Rang De Basanti

I am not an artist or art critic – I find it difficult to comment on the nuances of art. “That shot would have best been shot from a greater height and that character should have had a smile that is 0.002 inches shorter” are not the kind of expressions I can give words to. And for this movie, if somebody gets into things like those, I am not reading it. Not to show any contempt for that kind of analysis, not at all – many a times I myself read those things and try to make sense out of them. But this time simply no – because if there are any subtle mistakes they do not matter. And probably there aren’t many. But whatever.

Munnabhai MBBS was a movie that depicted what the youth today wants to appear like – oh that cool, carefree bunch making a fun of all that is ordered and disciplined in life. Dil Chahta Hai was a nice, feel good movie, well made, which made the youth feel good about themselves, their existence, their surroundings. Mangal Pandey was a movie set in such an era that the youth would never recognize with it.

Rang De Basanti is the movie that tells you exactly what you are. It puts your confusions, your wasted energy completely naked in front of you. And still does it in a way that got captured best in what my companion while watching the movie had to say afterwards, “They do not use loudspeaker to tell you something that is so strong. It is as if somebody has lovingly whispered something in your ear and still you just can not get it off your mind.”

I feel like getting further into the plot and characters to tell you exactly what I mean when I say all of the above. But that might spoil the fun of the movie for those readers who are yet to see the movie. However, there are couple of points I would like to make. It does not intend to inspire really!! I do not think so. The confusion on what to do is very much there even till the end, even when the lead characters have already carried out the task that they saw fitted the situation best. No, really you are not supposed to get inspired as such. You are only made conscious of what already exists within you. The scene at the end that shows “youth getting inspired” is not really the inspiration. It just captures the kind of animal spirit that would be coming over on the masses as a reaction to an incident like that. But it’s nothing long term. The way it has been captured (in the form of people talking on the news channel), conveys that point in a subtle manner. Also, in contrast to what some of the reviewers tend to believe, the movie does not show the violence as a solution. They have adopted that, but it is very clear that it was not an ultimate course that they believed in. It’s just that they could not think of anything else that would make any difference in that circumstance. They very clearly and naturally accept this. And you can actually feel their limitations and problems. You can put yourself in their shoes. They do not intend to lead, they only intend to make you aware, make you conscious. Overall, what makes it excellent is that how well it brings out the real confusion that youth today is likely to face. It somehow seems easier for the youth of 30s to believe in fighting British “at any cost”, no matter whether it brings about some change or not. It is not possible for the youth of today to fight the system as blindly – it’s not “they” after all. It’s just “us” all through, in all roles, positive or negative. Violence to go against British did not bring in any doubts about morales or principles in the minds of Chandrashekhar Azad and the group. Violence to go against the system in independent India brings an element of doubt in the youth of today as to whether that is the right way. And this I think is the most important and commendable aspect the film has been able to bring out. The other things – like the youth of today finding themselves in the shoes of the characters that they played in a film being shooted by a British girl, is good, is brilliantly brought out. But for me the most striking feature of this movie was what I mentioned earlier. The vivid description of confusion faced by the youth today.

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About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started Pothi.com, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe (http://instascribe.com) with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: https://jayajha.wordpress.com Twitter: @jayajha Facebook: http://facebook.com/MovingOnTheBook

9 thoughts on “Rang De Basanti

  1. Jaya, your review brought out the message of the film brilliantly. But it would have been even better if you had delved a bit deeper into the specific aspects. You can put a disclaimer at the start of the post that “Spoilers ahead” πŸ™‚ . Anyways my 2 paisa on the movie: It shows the angst of the current generation quite well, their helplessness.

    One of my friends suggested that maybe this movie would have had more impact if India was in the state it was in the late 80s or early 90s, when we were in the dumps both in economic terms, unemployment at its peak and social unrest with Mandir, Mandal etc.
    I feel though maybe in material terms the new generation have it the best.But still there is the sense that something is not quite hunky-dory with India. We need to do something, but do not know what or where to start and whether it is worth it or not.

  2. Honestly speaking, I do not think that in 80s or so, this would have made much sense. In the times when there are very clear problems- affecting one’s own self – to fight with, the aimlessness, the void that haunts the youth of a prosperous era is not there. It is this aimlessness of today’s youth that the movie depicts. No, it was precisely a movie of today. It isn’t about the youth marred with unemployment or economic slump.

  3. Don’t you think it just gives a young mind vicarious thrill of doing something, we can never do in our personal life? It is just that we sometimes have the same feelings as they (guys in the film) were having and to be able to identify with it, impresses us.

  4. First sentence is not what I agree to… There is no “thrill” of doing something. There is just confusion and confusion and something has simply been done because not to do anything was too depressing and painful. The second sentence is right. We are able to identify with it. This is not a “just” – this is the brilliance. Human feelings are so complex and there are so many subtle aspects that the smoothened characters of movies, most of the time, fail in producing this acute sense of identification.

  5. I very much agree with your assertion that the strength of Rang de Basanti lies in the sense of identification that it evokes in us. In particular, RDB doesnot have traditional heroes, in fact it doesnot even have an antihero ! And there is an effort to represent the wide spectrum of Indian youth- an air-pilot,a Hindutva guy and yeah a lady too ! It is a seamless plot – a flow of scenes which takes audience with it, a never ending series of correspondences between the old and the new youth and their struggles, a deliberate and successful attempt at mixing the past and the present- a wonderful movie indeed.

    Anyway, I don’t agree with what you say in the last para – I don’t think that the distinctions between “they” and “us” were clear-cut then either. The rulers might have been British – but the governmental apparatus was still Indian- from the police which arrested and lathicharged freedom fighters to the bureaucracy which ran the government to the Indian army, Indians were there everywhere. It is indeed this confusion that led to so many “traitors” among the freedom fighters who were to various degrees resigned to the fact of British rule. And even in the time of Azad there was no dearth of people who questioned their violent means – it is congress policy under Gandhiji that succeeded in winning over such people and bringing them into the mainstream .

    Violence as a means to go against the system is as questionable today as then. Given that, to say that yesterday’s youth like Azad had it easy to decide on morales and principles compared to today’s youth sounds to me not quite right. In fact quite a few even then realised that independence is not everything- it would not solve all the problems of the common man, it would not solve communalism, casteism or poverty. They just solved one part of the puzzle that is India and left the rest to posterity,i.e, people like us.

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