From Anil Nair in Mumbai
When Qayamat se Qayamat Tak was released a couple of decades ago, which launched Aamir Khan in Hindi cinema, the film ran packed houses for weeks and it not only grossed an unprecedented sum at the box office, it also made Aamir Khan into a household name. Everyone sang paeans of the movie, rather there was no review which would criticise it. At that time a reporter asked Naseeruddin Shah what he felt about the movie and the hype around that ?unabashedly youth-oriented? film?
To everyone'sastonishment Shah pointed out that movies made in India are so mediocre that if someone rises slightly above mediocrity it is acclaimed as the best! Rang de Basanti, featuring the same Aamir Khan with as much hoopla, claims to be the best thing that has happened to Indian cinema. Certainly, the comparison is made with similarly ?acclaimed? movies like Black. Probably it does not have anything better to compare with. Rang de Basanti falls into the same rut that most Indian movies which claim to be slick and near Hollywood in their techniques, ideas and philosophy.
Indian movies fail in their inability to being wholesome in their perfection. Just as Black, Rang de Basanti has its stunning professional shortcomings. The screenplay is supposedly perfect to the last comma and hyphen. But the story is suspect and unconvincing. As in most cases, the technical finesse and loud techno-music is considered a perfect substitution for any lacking in the story. Rang de Basanti which begins with quick superimposition of black and white snapshots of freedom struggle and freedom fighters with the gung-ho modern-day Indian youth in the accompaniment of some A.R. Rahman'ssnappy music, which at times sounds noisy, is certainly better than the usual sex-as-a-vehicle kind of Hindi movies which make good reviews in the secular press.
The movie meanders through the first half that viewers, mostly youngsters, were seen talking on their cell phones in hushed tones. The debate on nationalism amongst the several protagonists is shot in such pop-culture mode that it is hardly convincing. It is even a little embarrassing to watch a polemical debate being set in one-liners. The most unconvincing is Madhavan (Ajay) as the Indian Air Force pilot who tries to butt in when most guys around him talk about the country being beyond redemption. Perhaps there was not enough time for him to explain why this country is not perfect, yet we could all make it perfect. In the end of the debate, one is convinced by Aamir Khan, don?t-give-a-damn attitude. The movie would have been cogent had it projected today'syouth with those attitude that would have been closer to reality.
Indifferent kids turning out to be hard-core nationalists who don'teven think twice about killing parents in their fight against corruption has a strong message, but the solution at the end is really cockeyed. The scenes shot at the All India Radio are so puerile and inane. And one can'teven argue that it is not a straight lift from the Tamil movie Indian where Kamala Hasan does something as ridiculous.
Then there is also this political message that secular film-makers can hardly resist. Where was it found that cheap spare parts have led to the MiGs falling off the sky which have claimed so many of our brilliant pilots? If there is an investigation report to that effect no such evidence is peddled in the movie. And the suggestion that the NDA government at that time was responsible for the corruption and the planes crashing is invidious and pathetic. Was there no MiG crash before or after the NDA government was in power? The assassination of Union Defence Minister shown in the movie with flashes of the freedom struggle is a travesty of truth. If like Tehelka.com, the movie had used a fictitious political party, a fictitious storyline and a fictitious event it would have been quite a message, but the saffron party office, the MiG 21 crashes, reference to corruption in defence deals, as if to give credence to Tehelka.com is outrageous.
But Rang de Basanti is not alone in such gimmickry and lack of perfectionism. The movie Paheli which was send to the Oscars had scenes in which the hero Shah Rukh Khan is shown bare-bodied with distinct booster shot marks on his arms though the story is set centuries ago?the hero uses peacock plume to write his love letters. Then there is Black which is about a deaf and dumb girl. But the girl in a remarkable performance by Rani Mukherjee displays deranged behaviour. A parent of deaf and dumb child once wrote a furious letter to the Times of India on the presupposition by film-makers who don'tunderstand medical niceties nor want to learn them while making a movie.