It’s been two months since 2017.
And I, for once, have remained eerily silent about the movies that I watched since Dear Zindagi.
Why? Partly because I was lazy, and partly because the movies that I did watch didn’t make me feel like writing. Some gave me good vibes, while some disappointed me, but none made me get into the groove of writing how it felt — genuinely — to see fiction come to life.
But then, Vishal Bhardwaj happened.
Trust me when I say that his average is pretty good too. And by all means, Rangoon is undoubtedly his average, if compared to the likes of Omkara, Kaminey and Haider. Yet, it’s poignant, it’s sound and never in those two and a half hours of run time do you feel out of place.
Vishal Bhardwaj is a musician as much as a talented director. How can one ever forget the class of Chappa Chappa and the joy of Sapne Mein Milti Hai? That level of talent needs to come across much, much more in times like these when we yearn to listen to timeless music, music that soothes you, that remains with you.
Vishal’s tunes and Gulzar’s lyrics combine seamlessly to give us yet another album for keeps.
Coming to the film, set in the times of the pre-Independence era, you have the protagonist breaking all bounds of chauvisinism — someone who is clearly ahead of her times. She is an actress, a profession that was looked down upon for women in those times. She is the ‘hero’ of her movies, fighting with villains, saving other lives. She is fearless enough to do all her stunts by herself. And she is courageous enough to stand by love in the most testing times.
She is, as the movie suggests, ‘Jaanbaaz Julia’ — the character being modelled around Fearless Nadia, easily the first action hero (yes, you read that right) of Hindi cinema.
In a casting coup of sorts, Saif Ali Khan and Shahid Kapoor are cast as the main leads; as Rusi, a filmmaker and Nawab, an army man, both in love with Julia. And unlike real life, the heroine here falls head over heels for Shahid (talk about levelling things).
The film, in quintessential Vishal style, explores the depth of love. On one hand is the darker side of probably the most intrinsic feeling felt by all — possessiveness, obsession, anger, jealousy. On the other hand,there’s freedom, independence, happiness, peace. And in the centre of it all, there’s gratitude, sacrifice and the desire to give yourself up for someone else.
The film isn’t flawless. The climax is disappointing, to say the least. But the rest of it, in all honesty, is shaped up in a way that would keep you invested with the characters.
You can’t but fall in love with Nawab’s simplicity behind his rugged self, cheer for Julia when she goes out on a mission to save the love of her life, and relate to Rusi when he feels betrayed by the person he thought he could leave his world for.
Shahid and Kangana were brilliant. They had the right body language, the right chemistry and the right skills to portray their characters in a believable way.
It’s so good to see Shahid evolve so much as an actor. His partnership with Vishal has given him so much to experiment with, and he has only lived up to it, every single time. And Kangana, well she’s a natural. Whatever she does, she brings life to it, and this film is no different.
However, Rusi’s character is underplayed. Saif could’ve done so much more, and could’ve added so much more. If there was one character that didn’t evolve the way it should’ve, it was his. He was good in parts, notably in a sword fighting sequence where you get to see how talented an actor he is, but it feels incomplete in the end.
As a director, Vishal experimented with the kinds of love in the times of war for the first time, and, to an extent, also lived up to it. Barring the last 10 minutes of the film, everything else is in beautiful sync. From the songs, to the sequences, to the intrinsic emotions hidden within the characters, all is intact. In a good way. Till the climax, ofcourse, which is almost like a speedbreaker in an otherwise smooth road.
Yet, Rangoon stays with you for the right reasons. It adds a missing colour to the year and gives you hope, the bright spot that you really, really needed as a Bollywood fan. And it prepares you for better times to come.
Cheers to that.