The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear Vishal Bharadwaj’s name is his ability to extract first-rate performances from his actors. His films, irrespective of their box-office fates and critical reception, have always been home to performances that draw several national, international awards. Rangoon is no exception.
Rangoon is set in the times of WW-II. Supposedly based on a fragment of India’s first female stunt-women Fearless Nadia’s (born Mary Anne Evans) life, Rangoon is more a triangle love story than a war film. From the word go, Rangoon has VB’s grand vision ingrained in each frame. The camerawork is awesome. The pacing IS a bit slow but the leading lady draws all your attention. In the second half, unfortunately, Rangoon derails and gets caught up in silly dialogue like, “I’m white, so I’m always right”. The last straw was Saif Ali Khan’s tightrope walking.
Vishal Bharadwaj, when he came to the show Indian Idol as a special guest, joked that he became a director so that he can employ himself as the music director for his movies as offers from other directors stopped flowing in. Rangoon’s soundtrack is one you wouldn’t mind listening to. Bloody Hell by Sunidhi Chouhan is my pick of the lot. Oh, Sunidhi appears in a cameo in this song.
One of the finest actors in Bollywood right now, Kangana Ranaut, becomes this superwoman. From a confident, self-assured actress with a whip, to a woman who loves her man like her life depended on it, to a woman who falls for yet another man, to a woman torn between loyalty and love, to a woman who rises to an important occasion and saves the day, Julia is the centerpiece of this film. And Kangana becomes Julia. Fearless Nadia is dead 20 years, but here’s Kangana showing us how she would have been all those years ago.
Saif Ali Khan plays Rusi Billimoria, a man who, from what Kangana’s Julia says to Shahid’s Nawab Malik, bought her for a thousand bucks from her mother and went on to fall in love with her. A British loyalist, Billimoria appears as a unilayered character through and through but give it time, you might as well be surprised. Saif delivers a powerful performance that’s wonderfully and surprisingly restrained. He knows what to do and how to do it, and it shows. Shahid Kapoor as Nawab Malik fits the bill and his chemistry with Kangana is sparkling!
This is not VB’s best film till date. In fact, it’s one of his messier films. But none and nothing can take away the performances and the finely sketched characters of this film. With some tweaking, this could be a really good watch. This is not to say I don’t recommend watching Rangoon. Rangoon makes for a watch, if not for its halfhearted, half-baked patriotism, at least for what VB can do with his actors.
In the end, Rangoon is yet another proof for the talent of all those involved. Kudos, team!