, heh!Yep, I liked Soha in that scene too.

24/3/06 8:48 PM  
Blogger Sachin said...

First of all, thank you Lak for the comments on my blog.

As others have already said, that was a fab review from you. Must say, your writing is way too good. I mean, when someone starts to read, if he feels that it has to be read till the end, it says something.

About RDB, just the fact that so many people have expressed opinions and that too with quite a lot of feeling shows that the movie did make a BIG impact. Well, yes, the ending was un-satisfactory but to give due credit to the maker, the movie does make one think. It was a brilliant touch to involve a Brit documentary maker and set the basic plot of the movie. All-in-all, its worth a watch...even twice (I watched it twice myself).

As for good acting moments for me:
1. As Shruthi and you have both mentioned, Soha in Ajay Rathod's death scene (seeing that I was scared that she would be the one who would spoil the whole movie... LOL)

2. Aamir's crying scene in Sue's room post the lathi charge at India gate. Man, that was so real!!!!!

3. It might have slipped most people, but Sharman Joshi was amazingly good throughout the movie. Think about Aamir in the movie without Sharman. He gave Aamir good support with his antics.

Keep blogging.....

26/3/06 12:27 AM  

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