Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan
Bloody Hell! Ever get that feeling when everything is going very well and suddenly things start going down just like that? Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Rangoon’ is that feeling. The film builds an amazing interest for an hour or so but then the story gets so confused between war and love that it ends up becoming neither of them.
Taking us back to pre-independence era of 1945, Rangoon is a story of three characters: Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut), Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor) and Rusi Billiomoria (Saif Ali Khan). The premise is that Julia is a top star working for Rusi and Nawab Malik is Julia’s personal bodyguard. As the story unfolds, a love triangle arises as Julia falls for Nawab and Rusi is already in love with Julia. There is also a war going on in India against British Empire from different corners. All these aspects collide and decide the fate of each of them.
As far as the character writing goes, Rangoon’s script is well structured. Every role has been justified to make impact on screen. The first hour is so engaging that you feel this is going to be another strong cinematic product from Bhardwaj. The screenplay during Shahid Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut’s first few meetings makes the movie a delight to watch. Kangana’s initial anger towards Shahid, addition of a Japanese captive to their conversation is fun. The love story feels a bit fast but still smooth. Once the bigger picture of freedom and war unfolds, the chaos that happens is not handled very well. The final act is written disappointingly. One might argue that majority of the story is good but it’s the final phase that makes you forget about the merits of the film.
Vishal Bhardwaj is a different kind of filmmaker. He has a unique vision of telling a story and that’s why I was looking forward to Rangoon. The best thing about his direction is the character development of Julia. She is the backbone of the story. Always bold, blunt and so much fun around that she instantly makes a connection with you. Nawab Malik’s portrayal is also silently powerful. The romantic scenarios between Julia and Nawab are rich with brilliant songs. The conversations between them are humorous with silly fights and that’s why you enjoy it. I would have expected some powerful scenes between Nawab Malik and Rusi which are absent. In fact, there is I think only one brief context when they have a word. That could have given a maturity to the film.
Image Source: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures
Bhardwaj’s direction starts losing its hold afterwards. Why make a mockery of the plot that you have worked so hard to build. Kangana’s ride on train and the bridge scenario in the end destroy everything. The film ends abruptly without giving a thorough closure and that’s the biggest flaw of Rangoon. There is an evidence of imbalance in story in the second half which distorts the engagement with the audience.
The production design is pretty average. The battle scenes, the weak CGI shots of train don’t give a genuine treatment to the period of 1945. They clearly seem like the film sets. It takes away the authenticity of the narrative. It’s like an unfulfilled promise from Vishal Bhardwaj that doesn’t see the light of the day.
Rangoon is intense due to its cast. There is no doubt that Kangana is the soul of this movie. What performance she has given. There is this level of comfort in her acting that she gets into the character very easily. Her comic timing while with Nawab and the Japanese captive is extraordinary. One of the scenes that I loved is when a Japanese soldier is pointing a gun at her and she tries to tell him that she is Julia by dancing and at the same time, crying. Even her romance with Nawab and then her behaviour afterwards is enacted brilliantly.
Shahid Kapoor is an honest actor and his acting impact amplifies when Bhardwaj directs him. Always dead serious as a solider, he pulls off a great role of Nawab Malik. Then his slight change to being fun and soft when with Julia makes their romance effective. Saif Ali Khan is highly convincing with that showman attitude, always smoking and being in his luxurious comfort. There are not many heavy dialogues for him but he adds great interest in the movie.
Despite having many good moments such as Julia’s character and her fun with Nawab, Rangoon’s interest fades away due to multiple defects in the final phase. Vishal Bhardwaj’s direction felt confused between war & love story. The film doesn’t give any strong message as it ends imprecisely. Sadly, it’s an average film.