Friday, July 3, 2015


Release date:
July 3, 2015
Subhash Kapoor

Arshad Warsi, Amit Sadh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Ronit Roy, Rajeev Gupta, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Amit Sial, Brijendra Kala, Sree Swara Dubey, Achint Kaur   

Last week’s release Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho struggled to tell a serious story through the medium of comedy. The director of that film would be well advised to watch Guddu Rangeela. This week’s big release is a satirical thriller and consequently a roller-coaster of sorts, swinging from laughter to tears to hope to laughter to heartbreak to seething rage and then back to laughter again, unobjectionable for the most part, and largely staying focused on its central theme: the stranglehold that khap panchayats have on rural societies and state-level politics in Haryana.

For that feat alone it is worth watching.

That’s not all. Among the other reasons that make Guddu Rangeela supremely watchable, there is Arshad Warsi, an actor so charming, so likeable and so natural before the camera that his mere presence on screen is worth the price of a ticket even for a bad film (which this one is not).

Arshad here plays a small-time singer whose stage shows are a front for his work as a small-time crook. Rangeela’s partner in crime is his much younger brother Guddu (Amit Sadh). Their bête noir is the local politician Billu Pehelwan (Ronit Roy). The three get embroiled in a kidnapping that involves a teacher called Baby (Aditi Rao Hydari), a goon called Gora Bangali (Dibyendu Bhattacharya) and the caretaker of a bungalow in Shimla (Brijendra Kala).

Director Subhash Kapoor is credited with Guddu Rangeela’s story, screenplay and dialogues. He has a smooth storytelling style. Satire is his MO as we already know from Phas Gaye Re Obama and Jolly LLB. And he has a feel for the real India, which was most evident in Jolly LLB’s small-town courtroom shorn of all the glamour, bombast and cliched posturing that mainstream Bollywood has lent to the Indian judiciary. There was no “dhaai kilo ka haath” in sight there; only fumbling lawyers, a judge who would not stop eating and Arshad’s warm smile.

If only Subhash had stuck to his strengths – humour and realism – Guddu Rangeela would have been a flawlessly smooth ride. Sadly, he occasionally dilutes the film’s impact with elements that don’t fit the overall tone. For instance, the two romantic songs thrust into the proceedings, one per woman in the lead cast as if that’s a mandatory requirement. I’m not campaigning here for a songless Bollywood, but for songs suited to the narrative, like the hilarious “mowdern” bhajan Maata ka email that Rangeela sings at the start and the delightfully kitschy title track.

The humour in Guddu Rangeela is harmless, with one exception. It is unlikely that if a woman in the film had been raped, we would have been given a scene featuring her friends laughing at her wounded vagina. Why then is it okay to make a joke about a man who has been similarly violated? I understand what the director was trying to do there – he was showing us friends trying to lighten the mood around a man in agony. It might have been a good idea to devote more thought to that situation though, considering that the real world too tends to react with amusement when confronted with the reality of sexual assault on men. That scene is a marked contrast to the inoffensive nature of the rest of the film about which the worst thing that can be said is that it ends with a sexist joke about ghosts and wives already publicised in a trailer.

It’s also hard to understand the compulsion to serve up a love story whenever a woman is  around. It’s as if a female presence must be justified with a romantic angle. The liaison between Guddu and Baby here is incongruous and contrived, since there’s little chemistry between them, they barely speak, they have nothing in common and nothing can explain the ‘relationship’ that blossoms apart from an assumption some people seem to make that when a physically attractive human male and female are in the same frame, lowwwe is inevitable. Fact: it is not.

Far more interesting is the chemistry between Arshad and Amit. Rangeela and Guddu are sweetly in sync and well-suited to the older man-younger man bonding at the heart of the story.

The two of them and other motifs scattered through the film are deliberately designed to be reminiscent of Jai and Veeru in Sholay. The motorbike with the sidecar, the background score and the long-drawn-out climactic aerial shot of the dustbowl that is the Haryana countryside – it’s both amusing and endearing to see the film maker’s ode to one of the greatest Indian gangster films ever made, considering the contrasting tenor of the two films.

A word here about Amit... No actually he merits a paragraph. In a journey that has included TV, the small part a journalist in Maximum (2011) and one of the leads in Kai Po Che (2013), this young actor has displayed potential worth watching out for. In the mildly crude, buffoonish Guddu, it is impossible to spot the sedate Omi from Kai Po Che. Here’s looking at you, kid!

The scene-stealer among the supporting cast is Rajeev Gupta who was so impactful in tiny roles in the Saheb Biwi aur Gangster films that it’s hard to understand why we don’t see more of him in Bollywood. Ditto for Sree Swara Dubey whose charisma was memorable in a brief appearance in D-Day (2013). She is noticeable here even in a fleeting role. He is a hoot as the corrupt cop Gulab Singh, delivering the world’s funniest Antakshari scene in partnership with Amit.

Aditi Rao Hydari is the only one who looks lost. Brijendra Kala delivers a pleasant change from the comical bit part player he has been in too many films. And Ronit Roy is suitably menacing.

For the most part then, Guddu Rangeela remains engaging because of the balancing act it achieves between its grim subject and its light touch. It also repeatedly throws up twists when you are not looking for any. This continues until the plot becomes a stretch towards the end, right from the point when a woman delivers a feminist sermon to a murderous panchayat – so believable, na? Then it turns out that Guddu and Rangeela’s seemingly  grand scheme to corner Billu Pehelwan had feet of clay. And oh yes, their accomplices turn up to support them in a shootout in the end, but we get no inkling of how they figured out where the two would be.

All complaints about Guddu Rangeela though are overshadowed by what’s worth recommending in it. Even when the film flounders, Arshad and Amit remain immensely watchable. Rangeela and Guddu never fail to elicit laughs or tug at the heart strings although, as the title track tells us, “Dono pakke ddheet hain / Aansu peete neat hain…” Such likeable rascals, those two!

Rating (out of five): **3/4

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
124 minutes

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