Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oye! Tu kyon adjust kar raha hai, bhai?

Oye! Tu kyon ADJUST kar raha hai, bhai?

By Ritambhara Agrawal

‘I always believed that there were two kinds of men in this world. Men who go to their deaths screaming and men who go to their deaths in silence… Then I met the third kind.’

These words by James McKinley in Rang De Basanti reflect the true essence of the movie. A movie which gave birth to a phenomenon known as the “RDB effect”; a phrase used both to praise and to reject.

You perhaps might be tempted to ask how a phrase can be used in both ways, well this is what I would try to, not answer because I believe no answer can be or even should be universally accepted, put my point forward about.

Let me start with the very assumption people tend to make about this movie that this movie is specific to the Indian youth. Well I beg to differ. This movie is anything but limited in any sense of the word. The title of the movie is in white and orange. Orange here signifies Basanti which contrary to popular belief is not symbolic of India. It is the color of War cry, revolution, or whatever that might be related to this but definitely not India specifically. Along with this what people ignore is the white ink in which “Rang de” is written. White isn’t signifying the middle color of the Indian flag but rather the universal meaning of it – Peace. Hence this movie is not at all directed at the Indian youth but rather the whole world and not even just the youth actually, but to everyone out there who is frustrated with the way things work. Even in the English version of the song Paathshala, the whole world has been talked about. This, I feel, spells the reason for its global appeal and fantastic response.

Once again these are my points, my opinions which I do not want to be mistaken as the result of a thorough research, because believe me there was none. So these are my opinion and conclusions and ideas and thoughts not manufactured by anyone at all.

One must commend how cleverly the director, story writer and everyone manages to have your undivided attention from the very first scene, how they manage to get the audience to sit straight up and get all charged up with the very first Hindi words uttered by Sue (played by Alice Patten) and specially when just before that they had shown us the historical part in trademark yellowish parchment sort of color. This off-beat transition repeated throughout the movie – blurring the lines between past and the present - becomes an instant hit with the audience. Also very unlike the others, this movie’s first Hindi words are abuse words and too spoken by a “firang” which makes it all the more interesting, exciting and appealing to the youth. This was a rare opportunity for them to see someone of their own level, caliber and even nature on screen which they relished till the end. Hence another strong point of the movie was that there was absolutely no preaching but at the same time it was not dumb characters one was seeing on the screen.

This transition becomes the high point of the movie when the past and the present become one and The Defense Minister is shown as General Dyer which becomes the last straw for the audience and their grief for the characters now turns into raw anger.

The movie is at its creative best with all the transitions and also how the characters have been sketched. None of characters are monotonous or extreme, they all posses a healthy balance between fun and seriousness, melancholy and completely hilariously stupid. For instance, if one considers Aamir Khan’s character DJ (Daljeet), he is someone so completely flamboyant and non-serious, finding something hilarious in every situation. But at the same time you seem him reflecting on how transient life is and sharing his troubles of the future with Sue. But even then he is able to completely, like it happens in real life, change the topic with his wit. At another instance in the movie, we see DJ breaking down and that’s when the audience also loses a bit of its hope as they had come to believe that DJ was the force and if the force couldn’t get through the difficult times, then what hope did we have?

One character which has been brilliantly written and forcefully played by Atul Kulkarni is the character of Lakshman Pandey. A character with an excellent yet painful transition from one belief to another. Lakshman is a hindu hardliner, with problems with any sort of western beliefs and behaviour and inbuilt hatred for the Muslims. This character’s journey from this aspect to a secular person full of painful, emotional, intellectual realizations is a story in itself.

While Lakshman Pandey is a hindu hardliner, the ‘gang’ are hardcore secularists who they believe should hate people like Lakshman and boycott them, All this is accepted by the audience as granted. But the character of Sue is different, she hate communalism but at the same time is not averse to all aspects of a communal person. She signifies the bliss of the undivided by the unseen and unconscious boundaries of religious fanaticism and secular ignorance. She fights with her friends, who are trying to exercise their “rightful hatred” towards the likes of Lakshman and ignoring his talents in the way, to include Lakshman in her movie “The young guns of India” as Ram Prasad Bismil and making the statement about India and its population, which holds true for me – “People are just looking for a reason to fight”- making it a treat to watch!

What more could a director want then actually having people imbibe his characters in all their dimensions and dividing their life, consciously and unconsciously, into life before RDB and life after RDB. I count myself amongst the ones whose life and thinking actually got changed with this path-breaking movie, consciously or unconsciously that I am not aware of and neither do I want to be.

The brilliance of the cinematography challenges others to compare themselves with it, especially in the “Paathshala” and “Be a rebel” song. The way this movie has been dealed with in all its dimensions – be it the story, the dialogues, the characters, the cinematography, the music, the lyrics, the dance – there is nothing which seems overbearing and forced. The lyrics and the music became the epitome of coolness. “Tali ho girne se samjhi humne gravity, ishq da practical kiya tab aayi clearity. Na koi padhne wala, na koi seekhne wala”. Who could have though that scientific principle could be explained through love and getting drunk could explain physics! (without getting corny and dumb). When talking about the lyrics and the music, leaving out “Luka Chuppi”, a song sung by Lata Mangeshkar and AR Rahman, is almost criminal. It symbolizes the talk between a mother and her son and the lyrics and the rendition is so soulful that it makes you even if you have not seen the movie and do not know the story.

Also contrary to widespread misconceptions, this movie does not just limit itself to one issue. It encompasses within its being the diversity of life and behaviour. It is not just about finding your roots and standing up for yourself, but it also screens several other problems faced by everyone but seldom brought out into the open without actual confrontation. For example, the whole scene where DJ comes out with his story of always wanting to stay in the university with his friends and admirers, it poignantly brings out the fear that all of us have of losing our uniqueness and appreciation and respect in the big bad world outside. It’s a fear of transition from one stage of life to another. However it doe not ever go into details about overcoming this fear, it raises the question and leaves us to ponder upon it and confront our being ourselves in our own way.

It address as its main point the views and opinions we hold about our past and how very often these views are actually strengthened by the stagnated way history is presented. When Karan (played by Siddhartha) reads his dialogues as Bhagat Singh, the language makes the emotions alien to him, frustating him to no end and then he comes out with the memorable reaction – “Kaun baat karta hai aise? ‘Agyakari beta’, ‘Azadi meri dulhan’?! What’s his problem?!”.

Frankly he is not to blame because in our country, which I repeat again has been taken just as an example while the movie addresses the whole world, has the problem of refusing to interpret history in a modern context for the youngsters. The language that was used fifty years ago to explain the same portion of history is still in use today and this problem, forgive me, is most visible in Hindi. Hindi has been made into an “inferior” language because it is on the path of stagnation and has frankly become a sad, painful joke in its own country.

Please don’t take me in the wrong sense. I am not saying that the authenticity of the script should be exempted, I am merely raising a point about how that very authenticity has become a joke to most of the youngsters and the blame for this lies with all those who refused to evolve and become global. They are the reason for the feeling of disconnect that the young of today feel with their past. I repeat it is not because the past is boring, it is because the way it is presented is boring.

It is because of this environment that has been built up that even if one was drawn towards these things, he would keep silent because as the character of Aslam (played by Kunal Kapoor) points out it will make the person look foolish and make him the butt of all jokes. But I am proud and pleased to now say that perhaps this environment is on its way to change. Seeing the present day emotions all over India and the world, people are vying for a change. The attitude of “I care” has been transformed into “I care and hence I act”.

One of the best qualities in the movie is that it does not hold any one emotion excessively and instead combines it with a lot of other things, making it hard for the audience to get distracted. The editing and direction is brilliant with a lot of welcome breaks provided to the audience to help them digest till what they had seen. Songs like Rang de Basanti (title track) and Khalbali are accurate as examples o this. Even in the last scene where each bullet on the character is a blow to the audience, the team behind RDB maintains the essence of the movie and comes out with the memorable exchange between a wounded DJ and Karan where the possible skin tones of DJ and Sue’s babies is discussed with all of DJ’s apprehensions making the audience laugh while tears roll down their cheeks.

Another is that nothing, not even the bond between the friends, is shown to be perfect. The strains come out in the open when Sukhi (Sharman Joshi) raises a finger at Karan’s integrity and intentions after they come to know of Karan’s father’s involvement in the whole corrupt deal which led to their pilot friend’s death – the whole issue which they were fighting against. Or when they don’t inform Sue about their plan of killing the Defense Minister. Nothing is perfect, even the most perfect things have starins, making it very similar to real life.

A scene I would like to specially comment upon is when James McKinley, Sue’s grandfather and whose diary forms the basis of the story, seeks salvation in the church with the background echoing of the cries of the brave hearts who denied the British the pleasure of making them kneel in submission. He asks the most valid question in this time and that too as British without once again being shown as corny and that is “How can this be the will of God?” making the impact of this scene all the more powerful. Also the prayer to gods of three different religions makes you stare in wonder and for once think about secularism yourself and as a choice without being forced into it.

Such subtleties form the core of the movie. It is actually a film of subtleties where each can find its own, thus, once again being powerful in its impact and reach without being the usual. It gives a choice to the audience to be able to choose their points from the movie without giving them prior directions.

And now addressing the most “hated” aspect of this movie – its “undercurrent” emotions and how it may impact the young. I read numerous articles raising apprehensions regarding the method used in this movie, terming it as “murder-politics”. Well all those who stand by this should perhaps try watching the movie more carefully the next time and also could eliminate their stereotypes beforehand.

This movie, once again, contrary to popular beliefs does not endorse murder politics. Agreed that they use the weapon of murder to show their agitation and anger but they realize their mistake when they see that killing the defense minister actually did not at all bring out his tarnished character out in the open but instead colored him as a truthful, honest and brave man, hence defeating the objectives of their actions altogether. They realize this and then decide to take the responsibility of their actions and try to bring out the truth in this way. They go to the Radio Station to come out in the open with their actions and in that non-violent way register their grievance. This is the essence which many choose to ignore because for most realization of one’s mistake and taking steps to correct it is a ting of fairy tales. There were accusations hurled at the movie for glorifying violence but here’s a thought for them. In the radio station scene, they did get the guns but only meant to show it to their friend Rahul (Cyrus Sahukar) who worked there so as to go on air. It was accidentally seen by the others and the panic started,. But even then, there was not one who was killed by them.

The only part of the movie that doesn’t agree with me is when Karan kills his father as a sort of justification for killing the defense minister. That and also when the army is sent to the Radio Station with the orders of “No Survivors” but this one I am willing to give it to the director as creative liberty.

I would request all to please listen carefully all the scenes where Karan is on the radio and is answering questions from across the country. It is an explanation and acceptance of their actions but there is no justification because that was not their motive anyway.

The people who accused the movie of being too extreme should perhaps look out in the world today and see that one part of the movie has already come true and that is the part of public mobilization and that is the true meaning of the RDB effect. People protesting against the injustice and standing up to take responsibility for their actions and at the same time making the others realize and take responsibility for their actions.

One of the last few dialogues are addressed to the nation and they should be taken into account by everyone who crib about their situation but run in the opposite direction when asked to correct the errors and I would like to end with those dialogues which I hope will also explain the title I chose for this article.

Koi bhi desh perfect nahin hota, usse perfect banana parta hai.

Army join karenge, IAS banengem Politics join karke iss desh ko chalayenge.

Hello Everyone!


A warm welcome to you all! (and this is the warmest it gets... :p)

Why, you ask? Well...its mostly because this is a blog I envision as my way of letting out my frustrations regarding a lot of things but mostly and usually cinema (and in that most often hindi mainstream)...and as the word 'frustration' suggests not so warm can make the connections...

This is not exactly a review place but sort of like my analysis of the movies (well the movies i feel like analyzing...) so if you may be looking for reviews of the latest films, this may not be the place for you...but if you want to know what others think of your favorite or not so favorite movies, this place may help you out (or at least i hope it does)

I for some time now, have been experiencing increasing discomfort linked to the mainstream hindi cinema and I sincerely believe that most of the people who work in this type of cinema ( I refuse to give them titles like 'actor', 'director', 'musicians' etc because I believe they have a long long long long way to go to even be called these...and that too in the driest sense of the word...) are basically...well...not all.

But to be fair, I am more than willing to have a democratic discussion about whatever I write and whatever you may write...

So I hope that you like this place and like it!

This is all I can think of right let the journey begin!


PS - I realize my screen name "Rae' may be thought of my corny and highly dumb attempt to link myself to Satyajit Ray...its NOT...'Rae' is merely the result of a facebook quiz...and theres no more to it...

PS 1 - This place might (and most likely than not will) be filled with sarcasm and irony (cos I love them) so be alert... :)

PS2 - Just to remind you, i have said again and again hindi films will be the most common topic here but there will be other things too including english movies and if I am lucky other languages and things outside the cinema world too...(probably)

PS3 - I am open to suggestions but just one request - please keep this place civil. :)

PS4 - Have FUN!