Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rang De Basanti

Before viewing the film, I knew next to nothing about Rang De Basanti, except for that it:

1)Starred the ultra-talented Aamir Khan.

2)Was a highly respected film, receiving postive reviews from bloggers, critical acclaim, and several award nominations/wins.

3)Made a political and social comment, and although I had no idea regarding what, I knew it generated a lot of discussion and gave RDB a substantial mark in the history of Indian cinema.

4)Had a cool name. I didn't know what Rang de Basanti meant at the time, but I loved the way it sounded(By the way, thanks to IMDB.com, now I know it means Paint it Yellow (Saffron), a statement that represents being sacrificed for a good cause. The color yellow is also used frequently in the film. Wow. Its even cooler now!)

Sold. I would have purchased it based on #1 alone.

I was cautious about going into the film blindly, especially with such high expectations, as I had with Lagaan. Although I enjoyed that film, I totally overanalyzed it and walked away feeling it wasn't what I expected. But after I wrote the post and started reading the comments, I realized I missed the beauty of Lagaan--its uniqueness is what sets it apart, and I didn't appreciate that at the time.

With Rang de Basanti, I wasn't going to let that happen. I remained patient through the first half, which reminded me a tad bit of Dil Chata Hai. This wasn't a good thing, since Rang de Basanti lacked the character development and chemistry the friends in that film shared. Even Aamir Khan's DJ felt like a milder Aakash...

But, I chose to cast those feelings aside and remain patient, knowing something big was going to happen and whirl the balance of the film in a completely different direction. Boy, was I glad I kept the faith. Shortly after intermission, it all came together, and I realized this film was nothing like Dil Chata Hai. In fact, it was unlike any film I had ever seen, and I was amazed in the turn of events as well as the clever plot which was unraveling before my eyes.

The film begins when a British filmmaker named Sue(played by Alice Patten) decides to make a movie in India based on her grandfather's diary, a prison guard during the Indian Independence Movement. She travels to India to begin shooting with her friend Sonia (Soha Ali Khan--Saif Ali Khan's sister, for those of you who are like me and did not know). Sonia helps Sue find her cast for the film--four of Sonia's own closest college friends, DJ, Karan, Aslam, and Sukhi(Aamir Khan, Siddarth, Kunal Kapoor, and Sharman Joshi, respectively). Later the crew adds Laxman (Atul Kulkarni), although not without some conflict. We see the friends laugh, cry, have fun, all things we can expect college students to do. This occupies most of the first half, although the film is peppered with flashbacks from Sue's grandfather's diary, which later transform to our college friends in character.

If you've seen Rang de Basanti, you know its much more than that, as the core of the film's message starts to really take shape in the second half. But for the sake of those who haven't seen the film, the rest is better left unsaid--Just please trust me on this one and see it for yourself!

I've said it before and I'll say it again--Aamir Khan is truly an amazing actor. But I realized after watching Rang De Basanti that I respect him for something else, too: It seems like he chooses to do films that have a political or social message that he feels strongly about. Just look at the evidence--his role in Fanaa and controversial comments he made surrounding it, the strong Indian unity and triumph during British rule in Lagaan, the sensitive issue in Taare Zameen Par (a film I haven't seen but I know is about a child with a disabilty--which definitely strikes a sensitivity chord with me). Unfortunately, I don't know Aamir Khan personally, so I can't say whether my statement is valid or not, but I just get the impression that he chooses projects which mean something to him. And, wow, I really love him for that.

The rest of the cast was amazing, and all deserve individual credit, but since there are so many of them, I'll refrain from doing so--its not really necessary in this film. I will say that I heard Shahrukh Khan was supposed to play the part of Sonia's boyfriend, but was unavailable to do so (the part was ultimately given to Madhavan). I have mixed feelings about that--it could have been an amazing opprotunity for him to do something different and do it well, or his star power could have bogged down his ability to play a supporting character. It would have been either great or awful, but I guess we'll never know, and that's okay.

I thought some of the songs in the film were pretty, but sometimes felt a little bored while watching--weird for me because I'm not one of those people who get antsy during song-time in Hindi films. I usually watch them as closely as I do the dialouges. But, for some reason, I found my mind wandering in this film's musical moments.

(***SPOILER*****)I just have to say the ending is extremely powerful and effective, and I mean that in more than just content but on a technical level as well. The director played this out brilliantly--I'll never forget the last few frames...or DJ and Karan's smiles. Not to mention Karan's flashback of his last moment with his father. Powerful. I was literally in floods of tears.
(****SPOILER END*****)

I guess this is a short post because a film like this truly speaks for itself. I can't even crack any sarcastic jokes or comment on Kunal Kapoor's hottness, because it just doesn't seem relevant(but hot he is--ok, I couldn't help it).

Just go see it. It is definitely a one of a kind film.

Text © 2008 Nida Nazir
Bitten By Bollywood


Ipshi August 6, 2008 at 4:50 AM  

I'm really glad to read this review and that u liked the movie. it was a turning point in my life. I actually enrolled in a NGO after it. What did u think of the kitchen scene between DJ and Sue? I was literally dissolving into my tears at that time. I think it affected me even more because all those characters reminded me so much of my college friends, one of whom died in a communal riot.

on a side note, i've interacted with Kunal Kappor and he was once even working out in front of me and take it from me.. he's hotness personified!! yum yum

Nicki August 6, 2008 at 6:11 AM  

Aamir is so good. I love his films. He hardly ever disappoints me at all!

I showed a few of my Hmong friends this movie. They all had to wipe their tears at the end. You're right. The movie itself is powerful enough, you don't have to write too much about it. I feel that way too about Taare Zameen Par.

I'm in the minority but I don't find Kunal Kapoor hot. Good looking, yes. Not hot. He reminds me of a desi Jesus for some reason, lol. I prefer Siddharth. Love him. He's another reason I have been watching Telugu films. Time for me to pull out his Telugu movies and blog about it now.

ajnabi August 6, 2008 at 8:47 AM  

Desi Jesus! LOL Nicki you're hilarious.

Nida, I keep on wavering back and forth on this movie. I've heard that its ending is rip-you-apart sad, although I've not got any details, and it took me about a month to recover from Dil Se, so I'm not sure I can take it.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat August 6, 2008 at 11:48 AM  

Oh thank the lord someone else finds him Jesus-like in appearance as well- I'd been feeling belasphemous :)

It is truly a great movie- I share your reaction to karan's flash back of the episode w/ his dad- I was shaken. I cant watch it again though- not soon anyway- its too strong :)

Nida August 6, 2008 at 5:43 PM  


I think the kitchen scene was one of the most powerful in the film. I was struck by Aamir's performance, as I usually am, but this was the first time I'd seen him fake-cry onscreen. It wasn't fake at all...he kept trying to fight it, as I believed DJ would do, but he just couldn't. It also showed a lot about DJ's relationship with Sue, that he trusted her, that she was someone he cared about because he was reaching out to her in his time of sorrow rather than pushing her away. Sue's reaction only confirmed her feelings for him. It wasn't just flirtation--these two genuinely cared for one another. Also was a nice touch when Sue tells DJ to eat something, he takes a couple futile bites and then starts talking about what is really on his mind. Very realistic, I thought.

Nicki---Grrr, what is taking so long with the Taare Zameen Par DVD? I can't wait to see it!
Agree Siddarth is a cutie pie.And did a great job in the film.

Ajnabi-Haven't seen Dil Se, so I can't compare, but this movie is heavy, and yes, extremely sad. I'm touchy about that stuff, too though--Did you ever see "Million Dollar Baby?" Well, I thought the movie was fantastic but it hurt me so much I vowed never to watch it again--and I haven't, even though I own it. "Rang De Basanti" was equally sad, if not more so, but didn't make me feel like I would never want to watch it again...but everyone's different...If you do decide to watch it give yourself a box of tissue and some comforting surroundings just in case!

I think I need to watch it again, because I think I'd appreciate some of the first half a little more, knowing what's coming...But I'm with you, it won't be anytime soon!

Nida August 6, 2008 at 5:48 PM  

Oh, yeah, and Nicki, Ajabi and Shweta,

I totally thought Kunal looked Desi-Jesus ish, especially in this film! As a matter of fact, as I was flipping thru trying to get a screenshot of him for that last image, I discarded so many because I was like, "Nah, too Jesus-ish..." As we were watching this film, I told my mom they should cast Kunal in a Jesus film...:)

Joss,  August 7, 2008 at 4:52 AM  

I think I need to watch this movie again. Because I thought the plan to assassinate the government minister was far-fetched in the first place I suppose I have shut my eyes to now good the rest of the film was. But, hey, today in my newspaper I read that India is almost on a par with Iraq when it comes to deaths from terrorism. So maybe not so far-fetched after all. I am an Aamir fan, although here it did bother me that he had taken on the role of someone so much younger than himself. He always just seemed too old.

But I will get out my DVD and watch again. You have definitely enthused me, Nida!

Nida August 7, 2008 at 12:59 PM  


Interesting, I can see what you mean. You know, I didn't think it was far-fetched, persay, but I did think they could have had more leading up to it. I mean, it was mentioned (let's kill the prime minister), and then next thing you know the guy was shot. I think they could have given us a bit more play out for something that big, and for such a shift in gears in the tone of the film.

I'm glad you want to watch it again--I truly think its something I'll appreciate and "get" more and more with repeat viewings!

Nida August 7, 2008 at 12:59 PM  


Interesting, I can see what you mean. You know, I didn't think it was far-fetched, persay, but I did think they could have had more leading up to it. I mean, it was mentioned (let's kill the prime minister), and then next thing you know the guy was shot. I think they could have given us a bit more play out for something that big, and for such a shift in gears in the tone of the film.

I'm glad you want to watch it again--I truly think its something I'll appreciate and "get" more and more with repeat viewings!

Reema August 7, 2008 at 8:38 PM  

I loved this movie up until they plan the assassination. I just felt it sent the wrong message, so I didn't enjoy it at all after that point.

But I will wholeheartedly agree with the Kunal = Hot discussion. :D

theBollywoodFan August 7, 2008 at 11:31 PM  

Hi Nida: Excellent review, and glad you enjoyed the film! It's all the more relevant to its primary target audience, the youth in and of India (and of all of South Asia, even), who can easily identify with the theme and plot, and who've grown up around unstable times because of unstable (and frankly, corrupt and genuinely evil in many cases) leaders. I thought while the actions of the group and the retaliatory response was somewhat far-fetched, that the message behind the film might not have been portrayed as effectively if it weren't for that approach.

I didn't think the film ever justified the group's actions -- poetic justice would not prevail if it did. If anything, the film discouraged it very explicitly (revisiting is in order, for those left with another impression), portraying the characters as immature and impulsive (hence the lack of development of the decision to do something as drastic), but loyal to a cause.

To me, the message of the film was provided by the inspirational elements: 1) types of people, by those who tolerate things the way they are, versus those who make a positive contribution to society; 2) go make a difference and improve your country instead of being armchair politicians; 3) don't forget what it took to earn independence.

That is also why the film would be incomplete without the very last scenes, with the media coverage of the average member of the target demographic. Thoughts?


Joss,  August 8, 2008 at 4:10 AM  

Hi bollywoodfan

Thank you for this analysis. I shall watch again to see whether or not I think the film justified the group's actions. I definitely agree with you about the last scenes, as that was the part that stuck in my mind the most, 'the media coverage of the average member of hte target demographic'. I felt that those were real people and that I was one of them, even though I am not, and actually come from Big Bad Britain. Of course I identified strongly with Alice Patten, and now think that I am as gorgeous as she is! Also I have been having Hindi lessons. main aapne dekhiegi, aapke blog ke yahaa. mujhe aur lyrics ki zarurat hai. Apologies to all true Hindi speakers reading this!

Nirvana August 8, 2008 at 10:47 AM  


Aamir Khan is a good actor no doubt, but i have the crib that in every movie he retains some Aamir Khan characteristics that prevent him from fully stepping into the shoes of the character itself. The same goes for Shahrukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan (the current persona, not the Amitabh of the days of yore). And thats whats preventing these actors from being counted as some of the greats of Hindi cinema. They ooze oodles of the X factor, charisma, no doubt but somewhere down the line they hold themselves back.

As against that, look at Naseeruddin Shah. He's a truly great actor.

But coming back to your post, I loved Rang de Basanti as well. And loved every one of its songs and their picturizations.

Nice blogpost



@ http://www.nirvana73.blogspot.com/

theBollywoodFan August 8, 2008 at 12:18 PM  

Joss: I absolutely loved Alice Patten in this (like Rachel Shelley in Lagaan), and would love to know what you think of the film's messaging after seeing it again (I've seen it several times, and still don't think I completely get it, which is the beauty of art, right?). Good luck with those Hindi lessons!

Niravana: Isn't a fragment of individual traits showing in acting (and the positive and negative assessments thereof) inherent in the profession (or any form of art, for that matter)?

Naseeruddin Shah is undoubtedly a phenomenal actor and one of my favorites, but I thought Malamal, Tridev, Sarfarosh, Iqbal, Khuda Ke Liye, and even the TV show Mirza Ghalib (in which he was fantastic) gave us several examples of how he could be very Naseeruddin-ish. And wasn't Amitabh Bachchan in each of his hits from the '70s, very Amitabh-ish?

Finally...isn't it very cool to be Naseeruddin-ish, Amitabh-ish, or Aamir-ish? =) Cool enough for people to like them so much, and scripwriters and filmmakers to build their characters around them sometimes (the merits of which could be debated forever)? Haven't we seen enough of them for us to accept them all as 'great'? What do you think?


PS: Doubt there's an actor who tries harder to get in the skin of the character than Aamir. He's shot a crazy scene running toward an oncoming train (Ghulam), spent time with locals to pick up a dialect (Lagaan), and let his hair grow for 18 months so he could look, feel, therefore act like the real character (Mangal Pandey).

Nida August 8, 2008 at 7:42 PM  


Desi Jesus or not, Kunal is hot! I'm glad someone agress with me :)

Bollywood Fan--Thank you, glad you liked the review! I didn't agree with what the characters did, either, but I do agree with you that it was done with the filmmaker's intention of showing the wrong way to go about things. Also, I think the film's message was to encourage citizens to take a stand for what they believe in instead of merely complaining about the country's leaders before things escalate to the point it did in the film.
Funny you should bring up the relavance to the target audience, as I was thinking that the film must have been even 100% more powerful to those who were familiar with India's political system. This is why I chose to "go with the flow" in this movie and not overanalyze the things I didn't agree with, or understand--I knew it covered a topic I had little knowledge about, and wouldn't really have merit to criticize. Being sensitive to that, I enjoyed the film with an open mind. Like I said in the post, I'm glad I did! I agree with Joss, the last scenes were extremely powerful, as was the last scenes with DJ and Karan. I think those last demographics really nailed the point home, showing someone like me who is unfamiliar with the issues covered in the film, that they were real issues happening to "real people", as Joss put it.
I also agree with you on Aamir, even Kajol remarked in an interview that upon working him she really gained a lot of respect for him as an actor, because he put 110% into his role. She really couldn't believe how much effort he put into it. Not only that, but every time I watch Aamir, I'm struck by how amazingly talented he is. He's never over the top, never sleepwalking through the part, always "Spot on". At least in the few films I've seen him in, anyways. Sometimes, as in this role and his role in "Dil chata Hai", there are similarities, but I don't think about it after awhile, as I'm enjoying him so much. Also, good point about every artist putting a bit of themselves into all of their work.

Thank you for the compliment! As I said above, I do see some similarities in Aamir with past roles, but I love him just the same. Also agree with Amitabh and Shahrukh's dilemmas, although I think they struggle with this more than Aamir does. Haven't seen much of Naseeruddin Shah, but what I have seen I liked! Definitely is an amazing actor!

Good luck with the Hindi lessons! I loved Alice Patton, too....don't worry, in no time you will be using Hindi as effortlessly as she did in the film! :)

Zehra,  August 9, 2008 at 8:06 AM  

Hey Nida,

You did a blog on one of my all time favourites movie and that on my birthday, so it makes my day even special.

(Even though I'm reading it today after 4 days =$)

RDB was a true delight! =]

I've seen this movie umpteenth times, still whenever it runs on the cable I do watch it no matter what.

Everything was so perfect. Even though it had no big stars other than Amir Khan and Kiron Kher still the cast did brilliantly. There couldn't have been any better choices made about the actors.

Howcome you didn't comment on Kiron Kher's performance as DJ's mom? Maybe you ain't familiar with her. Do watch Hum Tum too, if you haven't yet. It stars Saif, Rani and Kiron. Also in cameo role Rishi Kapoor.


kaush August 9, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

This was a really good post, I did a search on Kismat Konnection and landed this blog. I liked your review for Kismat Konnection too and totally agree on it! Especially when you said Shahid is good but not Shahrukh!

Rang De Basanti almost became a cult film when it came out. I at first did not think the death of guys was a fitting end - it almost left a void for me but after seeing it for a few more times I realized that for the message that the makers wnated to convey there was no better end than this one. I quite like the supporting cast especially Siddharth and Atul Kulkarni.

Nida August 12, 2008 at 9:38 AM  

Happy Belated Birthday! You're right, Kirron Kher deserves to be mentioned--in any film she is in, for that matter. I've seen her in supportive roles about a handful of times and have loved every one of her performances. :)

I just watched the fantastic "Main Hoon Na"(Post to come soon) and thought she was better than ever in that one.

Nida August 12, 2008 at 9:46 AM  


Thank you! I'm glad you liked it, as well as "Kismat Konnection"...:) I agree, Shahid is great, but needs to stick with his own understated style instead of trying to do SRK-esque mannerisms.

I can imagine this was borderline cult film territory. Siddarth was my second fave next to Aamir, but thought the entire cast did a good job. Like you, my initial gut reaction was "Come on, did they really have to kill them all at the end?" But in hindsight realize it was done this way for a purpose.

Thanks for stopping by!

yves December 2, 2008 at 2:56 PM  

Hi Nida,
I loved all that rave about Kunal's temperature!! Er, if you're willing to feel more of it, I've just watched MF Husain's Meenaxi, tale of 3 cities, and he's one of M. Husain's selling arguments there, so...
bye for now!

Nida December 4, 2008 at 12:08 PM  


Thanks for the suggestion! I'll take any excuse to watch Kunal!

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Anonymous,  August 19, 2012 at 4:28 PM  

Unlike the comments here, I did not like the movie. IT was one of those Aamir Khan movies that my wife insisted I see, and unlike 3-Idiots, Dhobi Ghaat, Lagaan,.. I put it in the same class as Fanaa. Poorly directed, sequences that were not believable and openly flounting a bias (the corrupt ministers and party with all saffron pugrees.., anybody's guess?)

Speaking of bias, at my wife's insistence I also ended up seeing My Name is Khan, and a Saif flick where he is an international spy. So, here is my beef (pun intended) - and the proverbial white elephant in the room. Well, India is a secular country - and democratic; both facts demonstrated by the extreme celebrity status of Khans. You can't get more democratic than a bollywood flick where the common man has to spend Rupee by his own free will to to watch it. So, while clearly benefiting from the largess of this secular and democratic social structure, how come none of these Khans have come out and taken a stand against Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism - on the contrary they and their movies seem to suggest just the opposite. I dont think they are Pakistan sympathizers; but they seem to secretly wish and propagate that Pakistan is not a terrorist nation.

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