Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Stars: Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor
Not that a Kangana Ranaut movie needs any prepublicity stunts – the leading lady’s presence guarantees a peak in interest – but her recent interview and verbal sparring with Karan Johar on Koffee with Karan ensured that even those of us only half-interested in her latest Bollywood project, Rangoon, would at least think about heading to the cinema.
Known for her brash outspoken nature in real life, Ranaut imparts some extra oomph to the characters she personifies on screen, and Rangoon’s Miss Julia – a character inspired by Bollywood’s first female stuntwoman, Fearless Nadia – is no different.
Set in the 1940s, against the backdrop of World War II, public unrest and political uprising in India, Rangoon is the story of a love triangle between stuntwoman Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut), her mentor, filmmaker Russi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan), and Indian soldier Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor).
From the glamorous movie sets of Bambay to the grimy borders with Burma, this beautifully shot period film oscillates between scenes heavy in historical context, and classic Bollywood-style song and dance.
The breathtaking cinematography and attention to detail in the film are remarkable. Cinematographer Panjak Kumar does a great job of delivering a believable peak into the past, and the leading trio slip effortlessly into their roles.
While Ali Khan and Kapoor hold their own, the standout star is without doubt Ranaut who does complete justice to Julia and, just like Fearless Nadia, takes your breath away with her stunts (albeit with the added help of CGI). Queen Kangana proves that she is here to stay.
The only thing somewhat amiss here is the sizzling chemistry you would hope to find in the trio, and in this kind of a setting. Numerous romantic scenes leave you feeling a little short-changed, especially considering the elaborate film built around them.
The film’s music, composed by Bharadwaj and with lyrics by Gulzar, is stellar. It covers the usual bases of romantic, soulful, dance and patriotic numbers, as one would expect in a film of this sort. A special mention of Mere Pya Gaey England is a must. A twist on the old classic Mere Pya Gaey Rangoon, the remake is absolutely delightful.
It’s hard to find much fault here, between Bharadwaj’s nuanced direction and Kumar’s masterful camerawork, but while this film is highly recommended, with one proviso: it is a little heavy-handed when it comes to the historical context and demands all of your attention, all of the time.
An effortless watch Rangoon certainly is not.