March 21, 2013
Jackky Bhagnani, Amitosh Nagpal, Vijay Verma, Priya Anand, Raghav Chanana, Akshara Gowda, Rajpal Yadav, Pankaj Tripathi, Lushin Dubey
I have to confess I enjoyed watching Rangrezz for the most part. Sometimes though, the message a film sends out in the final few minutes can be so offensive, so disturbing and so objectionable that all the good direction, slick action and beautiful music that came before is simply dwarfed.
Rangrezz is the story of three friends who decide to help a fourth friend elope with his lover since her father is dead against the relationship. Rishi (Jackky Bhagnani), Pakiya (Vijay Verma) and Vinu (Amitosh Nagpal) risk life, limb and family to bring Joy (Raghav Chanana) and Jasmine (Akshara Gowda) together in one of the most brilliantly executed, breath-stopping action sequences I’ve ever seen in a Hindi film. The introduction to all the characters is reasonable fun (even if it’s amusing to see two songs stuffed into the proceedings to blatantly provide the producer’s son Jackky with a platform for his dancing skills); the several-minutes-long elopement sequence dramatically turns the tone of the film; there’s a completely unexpected and intriguing twist in the tale in the second half (unexpected if you’ve not seen the original Tamil film Naadodigal on which Rangrezz is based); and then come the two speeches in the last half hour that could have been dubbed laughable if they weren’t dangerous, considering our Indian social reality.
You see, the entire point of Rangrezz is to preach to us that pig-headed parents are completely justified in preventing children from choosing their own life partners because, well, young people are too irresponsible, hormonally driven and sexually obsessed to be taken seriously in such matters. This lesson delivered to us by Jackky’s Rishi is completely at odds with the support he lends to his own sister and her boyfriend … but let not logic come in the way of a solid Bollywood bhaashan.
The sermonising drivel doled out in the end spoils the impact of what is otherwise a rather entertaining film. Jackky may lack screen presence but it’s only fair to say that his acting has been steadily improving since he made his debut with Kal Kissne Dekha four years back. Besides, Bhagnani Senior has had the good sense here not to saddle his son with a solo hero film as he did with KKD and last year’s Ajab Gazabb Love. In Rangrezz, as with 2011’s Faltu, Jackky shares screen space with a bunch of talented co-stars (barring Rajpal Yadav who is painfully repetitive and Lushin Dubey who over-acts) and comes off not-too-badly as a consequence. Sure he gets to strip off his shirt to show off his abs within seconds after the start of the film, and yes Vinu and Pakiya are ignored in the film’s song-and-dance sequences, but we shall grant an indulgent daddy this much. All is forgiven since he had the courage to cast the highly talented Chandan Roy Sanyal as Jackky’s buddy in Faltu, and here he gives us the attractive and charismatic Vijay Verma as Rishi’s hot-headed friend Pakiya and the nicely understated Amitosh Nagpal as the more level-headed Vinu.
Full marks to the film’s editor T.S. Suresh for his handling of the elopement sequence and to singer Sukhwinder for his thumping rendition of Shambho Shiv Shambho during that scene. In the midst of all this praise, it must also be said that director Priyadarshan does not know when to stop if he’s got a good thing going – it’s perfectly acceptable to show a person being injured in a gruesome battle, but what purpose is served by then also showing us close-ups of needle and thread being put to a deep gash on a man’s forehead? Thankfully, these gratuitous moments in Rangrezz are not many. Later in the film, Shambho Shiv Shambho is used again and, not surprisingly, is far less effective than the first time – not only because of over-use but because by then we have already been lectured once about justifications for parental despotism. As for the Gangnam Style video in the end featuring Jackky – it’s a poor revision of Psy’s original that is still notching up millions of hits on youtube.
This review would be incomplete without singling out Rangrezz’s cinematographer Santosh Sivan for capturing rural India in a way that Bollywood rarely does. The film is filled with lovely shots of the countryside, epitomised by one particularly mesmerising tree that spreads out like a protective, gigantic umbrella over our protagonists. Neatly tucked into the film right before its shocking moral-science class is also a very nice point being made to parents about how a child’s choice of marital partner should not be based on caste and class. Odd, is it not, that what follows is absolution for parents who oppose their children’s right to pick a husband or wife?
With much to recommend in it despite its flaws, it’s a crying shame that the ultimate message being sent out by Rangrezz makes it an advertisement for extreme conservatism. I can quite imagine khap panchayats paying big money to Priyadarshan to make versions of this film in other languages. A crying shame indeed!
Rating (out of five): **3/4
CBFC Rating (India):
Photograph courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangrezz