Rangoon : A View

You see, the problem with genius minds is, that sometimes they go cuckoo.One such example is Mr.Vishal Bharadwaj. However,let me start by lauding him with lavish complements which I mean unconditionally. I have respect for the man as a good filmmaker. He is one of the finest film makers in India, with a touch of sensitivity, subtlety and class about his movies that is seldom seen in Hindi cinema.

For the uninitiated ,go watch Maqbool ,Omkara or even Haider. Clearly his hold on film making sensibilities will show quite evidently. Then you see Mandola (shortened it) and Rangoon. It seems to me, that maybe two completely different individuals made it! Such is the level of disappointment with Rangoon.

I will tell you why.

Rangoon, has breathtaking cinematography, authentic attention to detail, powerful actors and even threatens us with a story inspired by so-called true events. It flatters to deceive. The ace film maker has dished out a what I call an “almost good” movie. I actually have to create a new category like that since there many such movies falling in that zone these days.

So what makes it almost great?  A scene where Saif Ali Khan is engaged in a make-believe sword fight ,finding out about his true love’s betrayal, which turns so real , with intense emotions and it reaches your heart. The expressions were captured beautifully. The palpable tension was almost Tarantino like (tongue firmly in cheek) taut. Almost.

A scene where Shahid and Kangana make love on the rocks, really intimate, tugs at your heart. Almost. Not sure if her armpit was left slightly unshaven  by design or default. If by design then it’s brilliant, since the story is set pre independence, so no chance Gillette smooth shave ,or it’s feminine equivalent, could’ve  reached there. The intensity of forbidden love, the rawness of it all comes through, almost.

A scene where, the evil British General threatens to kill a child in order to unearth treachery in the ranks. It tugs. Almost. The entire sequence has been shot with intensity and class. The characters play their part well and then the Hero enters singing the anthem declaring his affiliation. You expect it, and it’s predictably dramatic. Could they’ve shown that scene differently? Yes.

Attention to detail is fantastic, be it the pre-independence map of India, set design, Saif’s camcorder, costumes, vintage vehicles used, the scene of press-conference,use of kiddo a la Casablanca moment. Ingrid and Bogart recreated. The set design, and great CGI shots at the start were classily done. It looks pretty.And that’s about it. rest there are fleeting moments of cinematic brilliance, but they are just moments.

So now lets understand what doesn’t work. There is a distinct overdose of Miss Julia, Kangana the kiddo, and I don’t say it with a patriarchal chauvinism. I say it cinematically. The first 30 mins. of the movie, you are seeing beautiful scenes and great acting but its not tugging your heart. I was left waiting for a “We’ll always have Paris” moment perhaps too soon. She looks stunning, and delivers  more to a scene which requires less. Just like in Cricket parlance, if the ball is spinning too much it misses the stumps.

Good actors have to control not exhaust their repertoire on every scene. It looks like overcooked food in a fine dinning restaurant.It looks like too much for too little. Good actors know the big scenes, like players know the big matches, and  in those scenes they deliver emptying their bucket. That’s what keeps the audience wanting more. It’s like a tease. But this is to do with the director as well,almost.

If small scenes don’t tug then the big ones won’t either.Its not digging in with its claws. And that’s because the editing is jagged. The story moves too quickly for us to start feeling for the character. You are like now the moment is coming , its coming, and then the sequence deserts you.You are left high and dry. You really don’t cheer or loathe a character and that is the biggest danger for a film.

Saif Ali khan can do some really great acting if he’s given some great roles. Rusi Billimoria was one such role, after of course Langda Tyagi,there was so much that could’ve been done with this role, but it didn’t happen. There were no connecting ,flowing transitions in his character. Those little scenes which help mature or develop a character in the narrative are too little. His thigh-tapping-come here-kiddo sequence perhaps is one such scene that gives insight into his past. His astute observation when he notices mud on his beaus nape matching with her lover is a good scene.

The mental conflict he suffered was not amplified enough.The transition of the character from being married, to a lover, to a wronged man,to a changed man to a patriot eventually is just too brusque.  Is it then inability to emote the complexity or the inability of the director to show the conflict will always remain a mystery. Play it Saif, play it as time goes by!

Shahid Nawab Malik delivers  a restrained performance, but in my view he falls in love too quickly for the character he’s shown to have. I mean such intense love does not happen so quickly, especially when he is fighting for a cause, unless if he wanted to use the pretext to get to his goal. Even that doesn’t seem to be the case. His character suffers from the same too much for too little syndrome. I mean you can’t get super intense for say buying a candy scene you know. I am exaggerating, but you get the point I guess.

Of-all-the-Gin-joints-in-the-world-she-walks-into-mine- look, is lost in the contradicting narrative.

Predictable plot twists, clichéd dialogs and a near comic climax rob this movie of its sensibilities. It almost contradicts the sensibilities it tries to portray.If the director is trying to show a realistic movie set in the 40’s then, this type of a comic climax doesn’t go well. If he trying to show just a love story, then it goes overboard.

Come to think of it, Anurag Kashyap’s ode to Karan Johar’s Bombay Velvet failed exactly for very similar reasons. It had everything, but it added up to nothing. The classic element of an audience rooting for the hero or feeling his pain is missing.

Hunterwaali meets Casablanca is not what should be made.Need you to have a thought clarity on delivering the narrative.Don’t mix the tempo with Yeh Ishq hai with Mere Piya Gaye England – they disturb the movie watching experience.In the end, Vishal, here’s looking at you kid, a director who needs to get his mojo back!