Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan
Direction: Vishal Bharadwaj
Vishal Bhardwaj’s period drama ‘Rangoon’ falls just short of translating into an epic love story on screen. The film is visually compelling, but the overall cinematic experience is sketchy and, at times, even tedious.
This film is set during World War II – a time when Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) was waging it’s own war of liberation against the British Empire. In this tumult, a feisty Bollywood action star Julie (Kangana Ranaut) is asked to entertain English and Indian troops at the India-Burma border. Much to her chagrin (in fact, entirely against her wishes) she is sent by her mentor and lover Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) to the war-torn region, where she falls in love with a young officer Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor).
The imminent conflict and emotional turmoil form the crux of this love triangle.
The usually restrained Bhardwaj has overindulged on this film. The first half proceeds at a languid pace and there is too much theatrics at times. The sets for the song-and-dance sequences are lavish and while they look good, they take away from the morbid gravitas of the ongoing war.
This story of love, betrayal and patriotism has some commendable performances, especially by the lead cast. Unfortunately, the British characters – especially the man mouthing Ghalib’s famous shayari – come across as mere caricatures.
Saif’s understated portrayal is reminiscent of his class act in ‘Omkara’. Shahid brings a rare intensity to his part, which, I guess, he reserves exclusively for Bhardwaj.
Kangana’s part is a perfect match: she manages to sound nasal and theatrical, like most yesteryear heroines. You might want to watch out for the chemistry between Shahid and Kangana as they surrender themselves to the throes of a torrid affair.
Bhardwaj is know to be a skilled craftsman: his Shakespeare-inspired triology – ‘Maqbool’ (Macbeth, 2003), ‘Omkara’ (Othello, 2006) and ‘Haider’ (Hamlet, 2014) – enthralled with its flair and adeptness at seamlessly merging a greater cause with a simple love story.
But in ‘Rangoon’, for once, the larger political picture and the passionate love angle don’t march to the same beat. This story misses a few steps and, just when it is expected to deliver a cinematic crescendo, stumbles.
Watch ‘Rangoon’ if you must – it definitely has visual appeal.