Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies have been backed with quirky subjects, outstanding music, impressive characters, natural performances, and subversive elements. But his films have also been tormented imperfect plots, scripting setups, an over-reliance on a charm and the incapability to pull himself from the formula he requests to be reinventing. Every single Vishal Bhardwaj film is a work in progress towards the masterpiece that his admirers believe he will produce some day.
Rangoon is director Vishal Bhardwaj’s immense and gratifying work. It is typical, weighed and gauged by the style and manner of its story. Altered from the English film Casablanca, it is a simple love triangle set in India, circa 1943, alongside the backdrop of World War II. The story begins in 1943 in India when the British Army requests Rusi Bilmoria to send his beloved, Miss Julia, to the Indo-Burma border so that she can amuse the nation’s soldiers. Rusi, a nation-lover, does his job and sends off Julia with his group plus Nawab Malik as Julia’s personal security. When the Japanese bomb them on their way, Malik and Julia succeed to escape into Burma and, well, love prospers.
The film advances at a slow pace all through and a painfully long climax is another setback. The dialogues have a typical Vishal Bharadwaj feel, with its depth. At 167 minutes, Rangoon isn’t only long but painful. And this isn’t the pain of love. And it doesn’t end in pleasure.
Kangana Ranaut does a fine job as Julia. She is the soul of the film who extracts the character’s brave heart nature, anxieties and fearless loving with much ease. Saif Ali Khan falls short to emerge above the anticipated. As Russi, he has nothing but a harsh face and an accented “Kiddo”. Shahid Kapoor does an exceptional job as Nawab Mallik. His flexed muscles, tough soldier look, work its charm for most of the time. Richard McCabe as General Hardings gives us a tough time with his Urdu shayri.
Music of Rangoon mixes well with the setting and utmost of it being situational, work for it. The songs Bloody hell and Mere miyan gaye England are wonderfully choreographed as well as picturised, while Yeh ishq hai is poignant. Also, Bhardwaj’s extravagant score tugs at your heartstrings as it accompaniments the visuals.
Rangoon is a splendidly filmed period drama about the juncture of cinema and patriotism, but it stays at the crossroads where other Bhardwaj’s titles can be found. The 167-minute movie is neither solely gratifying nor capable of being dismissed completely. The purpose of Vishal Bharadwaj’s aspiringly mounted film is unblemished: to interlace the coils of love and war in order to make a movie full of thumping passion and impressive statements. But the execution never fairly matches up. Kangana and Shahid put a mark with their characters but do not ease the film to rise above its discrepancies. A 2/5 for this.