Movie Review: Rangoon is Blood Hell Different

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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.

24th Feb awara

Bioscope Stories 1950-1959 (Day 1038)

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In the year 1950 Madan Mohan one of Hindi cinema’s most venerated composers, made his debut with Aankhen and teamed up with lyricist Raja Mehndi Ali Khan in coming years. In the year 1951 the concept of a dream sequence ‘Ghar aaya mera pardesi…’ is first introduced by Raj Kapoor in Awara.

In the year 1952: KA Abbas’s debut film Anhonee, starred heroine/ Nargis for the first time in a double role. In 1953 film Ladki grossed around 1, 50, 00, 0 0 0 and became the second highest grossing film of that time.

Did you know that in the year 1957 Tumsa Nahin Dekha transformsed struggling actor Shammi Kapoor into an overnight sensation? Or that in the year 1958 while filming Do Aankhen Barah Haath, actor/filmmaker V Shantaram while fighting with a bull during shooting injured his eye; and became blind for a year but later recovers his eyesight miraculously.

Did you know that in the year 1959 playback singer Mahendra Kapoor made his singing debut with the hit ‘Aadha hai chandrama raat aadhi…’ for the film Navrang and Jeetendra also started his career as a body double for female actor Sandhya in Navrang?

So many stories, so many films, will you tell you more about the remaining decades in the following weeks.

23rd feb shakuntala

Bioscope Stories 1940-1949 (Day 1037)

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In the year 1940 Vishwa Mohini was the first Indian film, depicting the Indian movie world. The film was directed by YV Rao and scripted by Balijepalli Lakshmikanta Kavi. In the year 1943 Ashok Kumar’s Kismet ran uninterruptedly in Kolkata theatres for years and its record was broken 30 years later by Sholay. In the same year Shakuntala was the first Indian film to be shown in US and was screened in Indian theatres uninterrupted for 104 weeks.

In the year1945 Mohammed Rafi sang his first Hindi film song for Gaon Ki Gori for Shyam Sunder. In the year 1946 film Dr. Kotnis ki Amar Kahani based on the life of Dwarkanath Kotnis, an Indian doctor who worked in China during the Japanese invasion in World War II released.

In the year 1947 Jugnu was Dilip Kumar’s earliest hits and Mohammed Rafi lend the playback for ‘Yahan badla wafa ka,..’ soon a lifelong bond was forged between the thespian and the singer. In the year 1949 social drama film Apna Desh addressed the problems faced by the newly formed independent India. The Telugu and Tamil versions of the film were called Nam Naadu.

22nd feb Alam Ara

Bioscope Stories 1930-1939 (Day 1036)

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In the year 1931 Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay written Dena Paona was credited as one of the first Bengali talkies, and along with Alam Ara, became one of the first sound films produced in India. In the year 1933 music composer Jaidev at the age of 15 ran from home to become a film star and worked in eight films as a child star for the Wadia Film Company, Bombay.

In the year 1934 Chandidas a remake of the Bengali film directed by Debaki Bose for the first time used a full-fledged orchestra and the attempt was successful. Did you know that in the year 1935 the first edition of Filmindia, India’s first film trade magazine was published and Baburao Patel was the Editor and Publisher of this trade magazine?

In the year 1936 Sant Tukaram, a Varkari Sant and spiritual poet was the first Indian film to be screened at an International Film Festival and in the year 1938 actor Chittor V Nagaiah, became the first multilingual film actor, singer, music composer, producer and directors in India. He was called Paul Muni of India in the media.

In the year 1939 Shanta Hublikar sang ‘Ab kis liye kal ki baat…’ in seven languages (with different lyricists/composers) in V Shantaram’s Aadmi and Veena Subbanna, Carnatic exponent of the Veena breathed his last.

21st feb Savkari Pash

Bioscope Stories 1920-1929 (Day 1035)

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In the year 1922 Fatma Begum, an Indian actress, trained in theatre made debut in films, she was an actor, writer and director, in fact the first female film director of Indian cinema. In the year 1925 V Shantaram, who started his career assisting Baburao Painter, made his acting debut in the role of a village peasant in Savkari Pash.


In the year 1926 Rabindranath Tagore traveled extensively to stage a dance drama in order to raise funds for his university. In the year 1928: Silent film, Khoon-e-Nahak became the first Indian screen adaptation of Hamlet directed by Athavale based on Mehdi Hasan Ahsan’s version of the play, written originally for the Parsi theatre.


In the year 1929: Devika Rani married film producer Himanshu Rai and left for Germany where she mastered different aspects of film-making in the UFA Studios, Berlin. She was the first actress with a degree in film-making. In the same year in the very popular film A Throw of Dice, Himanshu Rai introduced the concept of recorded sound effects synchronized and played along with films.


Bioscope Stories 1912-1919 (Day 1034)

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Indian cinema is more than 100 years old and still, there is so much we don’t know about our cinema. For the next few weeks, I will tell you magical stories from the magical years. Did you know that the first feature length film released in India was Shree Pundalik, a silent film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne at Coronation Cinematograph, Mumbai and the year was 1912?

In the year 1913 Raja Harishchandra although a silent film with intertitles in Marathi, English and Hindi I regarded as the first Marathi film because its cast and staff were all Marathi people. In 1914 the first permanent cinema hall, Elphinstone Picture Palace built by J F Madan, opened at Queen’s Road in Delhi.

15541345_1324662607604316_6081590208820897782_nIn 1915 S N Patankar launched a film producing company- Patankar Union, and produced a historical film- Murder of Narayanrao Peshwa. In 1916 the first silent film in Tamil, Keechaka Vadham was made by R Nataraja Mudaliar. In the year 1917 Elphinstone Bioscope Co. Calcutta produced Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra, a remake of Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra.


In 1918 Keechaka Vadham was the first silent film made in South India but since no print of the film is known to survive, this makes it a lost film. In 1919 Elphinstone merged into Madan Theatres Limited and introduced many of Bengal’s popular literary works on stage.

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