I haven’t done a review in a while. Been in a kind of a slump, partly because I didn’t want to burn myself out, then there’s the fact that I didn’t know what I should review and then – on a personal matter – a family tragedy happened unexpectedly that effected things. Well, now I am back. As slow of a pace as ever. But I guess I just needed the right kind of movie to review, and at this time it is Rangeela.
I had heard things about this movie before I saw it. About the complicated love triangle, Aamir Khan’s method acting in dedication to the role and that the songs were classics – but that is a given with almost any A. R. Rahman score.
The story is of three people and the Hindi cinema that they are a part of. Mili Joshi dreams of becoming an actress, but is merely an extra dancing in the background. Munna sells black-market tickets to the movies. Raj Kamal, an actor, soon sees Mili and plans to make her a big star like she desires. But, a love triangle between the three soon forms.
In a conversation about the movies of 1995 in Hindi cinema this movie and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge are certainly to be talking points. Researching this movie it is apparent that though this movie received accolades and has been deemed a Cult Classic it doesn’t have the lasting love towards it that DDLJ has. The songs would certainly be remembered, the acting accolades as well, but in the end it is DDLJ that was the miracle in a bottle that was screened for 10 years (and might still be? Is it still going?), that so transformed the Hindi as well as Indian Cinema with its story and characters that is ultimately overshadowed this movie. Looking at recent reviews it seems time will only be more judgemental on this movie, while for DDLJ it transcends time itself. This movie at the time received all the accolades, but it is DDLJ that has lasted so long that is payed homage to in other movies. This movie was about movies and the film star lifestyle, a love letter to it in the same vein as La La Land was to Hollywood, but it was DDLJ that ultimately changed film itself. I do not mean to be mean-sounding, but just looking at the view count on all the songs from this movies DDLJ is the clear winner, having mainly 22 million views while Rangeela’s have 9 million.
Ram Gopal Varma is mainly a Telugu director and this was his first Hindi venture. This is the only movie of his that I have watched but its apparent he has a realistic, grittiness to life in his movies that is clear in this one. He is a man that works hard and churned out movies one after another, so I think that the overshadowing of DDLJ on basically every movie except his in the accolades section doesn’t hurt him. If Hindi film gained him accolades, but not lasting love, then it didn’t matter. At home in Krishna Nagar he is worshipped and those that matter love him, so in the end whatever time has judged this one single Hindi movie of his, he won’t loose the love of the people he sees every day and in the end those are the people that matter.
That is the reality of South Indian directors coming to Bollywood and making a movie, there are prejudices, uncertainty and dismissal as seen in the case of Krish in the whole Manikarnika movie debacle where his leading actress took the helm and ultimately tweaked the director’s vision to suit her own views, thus making a movie that is watchable yet uneven (because of two people), but not as great as it could have been and one who clearly loved the movie he was making, going for historical accuracy rather than star worship.
I mentioned Manikarnika because that is the worst case scenario that can happen to a director coming from the South. With an actress that played in to stereotypes of how Southern movies are viewed in the North – unless you are Mani Ratnam whose cinema has become a love letter to critics and audiences alike – to suit her own ends with talking about how the story was going to be all about revenge ect. All I am saying is that I am happy Ram Gopal Varma avoided the pitfall it could have gone, made the film he wanted to make and got all the accolades and then went back to his home town to direct. He has a movie coming out this year about NTR, the Telugu actor superstar, so it’s safe to say he is doing very well and I am happy about it.
The film itself is artistic in its execution, but an accessible artistry. It is also very grounded even in its song sequences even when it veers in to A. R. Rahman’s rhythmic picturesque fantasy sequences. There are no Swiss Alps, instead the girl real word of messy streets full of real people with mismatched clothes and not looking like supermodels.
The same applies to the main cast as well. Urmila is not a classic beauty, she has an interesting face full of life, which is where the beauty comes from. Aamir is uncouth as the black-market ticket seller is not your usual Hero, he is unshaved with a hideous transparent chain-like shirt but a great hat. He is not a knight in shining armour, he is flawed with a baggage on his shoulders about his status and is very serious at times. Even Jackie Shroff is a star with carved edges, unpolished, that is his appeal then as it is now. Dynamic in a way only a movie star can be just by his appearance. Had this been done today everything would be polished like silver cutlery, with a lot of gloss rather than differentiating between the real world and the film one.
(My favourite song from the movie)
The love triangle is an interesting one. Mili and Munna have been friends for a long time, she is middle-class while he lives below her house in a single room, and Raj as an actor is in a class all his own. There is point in the film when Munna has realised his love for Mili, who has now entered the film world, and he tries to dress up better to empress her, but fails. He wears an abominable yellow full body suit and tries to act cool and change who he is to try and impress her in an effort to get to her level, or more accurately the level he sees her now. With fancy clothes and hotels, not the same girl with just a little better clothes stylistically and who has gotten closer to achieving her dream. Raj on the other hand has baggage of his own, about love, and he opens up about it to Mili and from the star she idealises she starts to see the real man underneath with that show of vulnerability.
There is also a point made about air-condition, a mark of luxury in Asia. The cooler it is the more expensive the place is, never mind if it makes the air inside a little uncomfortable compared to the heated outside world (speaking from experience). Munna asks for it when they are in the theatre, nearly creating a scene and at the hotel he asks for the air-conditioning to be turned on without realising its already on. It is a comment on his low-class to ask for it even in a place where its a given, but where he cannot get his and Mili’s favourite food and where he has to bluff wealth he doesn’t have. He is a flawed ordinary man, who drinks his sorrows like Devdas for not being able to admit his feelings and in that sorrow turns bitter, yet somehow stays sympathetic, towards Mili’s growing fame.
On the flip side Raj does have all the wealth, fancy cars and a say on the movie he is making. But he has integrity, he has known loss, helps Mili in achieving her dream being her mentor, willing to be friends with her without revealing his feelings and takes any insult to her personally. He in a way is more a knight than Munna. But the movie makes a point to show the different sides of these young men, not to put them in to boxes of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and in the end making the final decision be Mili’s choice, as it always was and the two men realise and know it.
SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT! SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT! SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT!
What I found interesting is that though the love triangle is a real one, it is never in doubt for us who Mili loves. Yes, she idealises Raj and is happy to spend time with him and have him give him gifts, just like anyone in her situation would be. But her love and her close friendship with Munna is never in doubt. She wants him to be there for her success, but he can only see it thought the bitter eyes of jealousy of a rivalry he has invented himself.
There is the root of his insecurity in seeing her succeeded, in his eyes going further away from him and thus the woman he knows and has known. It blurs his vision to the truth, of the fan idolising and friendship between her and Raj that is apparent as they are colleagues and he is her mentor. But at the end of the day he is the she is going to rely on, the one she will rehearse her lines with, who knows her better than anyone. He, in essence, creates his own self destructive worldview of what is happening. Thankfully the story makes him vent out his troubles to his friends and leaves Mili alone, because if he didn’t it would mean telling his feelings for her.
On the other side is Raj with Jackie Shroff putting a performance of a vulnerable man who is private and good to his fans, but who has lost the hope to love until Mili came to his life. After it he starts to see himself as Hero in real life just like in his movies, he punches a leering extra, he drives her home every day from work, tells Mili of his past and is prepared to marry her. He respects her and is willing to love again. He is passionately in love and it shows in the songs they have together. But also, he doesn’t see the real Mili, only the glamorous person she can become.
Amidst the love triangle Umrila’s Mili is the character with the least definition. We know why she wants to be movie star, what her family is like and who she spends her time with. But we are left with merely an essence of character we have to built from the song and dance moments. A woman that is both passionate, yet very much still a girl growing in to womanhood. I get the sense that there is ambiguity in her character for the love triangle to work at the cost of an actual person. We see the men dream about her in their songs, but Mili only gets one about her and sung by her. Then again, she is a person who is invested in her fame and growth, hearing about her success makes her happy as do compliments about it. For her, it is as if this whole love triangle is a side-show to her fame. Thankfully the film didn’t view her as a bad person for wanting fame and achieving it and when she makes mistakes she apologises. She hasn’t lost her humanity in to fame as is the stereotypical way for these kinds of stories about film to go, instead we see her as a good person even with her fame, someone who deserved the fame she has and you know what! She deserved the man she loves by her side as well! She can have both, have the cake and eat it.
But the bad elements creeps at the end when Munna’s friend Pakya blames Mili for a thing she had no control of. Who is angry for her success “changing” her, when it really hasn’t. Who does she go to every time? Munna. Who does she casually insult when he insults her back? Munna. It is the usual thing with them, but he doesn’t see it and that is his own fault.
In the end the misunderstanding is one made by the men. It was never their choice shot she would choose. It was hers and hers alone. And even with the fame she still wants the boy-next-door who isn’t rich, but who makes her happy and whenever Munna sorts out his insecurities out then I think they will have a healthy marriage indeed once it is sorted. And by the looks of it she will be the one providing. If she has achieved success so far, whose to blame her for going further?
Thank you for reading!
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