Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tera naam kya hai... basanti?

Rang De Basanti seems to have captured the attention of the desi blogosphere and the Indian media like nothing else before it. Oh wait, a small correction. Before RDB, there was IIPM. But as Jerry would quip, not that there is anything wrong with it. At last notice, a simple search on Blogger Search for "Rang De Basanti" turns up 2,234 posts while a similar search on Technorati returns 1,257 results. In fact, Rang De Basanti has been in the top 15 list of searches on Technorati for the last couple of days and is in the top 10 currently.

What is in this movie that has captured our attention? From what I saw on Saturday, it is certainly not difficult to understand why. First reason - the whole movie has a young tone to it, even the parts that are in sepia. Second reason - the wonderful soundtrack, which some people say is out of place, but the majority has taken to. Personally I found the music refreshing with the director making, what has to be the most novel use, of the ubiquitous songs, in recent times. Having mentioned these reasons, I do have to add that there is one more, something that I find hard to justify and that is the whole business of patriotism.

Most people see Rang De Basanti as the Swadesh of 2006. While the latter deals with the pangs of remorse that first generation NRIs seem to harbor at the bottom of their heart - an almost guilty sense of helplessness at not being able to do their bit for the progress of their homeland, Rang De Basanti looks at a similar, but more cynical mindset through the eyes of the college educated 20 somethings.

It can be safely said that the kind of characters represented in RDB do exist in real life. The first half of the movie is as realistic as it gets in India's universities. Each one of us has known a DJ, Sukhi, Karan, Aslam and Sonia at one point in some form or the other. But as the second half progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to envision a scenario where individuals would react the same way as these five (and Laxman) do. And that is where RDB moves from a potential Swadesh emulator to being just another celluloid fantasy. However any half baked student of cinema would tell you that celluloid fantasy is good too, for fantasies were the building blocks of cinema as we know it. So, Rakeysh Mehra should not be offended if one labels RDB thus. But one senses that there is an intention to convey a message here. What is this message? And so the confusion begins.

As mentioned earlier, the first half of the movie hints at a clean entertainer in the Dil Chatha Hai mold, a growing up movie of sorts. Make no mistake, RDB is a growing up movie. But what those youngsters grow up to be leaves a lot to be desired. One wonders if the ends aimed at by these young 20 somethings is a direct contradiction of the means adopted. The message sounds like one that a hardened pick pocket uses to justify his acts - as a deterrent for others seeking the same path. I don't want to say anything more lest it be viewed as a plot spoiler and one wouldn't want that. Sadly this "message" is viewed as a USP for this movie and that is a shame. For there are a lot of positives in this movie and the "message" is certainly not one of them.

But why should a movie proselytize at all? Why can't a movie be just for entertainment, as one half of this movie seems to be. Maybe it is the resident cynic in me talking, but I think that the longevity of any movie's message is going to be slightly longer than the time spent on the journey back home from the theatre. And one can safely bet that while crimes seem to be inspired by movie plots, there has never been an incident where a movie's plotline has inspired something positive. Wait, that is just what my mom told me 5 years ago when she found I had played hookey from class to watch Anaconda.

So next time I read some review of RDB (you'd think I'd stay away, but at the rate at which people seem to be churning reviews, I don't think I can escape without reading another one) that tells me how the movie brought a lump to the author's throat, I'd say "Ok. me too" (ya it did raise goosebumps too, but that was for the nod to Georgie boy's jaunt in a fighter plane). But if someone writes that this movie will make people raise up and do something, I'd ask the authors for a blood sample to check what they are high on. All those who you see on TV carping on patriotism are not going to give a crap about the same if and when you ask them an hour later. Ofcourse there are exceptions, as usual. But the exceptions are certainly in the miniscule minority.

As for me, I got home last evening and as I got thinking, I decided that I liked the other Basanti movie much better. It had a two leading men, one a brooding man who was "straight face" funny, and another who was a lovable goof. A motor mouth of a heroine and a charismatic villian contributed as well. And it was way funnier and it was not certainly not preachy. Personally, the whole "susaad", angrez ke zamaane" and "Kitne aadmi the" thing was funnier than the Westerner feigning ignorance of the local language and the chemistry of the lead characters certainly seemed to be much better and ergo much more entertaining.

And before you lynch me, you have to understand that I watch movies for entertainment. Don't get me wrong, RDB is certainly miles ahead of the borderline porno flicks churned out by the Bhatt camp and what not. And unlike others, I am not stupid enough to let the story within a story confuse me. Which is why I will gladly watch RDB again.

51 comments:

Zero said...

Actually speaking Swades struck a better chord with me. It examined one man's decision to come back to his homeland (though, I definitely would have liked it more if it didn't have Gayathri Joshi giving a box of Indian herbs or something to SRK before he leaves to U.S. :)) in a very unruffled manner. Here, the angst of the folks were more on lines with youthful braggadocio and naivety (or rather stupidity). But at least, the first half and the performances were of the savouring kinds.

Anand said...

Machan, don't tell me you'd tolerate this movie.. I found it terribly regressive and inept... the only reason I don't elaborate is that I do not know where to begin.

D said...

Agree with zero above. But then, did post a blog despite reading yours!

?! said...

I don't know about movies inspiring people. Songs do, to a large extent, but maybe that's cos of the replay value.

And err... Heart is not Umbrella.

anantha said...

D: Will read...and I agree with Zero too. Btw, from a trivia standpoint, you know who Alice Patten is, right?

Anand: The first half, I did enjoy. Ya, second half was total Bollywood masala and regressive! Even looking at it from an layman's entertainment standpoint, I can pick umpteen holes in the way the screenplay meanders in the last half hour or so. And we never did figure out if Sue finished the movie..

Zero: Swadesh did strike a better cord with me too. It was preachy, but at least the situations and the actions were realistic. Actually I thought the solution here was very simplistic and everything came out like vendetta than anything else. So, they could have done without the sermonzing.

Anonymous said...

Anti,

I saw the movie this weekend and I do agree at the second half was sort of a let down, but the emotions in the second half got to me. Siddharth's eyes are still in my mind. I think I am nursing a biggo crush on him after this movie.

Songs blended in well with the movie. As all Rahman songs go, it did not gell with me the first time I heard it, but after seeing the movie I absolutely love the songs. Tu bhin Bataye songs was awesome, not the usual running around the tree kind of song yet romantic.

I certainly will watch the movie again.

PS: My friend and I cried a bucket after seeing the movie, luckily this was our movie date without the husbands, hence was fun.

Jays

The Greatest Hokie Ever !! said...

[Anti] this is because of spending a lot of time poring over Prabhuji's movies and listening to soul moosik :)

RDB had the correct intentions, though, give it to that. but the movie could have done with more punch, kind of the director was making 2 movies, before the interval and after the interval to cater to all kinds of audience

Nilu said...

ennamo solra ba....oru ezhavum purila.

anantha said...

Nilu: You are suffering from post-puking stress.

GHE: Yo.. back from India I gather...:) Bah.. what intentions dude? To tell people what they already know (and are not doing anything about), and the prefectly wrong solution for that? Yuva gave us a solution. Swadesh gave us a solution. Not that these movies are the gold standard, but at least they are worthy of consideration for the standard. The first half of the movie was by itself enough to draw in all the audience.

Jays: Is this the Jays I know? In any case welcome! Emotions.. hmm.. something that I have taken care to keep wraps on in public ever since friends found a solitary tear from my eyes watching Renuka Shahane die on Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. What can i say. I was young and impressionable! But the ragging that followed left me scarred. As for the songs, yes, one of Rahman's better compositions in the recent past. But more than that, it was the bgms that left their mark. If there is one positive that I would want other movie makers take from this movie, it is the placement of the musical numbers. Innovative, I say! I thought I saw some metaphors in the song sequences, particularly Lukka Chuppi, but that could just be me, seeing things where none exist. Btw, movie date without the husbands? The Superbowl is not until next weekend!

Anoop Sundaram said...

well i did like the movie... as for entertainment also agree it was nice.. as for ur views on the second half, the message was that there is umpteen no of things in here which are not gonna change unless the public does something abt it..... i dont think the director or anyone expects ppl to do something abt it right after seeing the movie....... but it jus shows the ground reality..... thts a scary and true thing .....

Bart said...

I agree with you Anti. The second half let the movie down. Made me feel Yuva was better.
The camaraderie, the banters, the light-hearted quips refreshed the movie now and then though. The last 30 min or so, the movie dumbed down bcoz of the unrealistic / cinematically expected behaviours of the characters.
Had they even gone the Medha Patkar way, the movie would've looked better.. Oops, have I given out too much?

anantha said...

Anoop: What do you mean - ground reality? Coupla college kids knocking off a minister and taking a radio station hostage? Or the plane crashes and the reason behind it? If you are talking about the latter, then its true that ground reality has been depicted. But if you are including the former as well, I don't know where you live, man. And if your version of ground reality does not include the assassination, then I am justified in saying that the second half of the movie has no point! The way the movie was going for the first 2 hours or so, there was no way that Mehra was going to escape by turning it into a ride into Fantasy Land, but he did and no one bats an eyelid?

Me said...

chinnadha post yezhudhunga aNTi ...unga last post padikavey moonu naal aachi...ippo adhey size la innor post aaa...will come tomorrow to read this one....:)

Primalsoup said...

In the true Bloggers will-scratch-back-backs tradition, thought of doing the shout-out thing. Though I never have much to comment and prefer to lurk!
About the said movie, I see it only this weekend, so shall reserve judgment. Though it’s got some 3 to 4 hot looking men, so I am slightly bullish about it! :)

ashok said...

i agree with 'me'...

just kidding:-)

anantha said...

Ashok/Me: idhu kavidhai illa, aruvi maadhiri kotta. Idhu kaaviyam and idhu kadal madhiri. So long a dhaan irrukum!
[Translation (for the benefit of our non Tam readers): This ain't poetry, to flow and drop like a waterfall. This is a epic of mammoth propotions, so it will be as big as the ocean!]

Smugbug: That wasn't needed. Really. Now I have a nasty bruise on my back from all your scratching! And to think, all I did was a couple of sit-ups before my man, Ganesha! About the hot looking men. Siddarth is a brooding presence (though he could have done without that dirt over his upper lip and you probably will say that Kunal Kohli is dreamy. Aamir was doing his Akash thing and that other guy who played Sukhi, well he was ok. And I thought Atul Kulkarni looked out of place.

Anonymous said...

Anti,

Its the same Jays you know da. I have been a silent reader of your blog, but decided to chip in this time as the movie got to me. Would be believe me if I told you that I expected you to blog about it on Monday.

I am just waiting for Sivaji movie to release to get your views. I am sure no matter how the movie turns out, all you will say is aah haa....ooh hoo. I know you are the big thalaivar fan.

Call pannu da.

D said...

Yes, I do

alpha said...

where is the freaking spam? u liar! Anyways rdb i will watch soon..don't worry.

capriciously_me said...

eeeewwww....u cried when renuka shahane died? eeewwww! i loved the way the songs blended in this movie....but i agree...this had no solution...felt extremely irritated abt anupam kher-sidharth end!

GratisGab said...

Come on, it wasn't bad at all. I felt I got my money's worth. The regular Hindi movie gives me nothing - no entertainment, no classy package, and no message too (if you go for that)...This one had something in comparison. If there's something I had a problem with it's the over-emphasis on the similarities of these 4 guys with the roles they played. It would be nice if they left it at how they got a sense of identity from those roles and gave them a sense of purpose when put in the spot. (Which brings me to your question about who would do this - You or I wouldn't, which is why you might find it bizarre..because we already had a sense of purpose at that age. Your previous post tells us that. How noble or selfless was that purpose is not worth mentioning but we knew what we wanted to do. But the guys here were kinda aimless and wandering...the felt something but didn't know what.

The concept also lies in how a hero is defined. A regular guy becomes a hero if something wakes him up that way. Time or age has little to do with it. How can there be heroes in our freedom fighters but none amongst us? Has the concept of a bigger purpose to our lives become so unthinkable that we scorn even a movie that shows us that?

anantha said...

Gabby: I never said it was bad. I would gladly go see it again. But it definitely was not a life changing experience as lot of people make it out to be. Well, my previous post tells u something, but a year before that I was as aimless as these kids were. And thats why I came here a year late! One more thing, I agree with the concept of the bigger purpose, but if someone told me that there is a bigger purpose, I will still feel incomplete till this "advisor" tells me about the means. Now on the other hand, if someone tells me about this bigger purpose and then proceeds to show me how not to do it, I'd still feel incomplete. And thats the kind of feeling I get out of RDB. In other words, tell me what to do and I will do it. Just dont tell me what NOT to do and expect me to be cool with it.
AFAIAC, Swadesh did the right thing while RDB does not. So I will go there to have fun and close my eyes and mind to the "message" cos it is still incomplete!

anantha said...

CM: Those were the days I just mentioned to Gabby. It is embarassing, but I used to be so emotional those days that around the same time, I was moved to tears when someone basically related to me something similar to the plot line of Kadhal Desam and made me repeat the lines of "Oh Vennila", told me that he had composed it when his gal friend killed herself (part of the story told to me by him) after being taken advantage of, by his best friend. I had to repeat the song everyday in the morning since this guy was a final yr guy and I was in my first year and after that that routine became part of my ragging! I have since grown up :p

Jays: Will call you man. :)

Alpha: It's so omnipresent that it seems invisible. And you have only yourself to blame :p

?! said...

G : Inherently there cannot be a message in a movie that can be a J'Accuse kind of wake-up call. At the most it can strike a chord to what is there already.

Books can do it and other media can do it over a sustained period, basically because some intellect is involved in reading/repeat value. A 2-3 hour movie isnt suited to be a message medium : esp given that the movie going experience, unlike reading a book or something, isnt something one undergoes for edification.
(Else Michael Moore woulda made a diff).

Anti :Dil Chatha Hai nahin baap, Dil Chahta hai. Heart is *not* Umbrella. Change.

anantha said...

?!: No I won't! Sing with me "You type Chahta, I say Chatha" just like "You say Tomato, I say Tomaato" :p

Gabby: He seems to have a good take on that, don't ya agree?

alpha said...

anti, serves you right..making fun of my tamil!

RPM said...

Its been a really long time since I felt like I could watch a movie again. English or Hindi (sorry, usually don't want other languages).

And I feel like I can watch RDB again. And in the theater too!

In fact, I *am* going to watch it again tomorrow because my brother missed it when we went last Sunday.

Yea, I think it is that good. And yea, I was one of the many who put their review on their blog. :-)

anantha said...

rpm: I know u have a review up on your blog. Technorati threw up your blog as a result too ;) Go and see it again. Have fun in the movie...

Hiren said...

You are right about Rang de basanti. However in "message" terms, killing politicians is neither a practically feasible or sustainable long term solution.

silverine said...

ok you asked for it a ravi venkatesh's blog :p

Why are men still neanderthal while gals have evolved with time? :)

anantha said...

Silverline: Well, I was doing my best "daankaiy" impersonation! Well, since you asked, we were already evloved when you ladies were in the first step of evolution. So we have stayed "neandrathal" since that helps us in every situation, which you gals have to constantly evolve to survive.
The world cannot handle any more evolution from the guys. We'd then be Supermen and as you can see, I am certainly not one! :)
Anyways, welcome on here.. keep visiting...

Tafosi said...

Anti, my feelings on RDB and Swades are quite different from yours. Swades for me was a disappointment on multiple levels. The biggest gripe that I had was about the screenplay which butcherd what was potentially a magnificient plot. In fact if done well, it could have been one for the ages. However, it suffered from poor acting and indecision on the part of the director who would not commit to a single direction in which to drive the story. Unfortunately he pursued the romantic angle too much and in doing so forgot to bring out the essence of India. It did not make me want to get up and pack my bags to go back home. SRK's eventual decision was not made clear as to why he wanted to go back, for the country or for the girl ?
Anyways, coming back to RDB, I loved every aspect of the movie. Great cinematography, editing and absolutely brilliant direction. The second half has been debated quite a lot but one has to remember that these kids are not perfect. In fact they are flawed, just like the freedom fighters whom they portray. Both of these generations are brave, impulsive and brash. But they did not think about their actions in detail. Hence it is not surprising to see the eventual outcome. This movie for me was more about being young and carefree and about living your life on both extremes. They were comitted to their own perception, speaking of which I loved the fact that the director stuck to what he wanted to show and did not get into the quagmire of dirty politics and the underworld. Plus there is that final homage to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
Keep up the good work.

Primalsoup said...

Now that I have seen the movie, I can intelligently disagree with you. And I am not sure about the Swades comparison either. Among the various flaws in the movie, I didn’t like the overall almost patronizing like tone of the movie. Perhaps it was like every SRK film, made only for the Diaspora audience.
RDB was interesting. It was less romantic and in spite of the bizarreness, a lot less filmi. And the way the city of Delhi is so lovingly painted, that was great. Though being a Delhi University alumnus myself, I sort of didn’t like the excessive Nouveau Punjabi overtures.
I think you meant Kunal Kapoor, no? And he was sufficiently dreamy, drool-worthy and not excessively metro-sexual! :)
My only grouse with the movie, was this 16 something year old couple noisily making out next to us during the movie. What happened to subtlety? Gah!

anantha said...

Smugbug: If Swadesh was patronizing, wasn't RDB the same too? If it was the NRIs in the former, its "youngsters" (you and me types?) that are the target here. But ya, Swadesh was made for the diaspora, unintentionally maybe. As for the romance, I think RDB wins your appreciation by chance. I got this thought in my mind (as was mirrored later by a friend who saw it with me) that there was a hint of "unrequited love" between Karan and Sonia, as was evidenced by Karan's "less than ecstatic" demeanor during "tum bin bathaye" and the fact that the camera lingered more on focussed than the others. That was a "wait a minute, rewind that" moment for me, but I thought it was a byproduct of a mind more fit for the gutter. But then someone sent me a link to a interview by Rakeysh Mehra and he mentions that this was an angle that was not explored much dude to time constraints. So, it was plain lucky, I guess. And ya, my bad... Kunal Kapoor it was. And 16 somethings? Whoa... Chennai's come a long way in the 10 years since I was 16 :p

Tafosi: What appealed to me in Swadesh was that, it went all the way and gave you a viable way to do things, should you have the same mindset as Mohan Bhargav. Well, the romantic parts were a distraction from the plot, but i'd consider this like drawing a "dotted line" (and let you fill in the blanks between the dots) between the points of interest as opposed to a solid line that did not reach its destination at all (like RDB). Btw, I never wanna talk about homages. Because someone is gonna take those words and introduce "copy" into the proceedings, as I have already heard from a number of people, referring to RDB and the movie you have mentioned. And almost everyone of these people haven't seen Butch Cassidy. They did the same with Thiruda Thiruda/Chor Chor, solely because of the presence of a money on a train and a posse behind the protagonists. Another result of people filling the blanks wrong :( And it riles me up!

Shobha said...

Hi Anti...Hows you doing? Long time...hehe....Very well summed up. "All those who you see on TV carping on patriotism are not going to give a crap about the same if and when you ask them an hour later." Agree with you. Me thinks, we are cynics personified. However that's the reality....

anantha said...

Shobha: Haan re.. but u can rest assured that I have been a lurker on yours.. You are on my blogroll, remember? :)
Yup, we are cynics personified, reality or otherwise. But cynical thoughts aside, I am not one whose gonna be swayed by a "message" in celluloid. The last message that moved me was Thalaivar talking about polio affected kids...

john said...

Hey, y do all of u think about the 'message' quotient of the whole film...
In my opinion, the film dared to be different in the sense that it
1. it resisted the temptation to raise Aamir to superhuman status (unlike SRK in Swades)
2. the ending was unlike usual bollywood endings where the hero comes out unscathed
i liked the movie...even the second half

anantha said...

John: Almost every blog review of Rang De Basanti talks about goosebumps and what not, which is why the focus is on the message. Well, I am not technically competent to talk too much about the cinematic aspect. As for the points you have specified:
1. I agree with part of your first point (the comparison to Swadesh), but it has been done before with Aamir - DCH for example.
2. I won't go ga ga over the endings, because I come from a place where these kinds of "different" endings are dime a dozen. Unless the hero was Rajinikanth, every other star in Tam movies has been in a movie with a "different" ending and I am not talking about the past few years, but the past few decades. So, nothing special in that aspect as well.

Shobha said...

Arrey, when I said long time, I meant it's been a long time that I have commented.... Of course I do visit your blog. Also I know you've become those silent visitors :p hehehe...

Ambimama said...

RDB minus A.R.Rehman music and i would not even waste time writing about the movie...

Off topic, there was a tamil movie called "Ramamna" which was with more-or-less a similar theme of corrupt politicians. Rakeysh Mehra should take a look at those films if he wants to take up the subject of politically corrupt indian again.

anantha said...

Ambimama: Right, it was something new even for a Gapton movie! And all those people who carp about the "different" ending should watch Ramana! A "statistical" trendsetter..:D

Shoba: :)

?! said...

The problem is, that movies like RDB allow you to outsource you idealism and yes, even rage at the corruption and stuff.

So you can go for a movie and eat popcorn and come out with soul scrubbed and feeling righteous about it. Also with rage sated with gory climax n all with all ends tied up. And ascribe corrosive cynicism at anybody who dares question the "message" or the fact that assorted MNCs with the most dubious of reputations of probity are sponsoring it.

Better off even shooting letters to editors, if we cared. And those who do ? They are not all jholawallah activists. Plenty of "normal" ppl out there putting themselves on the line for a cause. Even more, who just take a bit of time n money out, probably slightly more than what they would spend on a couple of movies, *making a difference*.

The Tam/Gult political movies of the 80s probaly had a lot more activism, and were probably more realistic too, though most of them too chose either defeat or nihilistic violence as the solution.

(There, done our quota of polysyllabic words and rants for the day in one go).
(aNTi, you really must put up a new post).

Ambimama said...

Talking of tamil/gult movies... There is nothing to beat "Evana erundha ennakenna" by Dr.Rajasekar and "Vijanathi IPS" ... Hindi movies have got a lot of catching up to do after all the years they wasted around shooting "marriage videos(DDLJ etc)" and "half baked porrnos(mahesh bhatt & family)"

visithra said...

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa another mention of rdb anywhere im not visiting blogs for a month (easier said than done :() - its not even playing here - sob sob

toxic mold said...
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MellowDrama said...

Didja notice the irony : Bhagat Singh got his trial, the RDB guys didn't? Thankfully I caught the movie before people went berserk so I liked it. Not really the means to an end, but wht the hell.

anantha said...

Alpha: You are dead.. watch your back gal..

Mellow: I caught it before things blew up too. I'd have liked it anyways, as blind entertainment. As u said, what the hell. Its just that ppl take it to heart and talk about inspiration etc. Case at point, one guy emails a mailing list that I am part of, calling it a classic and appealing for everyone to forward his "open letter" to the director in which he "thanks" Mehra in every other paragraph. And now I have a bad taste in my mouth.
Visit: You are late! This would have sounded better if you are early.

anantha said...

Ambimama: True.. Dr. Rajasekar pioneered such movies in the early 90s.

alpha said...

koncham late reaction illaya? looks like i can get away with murder.

anantha said...

Illa.. this is for those two spammers that I had to delete this morning! That old thing about "serving me right" was too childish for me to react :p
So, watch your back.