Film Review: Rangoon
Date: 24 February 2017
Producer: Nadiadwala, Bharadwaj, Viacom 18
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut
Rating: 3.5 stars
We have seen many love stories set in times of war and Vishal Bharadwaj’s Rangoon adds to the long list. What makes his story different is that he combines what was happening to India during World War II with what was happening to Indian cinema between the years1939 to 1945.
The hero, a suave Russi Billimoria /Saif Ali Khan, is the owner of leading film studio. The heroine, Miss Julia/ Kanagana Ranaut, who met Russi when she was only 14 is today, a hugely successful star. Julia and Rusi are dreaming of eternal togetherness when into their life enters, a courageous soldier, Jamadar Nawab Malik/ Shahid Kapoor.
The film opens in vintage Mumbai film studio and travels on a steam chugging train crossing bridges and meadows. There are many mishaps and adventures on the long journey but eventually, the film artistes invited to entertain the soldiers, arrive in Rangoon!
Quietly, a new love story is blossoming, a new anguish is arousing a new envy but the pain and the passion have to wait till bigger issues concerning the pre-independent nation are addressed.
While father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi professes non-violence to the countrymen, nation’s young leader, Subhash Chandra Bose urges that all is fair in war when it comes to freeing a nation! These are turbulent times and the county is divided into two contrasting ideologies and frankly unable to decipher between the right and the wrong.
What works about the film, is the magnificent scale and the canvass. Rangoon is superbly shot and lovingly photographed. There is detailing in art, color, texture and props. There are magnificent sets, vintage cars and flawless costumes that include dark glasses, chiffon scarves, net stockings and slender cigars.
The writing is reflective of the era, combines Hindi, English and in this case Japanese, the expressions, at times understated and at times theatrical, the romance carried forward in the form of frothy lyrics and energetic choreography.
The skyline alters hues according to the moods of the characters and maestro Vishal creates magic with music, it is not just the background score, the songs, he introduces music and the haunting voices of singers Sunidhi Chauhan, Arijit Singh and Rekha Bharadwaj as characters in the narrative.
What does not work about the film is the length, the shaky climax and a certain inexplicable disconnection. Here is a film that has everything- romance, pathos, entertainment and superstars who deliver sincere performances…
There are magical moments: like the film unit introduced as a singing opera… the seductive mud fight between Shahid and Kangana…The dramatic sword fight between Saif Khan and Kangana…the utterly delightful train song…
But all this combined together, somehow, does not touch our hearts, it does not engage us in the lives of the characters and that is the tragedy!
Still, Rangoon must be watched for filmmaker Vishal Bharadwaj’s vision and craft, for his creation of the era and the unusual characters, their aura and presence and above all, for his extraordinary music.