Vishal Bhardwaj is one of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers in the industry. He doesn’t have a big commercial hit to his credit, but more often than not his films have won over the critics. His last film with Shahid, Haider, was acclaimed in all quarters and did fairly well at the box office window too. Saif’s last movie with Vishal, Omkara, gave him one of his most memorable characters. And when both of those actors star in another Vishal Bhardwaj movie with none other than Kangana Ranaut as the leading lady, expectations are sure to be raised. Does Rangoon deliver?
Story: It is the early 40s and the World War II is on in full swing. Married Parsi billionaire producer Russi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) is having an illicit affair with the No.1 heroine of the time Miss Julia (Kangana). As his allegiance to the Brits, Russi decides to send Julia to the Indo-Barma border to cheer up the Indian soldiers fighting for the Brits. There she is given an escort Jamadar Malik (Shahid) for her protection. Things get interesting when Julia and Malik fall in love. Rangoon is a love triangle with the world war II at its backdrop and the struggles of Netaji’s Indian National Army also play a part here.
Vishal Bharadwaj is a master of set-pieces and here he orchestrates his action scenes and his song and dance routines as theatrically as possible. The ensuing drama from the theatrical style of storytelling is what keeps ticking the story forward. Even though the proceedings are a little slow in the first half due to the world buildup, the second half becomes all about plot. The mixture of the two halves don’t quite balance as well as it could have. Some important matters are handled rather shoddily to make way for the love triangle, but it doesn’t go against the movie as the love triangle is the main attraction. It could have done better with a more pruned duration, as the film feels too long.
Rangoon is an authentic period movie, which does ample justice to the time period it is set in. It ebbs and flows in the valleys of scenic Arunachal Pradesh. It is good to see Bollywood finally discovering the beauty of the North East of India. The production design and set design are of world class quality, and so is the costume design. The editing is a bit lazy but that can be attributed to the narrative decision making. The songs of Rangoon aren’t quite as peppy as Vishal’s previous compositions. They work well in the movie and for the given sequences, but don’t have any meat in them that you listen to them after watching the movie.
Acting: All the 3 main actors of Rangoon put in commendable performances but there’s only one person who steals the show and that is Kangana Ranaut. She’s a firecracker while also maintaining an innocence about her. She’s in top top form in Rangoon as Julia. Shahid Kapoor gives a solid performance too. He’s charming as Malik, and there’s a sense of surety creeping up in his performances these days, which can only help him in the future. Saif Ali Khan has the most difficult character in the movie and he does justice to it, more or less. That he is a good actor is well known, but he becomes a different breed of actor in a Vishal Bhardwaj set.
Conclusion: Rangoon is a film that should be applauded more for its intentions rather than its execution. The love triangle, which is the basic plot device of the movie, doesn’t overpower the other proceedings in the movie. Yes, more time should have been delved in the freedom struggle movement. Eventually, Rangoon delivers a crisp second half which almost negates the slow first half of world building. Lovers of serious cinema who want a bit of meat in their movies, should definitely check out Rangoon because movies of this sort are few and far in between. If entertainment is what you seek out of films, then Rangoon isn’t for you.
- Kangana’s boisterous performances
- The two male leads do well too
- The production design, set design and costume design bring alive the time period
- The first half is very slow as it is about world building
- The love triangle portions don’t quite create as much magic as they should have
- The music is disappointing