"Rang De Basanti" - Generation Awakens?

A Movie Review by Kaveetaa Kaul

 

** Fair warning: The following review may contain plot spoilers. **

The byline screamed "a generation awakens." No it wasn’t a seminar to inspire the youth, but a by-line for the movie that is the talk of the town - Rang De Basanti. I figured as long as I convinced myself that the flick was a non pretentious Indian Movie, with a 40+ superstar playing a college student, and I was willing to be in a state of suspended disbelief at the celluloid antics, all would be fine.

But the moment the message that a generation was recoiling from the ’system’ and their impotence at getting things ’right’ would result in violence and bloodshed as the only alternative, it got my (imaginary) goatee!! The makers further rationalised their reasoning by equating the gang with the likes of our freedom fighters of yore, Bismil, Bhagatsingh and Azad... This to me was a travesty. 
 
We as a nation seem to have it all , but somewhere down the line seem to have also lost it all. Our interpretation of philosophy, morals, values, ethos, sensitivity , compassion, spirituality.. all seem blurred and misguided. RDB is a film that triggers passions , ignites them and then points out a path, which is horrific, so horrific that it has destroyed what could have been a landmark in Indian cinema.

The movie raises a clarion call to our youth asking them to wake up from their slumber of indifference and "blame-game" mentality . Had the intentions been noble however, a momentous path breaking film could have offered a strategy and solution through the messages of a Vivekananda or Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. Sadly the only message we receive is "we-resort-to-this-but-don’t-advise-it."

Irresponsible dramatisations, featured in Rang de Basanti have the very dangerous potential of misguiding gullible youth(70% in villages according to the latest ORG_NIELSEN survey) to confuse patriotism and achieve what is right through violence.

If the film has "uplifted spirits" as many have claimed, then by the same logic it can influence in a diametrically opposite direction by simplifying solutions in the impressionable minds of the younger generation and encourage violence. Since the majority of our youth is rural and films and stars are worshipped there, film makers have the responsibility of making their films a symbol of education, socio-economic and cultural change.

To be awakened from a slumber of indifference is one thing, but to be awakened and almost hypnotised in the darkness of a theatre, where your senses are under complete control of the maker, and preached "what you cannot tolerate, do away with", is Hitler-ish. Something like "you hate begging, so kill beggars." 
 
While I can understand the success of the film and the earnestness of the maker, however I feel strongly that he has taken the easier way out by subscribing to the "clap-trap" formula. I have seen the movie with college students. I have been a witness to the igniting of passions all through. It frightened me. If it was an awakening of love for our country or patriotism it would have been a different matter. Sorry to say, I felt the same horror when I saw films like "Satya." On the other hand films such as "Purab aur Paschim" or "Swades" too spoke in no uncertain terms of what Indians ought to be thinking or feeling but in a thought provoking non violent way. What gets hammered in has a shorter life than what gets assimilated or imbibed without aggression. 
 
If you are not part of the soluttion you are part of the problem.To have a whole nation become putty in your hands and then to advise violence, is irresponsible, to say the least, especially if the star in question is Aamir Khan, who enjoys the unique privilege of getting box office counters clicking by his mere presence in a film. 
 
Intolerance towards the ills that afflict our nation, e.g corruption, bribery as depicted in RDB cannot be learnt overnight. It has to begin at a grass root level, on an everyday basis. This cannot be taught by a film. These are values which have to begin at home and continue in schools and beyond.

To take an example from the film, Aamir and his ‘band of boys’ get inspired to don the mantle of freedom fighters and metamorph into present day "Bhagat Singhs in jeans." So when the Defence Minister is alleged to be guilty of purchasing defective Migs, they decide to get rid of the rat, simply by shooting him while he is taking his morning walk. Childish and convenient as well. A shoddy climax, hurriedly shot, plunges the film into deeper dismal depths.

What has made RDB a blockbuster is the timely subject and the innate anger and frustration that the common man experiences towards the rampant immorality of the powerful and the widening chasm between them and him.

These sporadic bursts of heightened activism may eventually do more harm than good. Apart from the havoc it may create in the minds of the impressionable kids, what is a certainty is that a couple of dozen films on various shades of RDB will now go into production. It is most likely that what they will be inspired by majorly is "the resorting to violence" aspect. Can you imagine the trickle effect and the drastic consequences? What was merely the latter half of RDB will transform into full fledged sagas of hate, vengeance, retribution, all in the name of intolerance. 

Why do we Indians tend to get overdramatic? It has always been a question that has perplexed me .The answer ofcourse lies in the "box office" collections and catering to the lowest common denominator, while at the same time endeavouring to keep a semblance of serious cinema, as the motive. This itself is fallacious. Box office and "quality" in India are at opposite ends of the specrtum. You cannot appease both together. One will have to be sacrificed. The fact remains that unfortunately commerce rules over art. It will truly be a "generation" before this "awakening" takes the shape of reality. Till then it will remain a pipe dream , like the rest of those dreams which never see the light of the day, because of the lack of "takers." Creativity is abundant... Connoisseurs are rare. Success coupled with creativity, rarer.

Kaveetaa Kaul began her career as child actor at the age of 8. She was lucky to have worked with big banners and with M.G.M. as well. She graduated in World History, Constitution of England and India. After topping Mumbai University with Honours Kaveetaa dipped in advertising and marketing, montessori training, and yoga teachers training.
Kaveetaa has produced serials for Sony, Zee and has acted and written as well. Her main priority being children and home, she has opted for a flexible professional routine. In addition, she has studied Numerology, Feng Shui, Aroma Therapy, Tarot card reading, Reiki.
Kaveetaa is currently busy writing a script to direct, as well as pre-producing a new series for t.v.
She lives in Mumbai with her husband and son.
To read more, visit Kaveetaa’s online blog at http://sachiniti.blogspot.com/

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the editor/publisher.


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