Friday, February 03, 2006

Colour Me Red

It’s been 48 hours and I still cant stop crooning an Arabic lilt. The bug caught me when I was roughly one hour into a movie and the story seemed to be drunk - Unsure of where it was going. As usual, there was a respite and a song started playing with digital clarity through the fine-tuned speakers. And the rhythm stuck.
When the lights came on at mid-point, the story was still languishing along. As I stood on one leg waiting for my turn at the men’s room in the theatre, reveling in the fumigating smell of the toilet, I caught myself humming that tune again. I returned with packs of crackling popcorn (at Rs.20/- per packet, that was multiplex robbery), back to my buddies waiting at L 1-4 seats. Couple of them still drooling over the gori mem in the movie; the other couple over the not-so-gora south indian hero.
In another 90 minutes, the final credits rolled. I passed my verdict- not good enough!
Don’t know whether it was the over hyped promos or the over done revenge thread – Either way I felt disappointed. The rickshaw wallah quoted a prince’s dowry. Got shortchanged- for the second time!
That night as hum-paanch-lukkhas crammed into a mattress piece for three, as the fan refused to settle down for anything but the top speed (and switching it off would have meant sweet lullabies from the mosquito-mummies, which I could definitely do without), an eerie thing happened. All five of us started humming that Arabic note together.
One is chance, two is coincidence, three is weird but when all five start to sing the same piece at the same instant (without any conductor twirling his baton), that’s absolute goose bumps stuff.
But then we covered that up with a nervous giggle and sang on. The tune had stuck..
And when we started dissecting the movie – a cut here, a stitch there- I knew. The movie had stuck too.

Khalbali (Rough translation)
The dawn is stubborn.
The dream is stubborn.
The storm is stubborn.
And so are we…

Rarely does a movie cater to your senses and one that graces your intellect is even rarer. Rang de Basanthi doesn’t claim to be either. It doesn’t have the sweeping elegance of a ‘Black’, the uber-realism of a ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ or the simple genius of a ‘Lagaan’.
You cant pich the movie into the hallowed realms of a classic. But it still manages to work, to stick - somehow.
Blame that on the sheer avant garde performance of the stars, or the pleasant surprise of a relatively new kid, Sidharth stealing the shine from Aamir Khan in an undoubtedly author-backed role (and maybe it takes an Aamir Khan to graciously play second fiddle).
The eclectic mix of vulnerability and machismo of Kunaal Kapoor.
The endearing goofball act of Sharmaan Joshi.
The revelation called Soha Ali Khan
The very dependable Atul Kulkarni.
And the very attractive Alice Patton.
Four youngsters, and the not-so-young Aamir – Youth as they come. With not a care in the world and showing the finger at life. The way they crack up at the non-sensical mumbo jumbo mouthed by Bhagath Singh & Co will make you smile.
The montages of the freedom movement are major speed breakers and the editor seemed to have a cozy doze at quite a few occasions. I still wonder whether the director was part of the Bhagath Singh bandwagon (giving company to Raj Santhoshi and Guddu Dhanoa and succumbing to his better senses eventually).
The five friends in the film finally start sinking their teeth into their docu-roles and taking it a tad too seriously. At this point you brace yourself expecting interesting stuff ahead.
But what follows is kind of a letdown. The way they gun down the defence minister to avenge the death of a fellow mate of theirs is stretching your elastic imagination a bit too much. Ditto the confessions at the radio station and the blood and gore that follows.

Khoon Chala (Rough Translation)
It drips from the body
Embraces the earth
Through the gullies and bylanes
It floods and twirls
To paint a new colour
Blood flows…

So where is the redeeming factor?
Is it in the back-to-arms philosophy?
As one character aptly puts, doesn’t everyone dream of lining up all those politicos ala Fuehrer-isstyle and gunning them down? Changing the system from inside might seem as non-sensical as pushing a car from within.
The movie Yuva was made in the same lines (in a much more believable fashion)- Youth taking a stand and doing their bit rather than cribbing endlessly.
In this light, the recent news about five IIT’ians starting a political party is worth a dekko. Five guys studying in a premier institution with sure promises of a plush job and plum pay packets chuck that away and take a plunge into muddy waters.
What drove them to it? I am stumped. But whatever it was, I salute that.
Policies are made in the higher echelons, no doubt. But India Inc’s juggernaut taps its energy from the youth, from their zest. The role that the below-40’s played in revitalising an ailing economy is no small one. Of course, they didn’t do that for any high-sounding ideal. The reason was simple enough- Selfishness. A wish for a better life, not for the society but for the self. And that stream of thought is indeed virtuous, once you see the big picture. The same energy with a pinch of selflessness could work wonders in the political scene too.
Yuva tagged the moderate line and flopped. RDB tags the extremist line and seems all set for BO success. That is oversimplifying the issue, I know. Hundreds of factors come to play as far as the box office is concerned. But truth is, guns and gore have a charm to it. Providing instant (though not necessarily lasting) solution to an issue. But there are mightier weapons than a 0.47. The pen for instance (quoting a done-to-death quote). Or a keystroke. Coz a fight is a fight is a fight.
Trivia like Dan Rather and CBS being brought down by a bunch of webloggers, and DailyKos getting one million hits everyday despite being a blog (and thus a poorer cousin of the more popular ‘website’) – All these show that there are minds out there waiting to be connected, to be parts of one mighty whole.

Roobaroo (Rough Translation)
Hey dude..
Right now I’ve realised
A spark resides inside
Dawn dawned. I set foot.
And snatched away the sun too.
Its heavenly light thru’ n thru’…

RDB is not your idea of the perfect movie. But still it has something, which you cant put your finger on, which makes the movie, like the music, grow on you..
Maybe you beg to differ. Maybe the whole post is akin to blowing up a very average cinematic venture into something exceptional.
If that’s the case, then this is a simple ode to the moment when me and my buddies sang that note together; to the sheer magic of that night we chatted away shivering under the merciless mercury. Nothing less and nothing more.
If that’s not the case, and if I go by the passionate discussions of fellow viewers, I am witnessing a first-of-sorts. A seemingly ordinary movie triggering off something deep within. Thoughts and dialogues on an issue which was left lying in the back burner for too long; which demands its share of impassioned discussions and concrete follow-ups.
Hope the issue doesn’t get chucked back too soon.
There’s hope for another couple of weeks at least. Time till the next Rahul or Raj starts crooning all possible rhymes of deewana from the saffron valleys and the Swiss Alps.

Winds of change are slow..
But time proves it sure does blow.