Sometimes a movie makes such an impact that I am reluctant to re-watch it, fearing a loss of that impact. Rang De Basanti is one such film. After six years, as I prepared myself to watch it again, I told myself to be objective as I needed the eyes and ears of a critic. I failed miserably. The movie involved me from the first scene to the last and as I watched the credits with the remnants of tears streaking down my cheeks, I could only think ‘Whence objectivity?’.
The truth is that my emotional involvement started a long while back. I had read of Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekar Azad when I was at school and these boys were my heroes from then. When in 2006 I told the story to my son, he said ‘Oh they were terrorists were they?’. I looked with shocked eyes at him. I could not bear to have them called that. No, I am not uninvolved.
The first kudos is for the script – Rang De Basanti is beautifully written with main characters painted with a deft but sure brush. Within 20 mins or so, I knew who they were, what made them tick.
A young English woman, Sue, wants to make a film about Bhagat Singh, Azad, Rajguru, Ashfaqulla Khan and Bismil. Her connection? Her grandfather was their jailor and had kept a diary. She comes to India. Her Indian friend Sonia and her mates, DJ, Karan, Aslam and Sukhi are roped in to act for the film. The discordant note is set by the one outside recruit – Laxman, a political activist. Two stories unfold before us then. There is a story of young men who fought against the British on ideology and belief and little else in the late 1920’s, Lilliputian Davids against Goliath. Here in the early 2000’s, the young men have little in common with the parts they play. They are drifters in life with neither nationalism nor ideology. It is as if the worlds of these two sets of men can only meet in the celluloid.
An event changes all this. A friend and Sonia’s fiancé Ajay, an Airforce pilot, is killed in an accident. There is talk of old spare parts from Russia, political corruption, cover-ups. Politicians turn the story on its head, calling the pilot inept. From here things get quickly out of hand. Are they influenced by the story they just filmed? These two disparate sets of young men separated by decades slowly become superimposed, one on the other. They decide to kill the politician in charge of the corrupt deal. But the media makes him out to be a martyr instead. They have to do what Bhagat, Azad and the other boys did. They have to come out in the open to acknowledge responsibility and state their case. These boys had not been able to identify with the revolutionaries whose parts they played; now their stories become one.
The film has been made perfectly. I have some serious reservations about showing this kind of violent activism on screen but if I keep that aside, I can find nothing to fault. Next to Aamir, I was taken especially by the intensity of Siddharth Nayaran. However, all the actors have done an excellent job. There is no one-upmanship – each part, small or big, contributes equally to the film.
This is a brilliant film.
Lets come to the music. A.R.Rahman has composed music which melds perfectly with the mood of the film. Those who read my posts know that I am a traditionalist. I like songs which have good melodies and lyrics, songs which are voice-centric. This album is not for the traditionalist. However, the songs are a fitting background to the film and add to the drama. The film would be much poorer without them; ARR has to be acknowledged for that. Prasoon Joshi is to be congratulated on his lyrics as well.
Paathshaala – Aslam, Blaaze, Naresh Iyer. There are two versions of this song, one a dance song and the other a rap mood-setter. Both work well as picturised, defining the carefree and rather daredevil nature of this group. I found myself tapping to the rhythm and swaying to the beat.
Ik Onkar – Harshdeep Kaur. Shot in the Golden Temple, it is a serene prayer song. Thankfully ARR has left it with little instrumentation.
Rang De Basanti – Chitra, Daler Mehendi. I enjoyed this high energy Bhangra title song and its excellent picturisation. Good cinematography keeps the memory of the song alive. The singers do a decent job.
Khalbali – Aslam, A.R.Rahman, Nacim. Arabic sounds with a good beat, this is another very atmospheric song. Though I will not choose to hear this by itself, I was drawn to it thanks to its setting in the film.
Tu Bin Bataye – Naresh Iyer, Pandhshree. The only romantic duet in this film, it should have appealed but did not touch any chord.
Luka Chupi – Lata Mangeshkar, A.R.Rehman. Lata’s voice is not what it used to be, but as it stands in the movie, it does fine as the mental voice of Waheeda. A.R.Rahman for the first time impresses me with his singing. The lyrics are cleverly done, a mother playing hide-and-seek with her child and worrying about not finding him to match this mother who will never find her son again.
तेरी राह तके अँखियाँ जाने कैसा कैसा होये जिया
धीरे धीरे आँगन उतरे अंधेरा मेरा दीप कहाँ
ढलके सूरज करे इशारा चंदा तू है कहाँ
लुका छुपी बहुत हुई सामने आजा ना
कहाँ कहाँ ढूँढा तुझे थक गई है अब तेरी माँ
आजा साँझ हुई मुझे तेरी फिकर
धुंधला गई देख मेरी नज़र, आजा ना
I like this song very much indeed. An emotional and touching song.
Khoon Chala – Mohit Chauhan. Another background song which adds to the mood of the film. Interesting that such a gentle sounding song works well to rouse the blood! I am not a Mohit fan however, wish it had been some other singer.
Lalkar – Aamir Khan. A poetry reading. Beautifully written by Prasoon Joshi.
Roobaroo – Naresh Iyer, A.R.Rahman. Another atmospheric background song with lyrics to match the setting. Sets mood well enough but I find the melody to be a bit repetitive.
To listen to the whole album, click here.
My selection for today is Luka Chupi. As the movie does not use the complete song, listen to the audio version for the full song.
And for the sheer colourful joy of it, watch the title song here (sorry, embedding disabled).