There are films and films and films and films and films and films and then there is Rang De Basanti. Probably no other film would have inspired and impacted the mainstream Indian cinema and the youth as much as Rang De Basanti did. 10 years back, when the film released in theatres there was a shock, silence and a deep sense of enquiry in the minds of people as to where the country is headed. Bhagat Singh’s didn’t emerge nor did people went on to kill the corrupt but the small pinch of not doing our bit to change our country definitely did start. Rang De Basanti, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra released this day 10 years back. It is one of the very few films, which won unanimous box-office surprise and unabashed critical acclaim. Very few films can move critics and audience alike to tears apart from being consistently entertaining, original and filled with cinematic excellence. As the film completes a decade, here’s 10 things what the film memorable in our hearts
1. The Writing
Rang De Basanti as a film had a strong backbone in the form of strong and original writing. The story written by Kamlesh Pandey is one of the primary reasons why Rang de Basanti very special. From Delhi University to the heartlands of Haryana and Punjab and back to Lutyens Delhi and Chandni Chowk, the story bristles across various characters and incidents, which continue to touch our lives in a very strong way and are very relevant to today. The conflicts are not happening in the parallel universe but are happening in our very own lives.
Madhavan R (Maddy) who plays Lt. Ajay Singh Rathod is the heart of Rang De Basanti. In an extended cameo, Madhavan played a memorable role as a cool-headed ace pilot who is ready to die for the country and is proud to do so. Madhavan’s love track with Soha Ali Khan, which is a crucial subplot of the film, is another graceful aspect of the film. The scenes Madhavan has with Siddarth, Aamir and friends in the bar a day before the send-off followed by the monologue about taking responsibility for the nation are pure gold. There are actors who had longer screentime but Madhavan made sure he made you laugh and cry in this film.
3. Aamir Khan
Aamir Khan probably plays an insignificant character in this film in the middle of roles like Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni, Siddarth, Madhavan and Kunal Kapoor. But why Aamir makes it special? Aamir’s inclusion in the film first thing ensured that the film got the reach and limelight the film deserves. If Aamir wasn’t a part of the film, RDB would have been an ambitious small film but would have traveled the light years it did. Of course, in the role of DJ, Aamir proves why he is one of the most versatile actors of the generation bringing in the Punjabi texture seamlessly.
4. The Ensemble Cast
Prior to RDB, each of the cast in RDB apart from Madhavan, Aamir, Waheeda Rahman and Anupam Kher were new actors. But when each of them played their part in the film, you feel that they have been handpicked for the roles especially Siddarth, a 4-film old actor down south who played Karan Singhania in a shade which very few actors can. It was a pleasure to see the charismatic Waheeda Rahman and it was equally beautiful to see Atul Kulkarni passionately mouth long monologues as a staunch nationalist. Two other revelations with this film were Sharman Joshi and Kunal Kapoor along with Anupam Kher who adds so much weight to the scenes. The icing on the cake was the British actor Alice Patten, who plays a small-time filmmaker from London. It is through her eyes the whole story is narrated.
5. The Screenplay
Rang De Basanti is a very tough film to narrate. The story carries 4-5 layers each integral to the film especially the meta-movie on the freedom fighters and the diary of McKinley who narrates incidents, which shocked him. The movie briskly meshes the past, the meta-movie and the present seamlessly carrying the impact that grows on you like the thickest African drug. When the movie shifts to the last hour, there is a strong urgency in the lead roles, which is backed by strong dialogue and hand-held camera moments. The beauty of Rang de Basanti is to choose to narrate the whole film through eyes of a foreigner. By doing so, you tend to get an objective perspective of the story – the story of modern day India and the glorious freedom struggle.
Rang De Basanti is a film of adrenaline moments. Be it the master salute on the India Gate or Madhavan’s funeral or Atul Kulkarni’s monologue, Khalbali song, killing of Defence minister or the entire climax stretch in the AIR office, the film was filled with goosebumps moments. After a long time, the audience whistled, clapped, jumped, shouted and shed tears wholeheartedly in the theatres. A special mention to Madhavan’s funeral scene with the Lukka Chuppi song in the background which moved almost everyone to theatres. (as I write this, I can still feel the depth of the scene). The final act where the commando operation puts a dot on the lives of the friends brings shock and sadness at the same time.
7. AR Rahman
A lot of Rang de Basanti is because of A R Rahman’s soulful soundtrack. He brings the modern youthful numbers “Lose Control” and “Khalbali” while still including the classic “Ek Onkaar” and “Rang De Basanti title song. The beautiful OST numbers “Khoon Chala” and “Tu Bin Bataye”. The narrative is backed by a solid BGM which gets rousing in the high moments and deep during the serious moments. And did I forget “Lukka Chuppi” sung by Lata Mangeshkar which is so haunting and poignant at the same time.
RDB is visually a very vibrant film thanks to the many moods the films changes due to the script. The rich palette in Punjab, the black and white pristine during the freedom struggle and meta-movie and the swish pans during the Delhi scenes enhance the mood of the story-telling significantly apart from being very fresh. Binod Pradhan, the film’s cinematographer gave us some unforgettable frames in the film be it those aerial shots in the Jaipur fort or the sweeping shots in the farmlands especially the one with the aircraft and the lead actors jumping without the shirt. If you remember something strongly from the film, it was the cinematography
Rang De Basanti was cool. It made patriotism cool. It made youth think about the nation and its people. It made them think about their existence as citizens of India and not future citizens of USA and Europe. Long after the cinema was over, the youth walking out of the cinemas could think about what they wanted to do to change the status quo. Because they could empathise with the freedom struggle on the screen and the current struggle the country is going through bogged down by social issues and corruption. In the many firsts Rang De Basanti did, it brought the youth to think the way they are. It made patriotism palatable to the youth. Truly… a generation awakened.
10. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was a well known ad-film makers before a foray into cinema. He took the industry to storm with Rang De Basanti by just telling a patriotic story in an entertaining way. To make a film like RDB, you need a lot of conviction and this guy had lots. Patriotic films can also be sensitive because it takes a lot of restraint from being jingoistic and philosophical. Rakeysh walked the punctilious rope of being subtle with the message while filling the film with beautiful metaphors, poetic moments and powerful scenes and, of course, such amazing shots, which very few filmmakers in the country were capable of. Rang De Basanti didn’t just win Filmfare Awards and the prestigious National Award but went on to win an Oscar submission and a prestigious BAFTA nomination. And more importantly, it won the love of millions of hearts of young Indians. Jai Hind!
Fun fact: He also played the role of Bhagat Singh’s father in the ending scene.
PS: If there is one Hindi film I have to choose and I will choose Rang De Basanti.
Here are the deleted scenes from the movie if you missed them.
Surya Tej Borra, based out of Hyderabad works in Google and an Art of Living teacher. A lover of cinema and supporter of the internet, he loves reading, travelling, music long drives and cooking vegetarian food.