Free Press Journal

Rangoon: Disappointingly Ordinary

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Film: Rangoon

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Rushab Rana, Gerson DaCunha, Atul Kumar, Richard McCabe, Saharsh Shukla, Satoru Kawaguchi

Director: Vishal Bhradwaj


Director Vishal Bharadwaj’s attempt at period epic romance in the times of war, is less than breath-taking. Clearly his story line appears to have been inspired by ‘Pearl Harbour’ another triangular love story set in Japan during the bombing of Hiroshima but the resultant experience doesn’t even match up to that questionable one.

 In Rangoon its World War II and the INA headed by Subhash Chandra Bose is looking for recruits to wage its war against the British. There’s also a successful movie industry garnering attention from the British – especially the unintentionally comic, Hindi spouting Gen David Hardings (Richard McCabe), who wants the redoubtable ‘Toofan Ki Rani’ Miss Julia (Kangana), Star stunt-woman, to encourage, inspire and entertain the Indians in the British Army to fight against the Japanese.

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Miss Julia, as we all know is modelled on Hunterwali, Fearless Nadia of Wadia Movie tones who ended up as wife to the Movie Moghul. Julia follows the same pattern—here she is in a relationship with the reel Movie moghul, much married, Russi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan). The basic background resemblance notwithstanding, Julia’s story is diametrically opposite to what happened in Nadia’s real life.

This is in fact a work of fiction that is almost too theatrical in nature to be satisfying. After being forced to go to the war zone as an entertainer she encounters the cocky Jamadar Nawab Mallik (Shahid Kapoor) who is commissioned to be her personal bodyguard and en route to a series of pre ordained mishaps, falls in love with him. But Mallik, who assumed the role of lackey to the British is actually an INA mole and once he is found out, tragedy ensues. And its Shakespearean drama dragged out on the bombed out and shaky Burma Bridge—for all it’s worth, but without the complexity or dramaturgy of a narrative driven by either verse or intelligence.

Much like Anuraag Kashyap’s magnum turd ‘Bombay Velvet’ this Vishal Bharadwaj project also plays out like a ridiculous inept farce (unintentionally). The passion play appears more humorous than serious, the villainy by the British General appears ludicrous (especially the scene where he orders the bombing of the bridge when he is so near to regaining the precious, coveted sword donated to the INA’s fund by a princely Raja).

The capture of a Japanese soldier and Julia’s inconsistent position regarding the war and support to the INA sit uncomfortably in the narrative even though the attempt is meant to show her as a passionate woman who lets her heart rule her head. There’s really no tension in this telling. The war scenes come across as positioned and the free spirited love affair between the Jamadar and the beauty also seems unlikely.

Saif and Shahid have little to do here—after all its Kangana’s show through and through. She does a hip job playing to the gallery with an ease of a lady born to stardom. Dolly Ahluwalia’s costumes look period stained but Gulzar’s lyrics and Bharadwaj’s music sound a little too pedestrian even if it’s in keeping with the period setting.

Bharadwaj’s direction is off kilter here. There are far too many stand-offs and the logical flow sucks. The script is of course shoddy in its contrived expanse. The cinematography is a little too colourful and picturesque–thus disallowing the grit required, to stick. The Effects are ordinary and look so. Despite the ambition powering this effort, there’s very little accomplishment to show. And that’s a real pity!