By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | February 24, 2017
Rating: 2 / 5
The essence: Vishal Bharadwaj brings together a costly sword, the Britishers, Fearless Nadia, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi and cuts himself badly. The sword is double edged!
If Haider was a concerto in D Minor, Rangoon is replete with falsettos—overlapping over two octaves than the intended pitch.
Vishal Bharadwaj tries too many things with this act of his. There’s the story of Fearless Nadia which he intersperses with the freedom struggle of India and the ideologies of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. On paper this looks fabulous, but when put together on screen, one false move and the entire edifice can crumble. This is precisely what happens as Saif Ali Khan’s caricatured, cardboard character of Russi Billimoria, an influential filmmaker of that time, [the film is set in 1949], is not able to hold the weight of the intense performance of Julia (Kangana Ranaut is exceptional).
Even Shahid Kapoor as Jamadar Nawab Malik crumbles under the ineffective character that has been created from where he has to deliver. He tries, and tries, and in between goes completely bollywoodish, marring the mood and moment of the time, which reflects the malaise our filmmakers are stuck with. Sunidhi Chauhan who lends her voice to the brilliantly choreographed song ‘Bloody Hell’ also gets screen time with a microphone and that is taking friendship a little too far, compromising on the intended influence the film is being created to generate. A singer in a movie is in the background, except during concerts!
There’s also the obsession with Arnab Goswami and his now famous anthem, “Nation wants to know.” And speaking of Anthem, I was left looking thrice over my shoulders to see if anyone was standing. Bharadwaj has tried the elementary desh bhakt trick by infusing the Anthem in the plot!
There are other issues as well. The scenes in the Rangoon jungle where Julia and Malik are roaming, trying to find their way back to India are more Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak in its approach than a difficult moment in Indian history. Malik, a seasoned soldier and a POW, is surprisingly soft. Moreover, the scar on Julia’s back becomes an issue—Malik loves it, Russi wants to get a surgeon to cover it.
Russi’s grandfather is so upset with his (Russi’s) closeness to Julia which has wreaked havoc in his marriage that he reminds Russi, “I made you an action star, when did you become a romantic hero?” But the line that takes the cake, icing and the pudding is mouthed by a gora actor who says, “If the British ever leave India this is going to be one of the most corrupt societies in the world!”
Bloody Hell! What intuition!!
The story is simple: Julia is the biggest star in Indian cinema during India’s freedom struggle, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is not in sync with Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology of non-violence and he has a parallel struggle going on for India’s freedom from outside the country. There’s a costly sword which has to be taken out of India to enable funding for the INA (Indian National Army) to fight the Britishers. Bharadwaj brings together the costly sword, the Britishers, Fearless Nadia, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Mahatma Gandhi and cuts himself badly. The sword is double edged!
To Bharadwaj’s credit, he gets the moment in time frozen perfectly with the right costumes and set designing. Some scenes are so poetic that it is a lesson in scene structuring for students of film-making. But for all his genius, Bharadwaj fails this time. There’s not a semblance of the brilliance of Haider in Rangoon!
Producers: Vishal Bharadwaj, Sajid Nadiadwala
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Star Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapor