Rangoon: A Beautiful Canvas without the soul
Vishal Bharadwaj the ace film maker has mastered the art of narrating complex stories on human relations and he is a master in adapting Shakespeare’s work in Hindi movies. All of Vishal’s adaptation of Shakespearian work has been a critical and box office success.
With “Rangoon” Vishal tries to keep it simple with a triangular love story in Broadway style with a back drop of World War 2 and Independence Struggle in 1944. “Rangoon” set in 1944 tells the story of Julia (Kangana Ranaut) a successful actress who is controlled by her mentor Rustom Billimoria a.k.a Rusi (Saif Ali Khan) a movie baron who started as an actor, but due to a fatal accident had to retire as an actor and became a film producer. A much married and pro British, Rusi thinks Julia is his property which he bought when Julia was 14 years from her mother in Rs 1000, in a nutshell he is obsessed with Julia. Julia on the other hand thinks Rusi’s obsession as love and dreams of becoming Mrs Billimoria one day. In the mean time the British Major General Harding (Richard McCabe) comes up with a proposal of sending Julia to the Burma border in order to entertain the soldiers there to Rusi which he agrees. Jamadar Nawab Mallik, a soldier in the British army is given the responsibility of taking care of Miss Julia in her trip to Burma Border. In the course of many events in the journey Julia and Nawab fall in love. What happens to Julia’s love for Rusi, how does Rusi react to the liaison of Julia towards Nawab, and is Nawab hiding a secret, is what the rest of the movie is all about….
Story by Matthew Robbins has too many sub plots namely a triangular love story, the world war, the INA and their Japanese alliance and the freedom struggle. The screenplay by Matthew Robbins, Sabrina Dhawan and Vishal Bharadwaj himself is a case of too many plots spoil the screenplay. “Rangoon” suffers from an identity crisis, neither is it a full blown love story, neither a spy thriller, neither a movie on world war and neither a story a story of INA and freedom struggle. Though primarily more emphasis is given to the triangular love story of the principal characters of Julia, Rusi and Nawab but the sub plot fail to blend with the love story that is intended to narrate, which confuses you what exactly the movie wants to convey. The other problem is the narration; the format is like “Casablance” meets “Chicago” which not only makes the movie leisurely paced due to too many songs but it also stretches till the point of exhaustion. The first half is still tolerant as far as the pace goes but in the second half the songs in a drop of a hat just tests your patience. The worst part of the screenplay is its climax which suddenly goes ballistic and melodrama seeps in and you feel you are transported to the 80’s genre of Hindi movies. In the last 30 minutes of the movie the patriotism is almost thrust down your throat till you scream “Bloody Hell”. One thing that the script gets right is its three principal characters, especially the character of Julia which is the most layered and complexed, it oscillates from being a child woman to a matured woman, next is the character of Nawab which keeps you guessing his moves and motives till the end, the third being the character of Rusi Billimoria, the suave and shrewd movie baron who oscillates from being obsessed and being in love with Julia, his insecurities and his eccentricities due to Julia are relatable. The worst character of the movie is Major General Harding who becomes more of a caricature than menacing what with his Urdu shayari in British accent, which I thought was entirely unnecessary and extremely out of place. Too many characters also play a spoil sport in the narration; some of the characters just do not make any sense in the overall scheme of things. Overall an extremely average writing, not expected from Vishal Bharadwaj.
The dialogues written by Vishal Bharadwaj oscillates from being serious to funny to out rightly outlandish, especially the dialogues of Major General Harding and his Urdu shaiyari was extremely annoying. The patriotic dialogues sound amateurish.
“Rangoon” is a must watch for the performances of the three principal characters, starting with the portrayal of Julia, the complex of the three has been portrayed beautifully by Kangana Ranaut, she does not only look great as a vintage actress but acts effortlessly, you just cannot take your eyes off from her when she is on screen. Kangana yet again proves she is an actress par excellence. Shahid Kapoor who always does wonders in a Vishal Bharadwaj movie, gives a restrained and impactful performance as Jamadar Nawab Mallik. Shahid acts more with his eyes in this movie and each of his expressions creates more depth for his character. At the end it is Nawab’s character which stays with you, thanks to a brilliant performance by Shahid Kapoor. Saif Ali Khan who did wonders with his last association with Vishal as Langda Tyagi in Omkara, gives yet another riveting performance as Rusi Billimoria, though his screen time is less as compared to the other two characters, but still he shines as the shrewd and obsessive movie baron with flying colours. Richard McCabe as Major General Harding hams and his urdu shaiyari is hardly funny and looks caricaturish, one of the worst performance of the movie. Other actors like Gerson Da Cunha, Shriswara, Rushad Rana, Gajraj Rao, Atul Kumar, Satoru Kawaguchi, Alex Avery do not have much to contribute but they do well in whatever little screen time they have.
It is the technical team which make “Rangoon” a treat to watch. Cinematography by Pankaj Kumar is the best thing to have happened to “Rangoon”, it looks amazing and every frame is a master piece. Production Design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray is spot on as per the period, right from the re-creating Mumbai or should I say Bombay of 40’s, the buildings to the cars to the train to the match box, the intricate details by Subrata and Amit cannot be missed, undoubtedly award winning. Costume Design by national award winner Dolly Ahluwalia again hits the bull’s eye, from the skirts to the suits to the army uniforms; all are researched and as per the period depicted, brilliant work from Dolly. Overall the magicians at the back ground make “Rangoon” a visual extravaganza.
Vishal Bharadwaj who normally gets it right, just losses it to his indulgence in making “Rangoon” a desi “Casablanca” in Broadway style movie. It is the writing in a Vishal Bharadwaj movie which shines; unfortunately “Rangoon” fails to shine as far as the writing goes. Somewhere you feel that Vishal is confused what he wants to convey, and the ridiculous climax just destroys the little credibility the movie had. Undoubtedly “Rangoon” is one of the weakest works by Vishal after “Matru ki Bijli Ka Mandola”.
Music which is Vishal Bharadwaj’s forte shines in this movie as well, but too many songs mars the freshness in the narration. Though the choreography of “Bloody hell” and “Mere Piya Gaye England” by Sudesh Adhana and the choreography of “Julia” and “Tippa” by Farah Khan are note worthy. Melody wise and poetry wise “ Alvida” and “Yeh Ishq Hai” stand out, what with Gulzar’s beautiful lyrics. Again the combo of Vishal Bharadwaj and Gulzar creates impact.
“Rangoon” is half baked visual treat, with some brilliant performances by Kagana, Shahid & Saif…I will go with Three Stars…
Movie Rating: (3 / 5)