06 August 2007

Rang De Basanti: A Generation Awakens

Rang De Basanti is my first foray into the world of Bollywood films. I’ll admit that I was unwillingly dragged into this as singing and dancing in films gives me the heebee-geebees (terrifying flashbacks of Oklahoma! Brigadoon! Fiddler on the Roof! ) but this film has changed my mind – somewhat.

The musical numbers are less like Broadway and more like MTV – albeit in a slightly cheesy, 1980s way. Surprisingly, I really liked the music – a nice blend of Asian-Euro pop and dance – so I suffered through the dancing and affiliated theatrics.

However, the plot of this movie has left me questioning the intent of the director. The story centers on a young Brit (Alice Patten) who travels to India to shoot a film about a group of young Indian revolutionaries from the 1920s. The young students who are brought on to play the parts are a fairly apathetic lot – looking only for fun, fast cars, and drinking beer. However, as they begin to internalize the lives and motives of their assigned characters, their attitudes and beliefs are affected, and when a close friend in the Indian Air Force is killed due to government negligence and corruption, the group makes some very violent and irrevocable decisions.

My hope is that director Rakesh Omprakash Mehra wanted this film to spark a discussion about violent versus non-violent approaches when faced with oppressive and immoral governments. However, a more literal interpretation of Rang De Basanti could result in the glamorization of violent means to wake the population from its lethargy. While some would argue that drastic measures are the only method that captures attention, I’m of the opinion that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” leaves us all blind and toothless. Regardless of where your revolutionary tendencies lie, this is certainly a thought-provoking film and with a cast of capable and authentic actors.

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