Films | Rangoon- Movie Review

Rangoon- Movie Review

Posted by Vivek on February 26, 2017 | No Comments

FILM – Rangoon

PRODUCER – Sajid Nadiadwala, Vishal Bhardwaj, Rekha Bhardwaj, (co-producer)

DIRECTOR – Vishal Bhardwaj

WRITER – Matthew Robbins, (story), Matthew Robbins, Sabrina Dhawan, Vishal Bhardwaj (screenplay), Vishal Bhardwaj (dialogue)

CAST – Kangana Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Atul Kumar

MUSIC – Vishal Bhardwaj

Despite being armed with an attractive cast, interesting premise, exciting setting and a solid brand value in Vishal Bhardwaj, Rangoon falters as soon as it begins. Something seems off.

You wait it out. Things happen one after another, all the characters introduced swift and tidy, setting packed away in V/O exposition, set pieces after set pieces occur in various song situations and you continue waiting for the film to begin. Until it ends.

Yes, watching Rangoon is something like that. Everything is pretty and things are happening for sure but one doesn’t quite know why. It is a love triangle set against the backdrop of WW-II and India’s own struggle for independence and its key players are Julia (Kangana Ranaut), a film heroine, Russi (Saif Ali Khan), her producer, mentor and lover, and Nawab (Shahid Kapoor), a soldier in Subhas Chandra Bose’s INA fighting as Japanese allies in the war as opposed to the Indian Army deployed to fight on behalf of the British.

They all land up in Rangoon and while meandering through vague plot points of love, betrayal, passion, nation, loyalty it all ends up in the safe passage of a sword that would help deliver India from all its British evils. By this point the ridiculousness of the whole exercise has shown through.

Kangana, Saif and Shahid all lend their conviction to the proceedings but end up seeming like good intentioned actors unwittingly caught in a mess. While Saif plays the repressed, obsessive Russi a tad bit stiffly, Shahid’s Nawab has little to do except grimace and of course, a lot of action and saving people kind of brave stuff. But it is Kangana’s character that is surprising. For all the noise about author backed, significant female roles, she occupies a large part of the film physically but is as insignificant to the proceedings as is the norm. The film is supposed to be about her but simply happens all around her, leaving her or her victimhood totally unexplored.

The hint of wildness in the vulnerability is too overshadowed by the larger ambitions of the film that do not allow full expression of her abandon. The agency in the film is with the men always and the insipid attempt to turn the heroine into a hero in the end falls flat on its face as it simply reduces her to a more secondary character. Also, it is saddening to see this was the best the makers could do to the juicy premise of a stuntwoman in pre-independence India film industry, in conflict with herself and her men. Modelled on Fearless Nadia, her story takes nothing from the original heroine instead reducing her to a whining, moody, irrational child who is more of a puppet than a whip cracking wild thing.

The music, color palette and texture of the film is rich with landscapes and sets captured at once in their rawness and beauty. Yet, there are passages of CGI that put the MSG films to shame in their tackiness. The lilting music and wicked lyrics are scattered around on seemingly hurriedly shot item-esque numbers with far lesser imagination than the music sits on.

Every film of Vishal Bhardwaj inhabits a distinct space and speaks in a distinct tone, a distinct language which in itself is made of an interesting mix of pot-pourri elements. These elements have also always had a stamp of individuality in aesthetic, thought and juxtaposition. While Maqbool had its mystique, Omkara its darkness, Kaminey its madness, Matru its whimsy, Haider its edge, Rangoon lacks any such sort of distinction in any department, unfortunately.

Unfortunate not because it was a classic opportunity to stretch cinematic boundaries but also successfully comment on the current national discourse of nationalism and anti-nationalism. Because isn’t the Gandhi vs Bose narrative of violence and non violence effectively the very rift India is seeing presently? And Rangoon is a conscious enough film to want to do that. It just seems too self conscious of its craft, too happy with its own gimmicks and too content with its own ideas to really explore them enough.

Fatema Kagalwala

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