Saturday, 11 March 2017

Rangoon 2017 Movie Review

 


While growing up how many of us had wondered what had happened to the soldiers who worked for the British army? Very few textbooks even mentioned the fact clearly. Oh we all knew that there was an active military arm that was Indian due to the Mangal Pandey story. But how many of us actually heard anything about their fate? Our soldiers fighting for the allied forces? This alone was enough to compel me to watch the movie. So I went to the movie, my head buzzing with these thoughts and anticipation. Before I express my thoughts about the actual movie something about this buzzz...

Indians who write about Indian movies must be in a strange state right now. On the one hand, Indian cinema is for the first time in decades, marching into unchartered territories, dabbling in content till now considered a box-office killer, documentary material.  But the directors now are telling stories that are rooted in our reality, the untold stories, stories that were not told in classrooms, while the kids wondered more about the chronology and the names of pacts and missions more than the story itself.

Vishal Bharadwaj has repeatedly proven that he is one such director, who loves to tell a good story. And although his plots have been inspired from Shakespeare, the world of his stories is rooted in India. If you haven't seen his movies, especially Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello) then you would think it might have been an awkward sort of superimposition, far from it. Rangoon on the other hand, seems to be perhaps a movie that overpowered the director, it could not wait for a framework and chose to find its own framework as the work shaped. Of course, there is a joy in creating a period film, it comes with the grandeur and nostalgia. Also we have the advantage of retrospection, all the possible outcomes of the events are revealed by now.

Now...

Right away you will be impressed in the movie's success in creating the sepia-toned past in that colour. If there is any period that should portrayed in black and white it is the colonial period. Nothing is better in capturing the greyness of the period than this medium.

Yet the challenge of such a project is the narrative and characterisation, usually a stronghold of Bharadwaj. But it seems that in the efforts to capture the atmosphere the narrative is constantly losing the reins on the story. Also romance is one factor that wins over popular appeal in such a subject, yet a director has to be skillful in letting the love angle not become central to the story. It may not be apparent very quickly but in capturing the fiery temperament of Julia, the subject gets sidelined ever so often. I have admired Bharadwaj's women and they are never a mere accessory, they contribute towards propeling the story. Yet Julia despite being a woman with a fiery temperament remains a mere pinup girl.

Shahid Kapoor remains constant in his performance and delivers his Nawab with a formidable energy. S

But new directors are making movies on subject without the burden of imagined audience expectations or box office. And aren't we so tired of the loud, psychedelic mass created style cinema of the 70s and 80s of flat worlds or the saccharine sweetness of the 90s where the hero and heroines romanced and did nothing else?

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