In a recent interview director Vishal Bhardwaj was asked why he moved to film making as he originally began the career as a music composer. The witty reply was that he wanted to compose songs and as nobody offered him movies the only choice was to make films so that he can create songs. I took it as a funny counter, but after watching the film Rangoon’s elaborate and tough to digest climax, I sort of feel that Vishal Bhardwaj was really serious about that response. After setting up a catchy premise for an emotionally gripping love triangle, Rangoon fizzles away to disappointment in its last leg.
The movie is set in the backdrop of pre independent India during the Second World War. Movie star Julia is a sensation in the country and she is also the mistress of this studio head Rusi Billimoria. As the film stocks were running low due to lack of supply from Germany, Rusi asks Julia to do some shows for the soldiers in Rangoon. In that journey to Rangoon and then after she was under the protection of Jamadar Nawab Malik. The movie shows us what all happens between these characters and how it all ends.
The film opens to a war sequence and I can assure you that it will blow your mind with the Hacksaw Ridge kind of technical perfection it has got. Vishal Bhardwaj in his typical quirky style introduces us to the world of Julia and Billimoria. Even the reasons for going to Rangoon and the events that happen in that journey where Julia falls in love with Malik shows a very sincere depiction. Their interaction and gradual understanding of each other gets visualized in a very elegant way. In the second half, the usual battle within the minds of our protagonists starts to show up. Because of the impressive performances that dramatic part becomes watchable. But after a point the film loses all its realness and becomes an entirely filmy imagination, which disappointed me hugely.
Saif Ali Khan has relatively less screen time when compared to the other two, but the actor adds the much needed charm and arrogance to the portrayal of Rusi. Shahid Kapoor as the restrained soldier also did a good job. I really loved his acting in that climax bridge shot. Well both men in the film fell for Julia and Kangana Ranaut with her magnificent performance justifies that attraction. Julia is sensitive, quirky, unapologetic and not so rational and Kangana’s performance had all these elements. Richard McCabe’s character as the General is that quintessential funny character we see in almost every VB film and this time that character is the antagonist too.
The writing of Vishal Bhardwaj’s films is a mix of poetic narration and realistic visualization. Here also we get to see that signature style. The organic transition of the relationship between Julia and Malik, the sequences where Malik justifies his actions and make Julia realize how ignorant and socially callous she is etc. were those exciting phases of the film. But it is the last half an hour or so that spoils the film. The visualization of Julia’s self realization gets rendered in a way similar to the movies that were shown in the film. And after that movie shifts itself to a dangling bridge in the India Burma border and the things happening there are too cheesy and when Vishal Bhardwaj and his writers try to mix that with a historic fact, it just doesn’t get the sort of feel you would expect. Cinematography is superb and the cuts were nice. Mr. Bhardwaj is a man of music and the film has this musical feel through those delicate background scores and typical Vishal Bhardwaj songs. The visual effects have some flaws here and there, but overall it was kind of effective. Production design was also very impressive.
To conclude, Rangoon ends up as an average film just because of its over ambitious over written climax. Vishal Bhardwaj’s films always had a better presentation of the conflicts of human mind and this one also has that. But the story this time was too wide for us to get invested in the narrative.
Rangoon ends up as an average film just because of its over ambitious over written climax.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended