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The Scarlet & Black

Humanities International Film Festival Comes to Town at The Strand: S&B Reviews, Previews

Hindi film departs from norm

Watching “Rang De Basanti,” I found myself thinking “but where are all the dances?” I was shocked when the credits began to roll without a single choreographed dance routine. Rang De Basanti displayed a break from the glamour and romanticization of Indian culture as it grappled instead with issues of love, politics and friendship.

Photograph by Joanna Silverman

Rang De Basanti follows the story of a British filmmaker, Sue McKinley (Alice Patten) who chances upon her grandfather’s diary about life as a pre-partition jailor in India. Sue, who is fluent in Hindi, decides to travel to India to make a film about Indian revolutionaries whom her grandfather encountered. When in India, she recruits a crew of five carefree friends to star in her movie.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the death of a close friend in a corruption related Air Force accident lifts the friends out of their apathy. They then embark on a journey to expose the corrupt politicians behind the accident and find themselves living out the lives of the revolutionaries that they were portraying in Sue’s film.

Perhaps the most commendable part of Rang De Basanti is the way in which director Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra merges historical fact with a real call for political activism. Another way that it surprises is its unpredictable ending which, for a Bollywood movie, is doubly impressive. Mehra’s skillful direction is complemented by a stellar cast, which includes the likes of Aamir Khan and Kunal Kapoor.

However, standing at 171 minutes, there are definitely times when the movie drags— there are numerous unnecessary sequences that could easily have been shortened or deleted altogether. Even though the latter half of the movie contains some truly unpredictable plot twists, Mehra’s direction evokes enough emotion that credibility issues barely arise while watching the movie; it is only in retrospect that one realizes the impossibility of five college students effortlessly murdering the Minister of Defense. Considering the fact that this was intended to be an incendiary piece of work, the movie’s far-fetched nature seems a forgivable offence; some may even argue that it is necessary. And while its somber message is likely to elicit many tears, there are several uplifting and lighthearted moments that make it an easier watch.

So if you’re looking for a “typical” Bollywood film with song and dance routines, Rang De Basanti is not the movie for you. However, if you’re interested Indian history and the more “real” issues India, Rang De Basanti, despite its long run time, is worth the watch.

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