Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor, and Kangana Ranaut
What it’s about:
Set sometime during World War II, Rangoon is the story of Ms Julia (Ranaut) in love with her callous, much-married producer Rustom aka Russi Billimoria (Khan). It isn’t until she falls in love with her personal guard Jamadar Nawab Malik (Kapoor) that Rustom realises he wants to marry her. With a war going on around them, two men fight over the woman they love.
The first half of Rangoon is a breeze. Vishal establishes the war situation, introduces his characters and what drives them quickly and efficiently. He makes you laugh (the conversation between Julia and the Japanese soldier) and cry/cheer for each of the three characters at different points in the film. The spectacularly realised visuals are a treat.
Rangoon is sprinkled with many magical moments. When Shahid Kapoor sings the Indian National Army (INA) version of the national anthem, his confrontation scene with Julia when he is walking away from her for his cause, and Russi’s discovery and reaction to Julia’s infidelity in the bunker and then on the stage. Kangana’s vulnerability – something that comes naturally to her – works wonderfully for her character.
Rangoon’s brilliance lies in the manner in which it understands and integrates a love story against the tone and the mood of the war-time period. There is no shortage of love triangles in Hindi cinema. But what makes this special is that it’s not just a love triangle, but a tale of love, war and valour. The film belongs to Shahid, and not just because his character is heroic. The way he has played it is what clinches it. Saif walks a tightrope (literally, unfortunately) between being a good guy and a bad one, but his character isn’t quite what it should have been, and that dulls his shine.
Rangoon tries to cash in on the nostalgia factor of the fight for independence. Its relevance to this generation is something only the box-office collections will reveal. Kangana and Shahid have superb chemistry but only as long as they are at a distance (unfortunately their liplocks give away their off-screen feelings for each other).There isn’t much happening in the second half of the film. But it is the final fifteen minutes that will have you shifting uncomfortably in your seat. And the final scene will leave you cringing or giggling, which is such a pity. Unfortunately, Rangoon had all the ingredients to be heartbreaker and tear-jerker but it loses footing post-interval and then derails in the climax. The British Major is annoying and amusing in equal measures. Kangana often gets high-pitched and screechy, which takes away from her otherwise on-point performance.
What to do:
Rangoon is a mighty effort and worth seeing once.