Rangoon was one of the most awaited films of the year and for all the right reasons. It has stunning actors who did their homework right, a director who tried to merge the two worlds and a beautiful music which thoroughly supports the film. However, the good things in the film are not able to overshadow the bad ones. The loose scripting, a horrific climax and a failed attempt to marry the Shakespearean storytelling with Salim-Javed’s written love stories, Rangoon had a great potential but what it brings out is a nonsensical, boring on screen offering.
An action star turned successful producer, Russi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) has an affair with his heroine — Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut), whom he had bought for Rs 1000 when she was 14. He made her what she is today. As in one of the scenes, she blatantly tells Russi: “Tum kaho toh main chalu, tum kaho toh nahi. Tum kaho toh main Miss Julia, tum kaho toh Miss Billimoria.” The chemistry between Julia and Russi is that of a master and a submissive, though all Julia has dreamt of throughout her life is to get married to Russi. She was on the verge of making this dream a reality when Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor) enters her life. He saves Miss Julia and some oddly written circumstances make them fall in love. The chemistry between Julia and Nawab strikes the chord in a few scenes. Like the one in which she asks him, “Apni jaan se bhi keemti kuch aur hai kya?” and he replies, “Hai… vo ki jis ke liye mara ja sake.”
Kangana Ranaut delivers yet another strong performance as the sexy heroine who does her stunts herself and is aware of her capabilities. She is also a woman who knows where she has come from and has no regrets in being the fierce lover of a married man. She is also brave enough to accept that she has fallen for a man she should not have. The character sketch of Miss Julia is tremendously intriguing. She makes you laugh, feel pity, wink and fills you up with courage with her tactics. Bharadwaj has also made nuances of feminism attached to Kangana’s character, though he is not entirely successful in doing that. Julia defies and proves ‘Uparwaala khoobsurat ladkiyon ko bewakoof kyu banata hai.‘ She is a rebel even when she doesn’t say a single word and leaves Russi frowning by refusing to sit on his lap. But at the same time, she prefers to cheat instead of simply accepting her real feelings in front of Russi.
Shahid Kapoor is a tough-faced man with totally strict ideologies. He is scared of ‘mohabbat‘ and perfectly maintains his ‘fauji‘ charm by singing the pre-independence version of our National Anthem. It’s the actor’s third on-screen outing with Vishal Bharadwaj and by now, he seems to have completely fallen in his comfort zone with the director’s prowess. In Rangoon, however, there’s no scene where Shahid could emerge as a solo strong performer. All the scenes where you feel like patting his back for good acting are the ones where he is in a frame with Kangana. What the storyline also lacks is the showcase of slight conflict between him and Russi.
There’s not enough in the narrative for Saif Ali Khan, except the ruined climax which supposedly makes him the hero of the film. The character of Russi also fails to establish whether he should garner the audience’s sympathy or ridicule. In whatever he is left with, Saif gives a decent performance yet you miss Omkara’s Langda Tyagi.
Another interesting character, the villain of the film is General David Hardings, played by British actor Richard McCabe. This is the villain who is too much fantasised by Urdu, and Indian classical music. He laughs while killing and effortlessly establishes the truth when he says: “If ever we Britishers leave India, this will turn out to be the most corrupted societies in the world.”
Rangoon is a victim of trying to do too much with what you have to offer. The length of the film, at 167 minutes, is a horror. The music is a relief but if the film is not entertaining, nothing can keep you glued. Even with strong performances, it can’t emerge as a winner. Vishal Bharadwaj’s attempt to let the love story sail through a war-film, lands in soup. Because neither the love story nor the war-drama comes to the fore.
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