Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Read this review

Chandrahas has a superb, scathing review of Rang de Basanti up on the Middle Stage. Interestingly, his take is as far as it’s possible to get from that of most other reviewers, who have been praising the film to the skies:

“In almost two decades of watching Bollywood productions I have never come across such preposterous drivel as that served up in the second half of this film…The worst thing about Rang De Basanti is that not only does it sloppily promote the idea that violence is fine as long as you are persuaded that the cause is right, it uses an absurd parallel from history to legitimise it, and at every stage superimposes the frame of history upon the action.”

Of course, whether one likes or dislikes a film is secondary (I haven’t seen Rang de Basanti yet and so have no opinion on it); what matters is that the review should be honest and well-argued. This is the kind of passionate film writing I wish there was more of in India, and it makes me want to get back to movie-reviewing myself.

Read the full thing. And Uma has a not dissimilar take on the second half of the film, here.


  1. Bugger, bugger, bugger. I had avoided seeing reviews since I've not seen the film. Chandrahas has given away the entire plot without so much as a spoiler warning. :-(


  2. Thanks for that link. Even though I've yet to see RDB, after a near universal media gushfest, it's nice to read a counterview. For some reason, I love the contrary reviews (of uber-hyped movies) best...

    Btw, here's another counterview:

    And be sure to read the following after undergoing some form of anaesthesia (high *ouch* factor alert), from the no-holds barred Khullam-Khulla:



    PS. Love to hear your thoughts on RDB whenever you get round to seeing it, Jai...

    PPS. Can you please delete the previous, typo-infested comment by me, cheers!

  3. I agree with Chandrahas and Uma. I would add that the way the parallels have been drawn between the life of Bhagat Singh and DJ (Amir Khan) is something that was entirely unnecessary and is quite jarring.

  4. ok. I saw the first half of the movie and walked out during the interval. I liked the characters, i liked the thought behind the story but just found the storyline missing. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

    BUT it was actually a pretty decent effort, for a mainstream hindi movie that is. I'm not an avid moviegoer myself so I honestly can't compare. One assumes commercial hindi movies to be a lot of song & dance and little else. I assume that the main objective of a mainstream movie is to entertain, that this movie seems to have achieved by looking at the numbers (and from what a lot of my friends have said).

    Now, if one were to search for a the 'message' or 'what the movie promotes' in a mainstream commercial hindi movie (or any language movie for that matter), one surely must be dilusional. Most emotions and situations are grossly exaggerated to make them entertaining. A commercial movie promotes the best interests of the people behind the movie, nothing more.

    Will it influence the youth of this country...it might..it might influence wear strange leather jackets on a hot summer day..

    (sorry for the length of the comment)

  5. This is one of those times it would be interesting if Chandrahas allowed comments...

    I haven't seen the movie yet, so I have no real opinion. Good review, though.

  6. For all the point that does involve Uma and Chandrahas's reviews is only one thing: violence as the answer to all ills; which i dont think it is.

    Just because the work has the actors/protagonits involved in the violence, does that mean the movie's message is so?

    a. All the people involved in the action are killed. Doesnt that clearly mean that "an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"?
    b. The words are pounded again and again to take the responsibility (join ias, ips, politics) and just not crib and complain.
    c. The solution that is asked is to change oneself.
    d. They do agree that they have set a bad example.

    It would definitely have been different if the people involved were made heroes and left unconvicted.

    I do think the movie was honest with itself and to the characters and definitely doesnt deserve it.

  7. As much I enjoyed reading Charandas' review, I have to agree with the 'counter-counter criticism', as expressed by rabin and kopos here. RDB is a movie, not a documentary - nor does it try to pretend its an 'art' movie with a deep message.

    Maybe I am missing the way this film was presented in India (I live in North Carolina and saw this at a theatre here without seeing any reviews/promotions etc) - but to me, the story was about 5 young friends wrapped in their own masti-filled world. With the arrival of Sue and while acting in the documentary, they gradually undergo a change of heart.
    The change is complete when (won't reveal the twist here) happens and they take a snap decision to exact revenge through violence.

    Also, at the end of the movie they show on-the-spot TV interviews of youths from all over the country who are apparently 'inspired' by these guys. Maybe it was just my own interpretation - but I thought those interview scenes were shown in an ironical manner - trying to convey that the words coming out of their mouths are just that - empty words - nothing much was going to change anyways.

    I do agree though that showing the parallel with Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries was tacky and cringe-worthy.

    Btw, did people start killing smugglers, corrupt policemen etc after watching Amitabh's angry young man personas in the the 70s ?

  8. I would be really nice if Chandrahas allowed comments. It's fair to crticise but this chap takes himself way too seriously.
    1-Its only a film
    2-So what if it depicted a cold blooded murder, did you hate all of Tarantino as well
    3-And I've always felt corrupt people need to be held guilty of high treason, the time to e humane and decent with them is over
    4-The lathi chrage in the movie was likened to the lathi charge during the "Simon go back" demonstration at Lahore.

  9. "It's fair to crticise but this chap takes himself way too seriously."

    *Yawn* Imhunt, that's the oldest, most tired way of putting down someone whose opinion you don't agree with.

    I don't understand your first point. If it's "only a film", well, what Chandrahas wrote is "only a film review" - it's not the Gospel.

    Your second point is irrelevant here. Chandrahas's interpretation is that the film encourages the viewer to empathise with the murderers and to derive a message from their actions. Tarantino's work has an entirely different purpose and exists in a different context.

    (Let me say here that many people I know disagree with Chandrahas's interpretation - they believe the film isn't condoning the actions of its protagonists. But that's a different argument from the one you're presenting.)

    Point 3: well, fair enough, but who decides who the "corrupt people" are? Why should the film's protagonists have a patent on moral discernment?

    Point 4: thanks for the info.