Rang De Basanti, Water, Lage Raho Munnabhai: 3 Interesting Movies To Watch While You’re Stuck At Home During Lockdown- PART 7

We bring you another list of movies to watch while you’re stuck at home amid lockdown due to COVID-19; check it out!

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Rang De Basanti, Water, Lage Raho Munnabhai: 3 Interesting Movies To Watch While You’re Stuck At Home During Lockdown- PART 7
1. Rang De Basanti (2006):  In every sense of the word Rang De Basanti is a winner. Its aesthetic values and characterizations fill  you with amazement and elation.  It’s a gloriously triumphant look at today’s lives. And yet it audaciously takes a sweeping arching look at history for answers to the Big Question.Where has today’s generation gone wrong? Why is  the nation so inured in  corruption? And why are we so enamoured  of the stagnant status quo?Are we scared to  sweep  the garbage? Lofty thoughts, often swept by popular art  under  a carpet  of cynicism.  Not this time! Rakeysh Mehra achieves a stirring and stunning synthesis of social relevance and mesmeric storytelling.  From  the start we are led into a world where youthful aspirations are aligned to the socio-political reality  of  a country on the brink. Rang De Basanti  is  a film on the edge. It jumps and careens across lives prancing  on  the precipice  of  the  contemporary and the historical.

“Is desh ka kuch nahin hoga!”  How  many times  have we  said this to ourselves and to others Mehra’s protagonists , an assorted bunch  of collegians and post-college friends, are played with amazingly casual grace by Aamir Khan(DJ) , Siddharth(Karan) , Sharman Joshi(Sukhi), Kunal Kapoor (Aslam) and Soha Ali Khan(Sonia). Into their world of endless fun and aimless aspirations comes a pretty and brainy  British girl named Sue(the  lovely and graceful debutant Alice Patten). Prompted  by her colonist-grandfather’s diary, Sue  wants to make a film on  the life of the legendary Indian freedom fighters—you know, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, the works.And guess what?  Sue wants to cast  DJ and gang as the revolutionaries! The guffaws   and  the giggles that follow Sue’s dreams  fade away, as this youthful brigade of adrift dreamers gets down to the ritual of acquainting  itself with Indian history.Rang De Basanti dares to point fingers , and tells us where we’ve gone wrong.  It  isn’t only a film about  the education  of  a moorless generation, it’s also an outstandingly accomplished  piece of  cinema. 

Mehra proves himself an outstanding racounteur and technician.   With the deft and diligent editor(P.S Bharathi)  tailoring  the past to merge fluently  into the present, and Binod Pradhan’s camera  capturing Delhi and its surroundings  as a  character rather than cities , Mehra’s job of bringing the past into the same line of vision as contemporary India , is rendered inevitable and unforgettable.Rang De Basanti is an extremely ambitions film. It tries to educate  the generationsIndependent India who have brought the country to its current crisis of moral and political corruption. But it never gets hysterical or polemical, thanks to Prasoon Joshi and Rensil D Silva’s conversational yet penetrating dialogues. Mani Rathnam attempted the same theme in a different less dramatic light in Yuva.

Rakeysh Mehra  goes many steps ahead.  He blends  historical events from the past (e.g the massacre by Britishers at Jallianwala  Bagh) with today’s newspaper headlines(the MIG war- planes scam) .  The film-within-a-film format(earlier attempted  in films as diverse in language and intent as  Karel Reisez’s  The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Mrinal Sen’s Akaler Sandhane)  gives the narrative the  texture of a life lived in layered luminosity.Not for a second does  Rakeysh Mehra falter  in his vision. The story of today’s youth , their lack of connectivity with their past  ,  and the prevalent moral degeneration   pf the nation , could quite easily have lapsed into a holier-than-thou  jingoistc  exposition.

Rang De Basanti works wonderfully and exceptionally as both a political parable and a spanking story on the scars  of  the times. In the fusion of fact and fiction,  style and content the film  is   both teasing and tempting . While you applaud the filmmaker’s immense stronghold over  his storytelling the characters never seem dwarfed by  their ambience.You come away , haunted and bewildered by the issues that Mehra raises without letting his story suffer in the process of  linking the modern tale with history. You  come away from Rang De Basanti enchanted by the  natural verve  of its songs and dances, its director’s  flair creating fissures and feeling from within the characters rather than imposing creative authority from outside. There’re interludes and visuals  in Rang De Basanti which  shall remain alive forever. There may be  better films . But there will never be another one quite like this one.

2. WATER(2006):  Water  belongs to that rare  category of films that have the power to re-define the parameters of cinema, to re-align the function and purpose of  the medium, and to re-structure the way we, the audience look at  the motion -picture experience.It’s no coincidence that Deepa Mehta’s heroine is named Kalyani  . Lisa Ray  as the  tragic but irradiant widow seems to echo Nutan’s Kalyani in Bimal Roy’s Bandini.The tragic grandeur that Water wears on its resplendent sleeve is a quality that sets it apart from other   reformist dramas. The film has  a great deal to say about  the  plight of socio-economically challenged women, specifically the widows of Varanasi in the 1930s .  The burning ghats and  the waters that flow from them,  symbolize the ashes-and-embers predicament  of Deepa’s ashram-bound women….all plagued by the pathos  of dereliction , deprivation and yes, prostitution.In telling it like  it is,  Mehta never filches. When has she ever done that?! Her elemental trilogy(Fire, Earth & Water) reflects  a harshly uncompromising  sensibility. In Water  Mehta doesn’t beautify  the brutality  of  the widows’ existence.   There are bouts  of  humour, dance and music(watch Lisa Ray and little Sarala dance around their dingy room  as the rain splashes  romantically  on the parched streets down below, or the  eruption  of Holi revelry in the ashram). A quality of luminous  lyricism  runs through the narration, specially in the  romantic interludes between Narayan(John Abraham) and Kalyani(Lisa Ray) which are designed like a modern-day re-working of  the  Radha-Krishna mythology.

The sheer purity and beauty of  the central romance contrasts tellingly with  the squalidity  of the lives and settings that   the plot negotiates with such slender but deft steps.Whether it’s in capturing the layer after emotional layer in this onion  of  a drama or in juxtaposing sequences of the shimmering river with the run-down ashram, Giles Nuttgen’s camera  doesn’t flinch from  the beauty  and the  grime. The cinematography could’ve easily converted the multi-layered character-study into a touristic over-view.  Nuttgen takes us  into  the darkest areas of    the human condition  to search  for the peace that prevails under the panic of  existence. And A.R Rahman’s music, his best in  (y)ears, uplifts  the mood of tragic pathos to the sphere of  sublimity.  Many moments in  Water would comfortably qualify as Pure Cinema. That moment when the oldest woman in the ashram devours a laddoo that she had been craving for all  her life could be  seen as  the most  satirically tragic juncture in a film on soci-culturally challenged lives.

Water as  the giver and  the destroyer…that’s the predominant metaphor that  cuts through heart  of the fragile but for tale.  Each time we  see the porcelain Kalyani peep out of her dungeon-like window, we know she’s searching for a horizon that most of us never find in our lifetime.Water contours and defines those glazed regions in our history that we would rather not sharp-focus on. In many ways its depiction of the plight of abandoned widows is a metaphor for  the condition of women across the world, and also a microcosmic view  of  the human condition. In one way or another we are all  persecuted and haunted. A film like Water comes once in a  while to negotiate  that seemingly insurmountable space between desire and longing, between love and   rituals.  As in all works of true art, no character in Water is big or small.  They’re all played by actors who know  what needs to  be done,  and how  to bridge that gap between delusional reality and illusional artistry.

The fine cast grabs your undivided attention. Seasoned performers like Manorama(playing  the head of  the  ashram she’s a conniving scheming farting mass of vulgarity and self-interest), Seema Biswas(clenched controlled conflicted  by  fundamentalism  and  the Gandhian reformist that assails  her  existence) and Raghuvir Yadav(a  whoop as a singing eunuch) blend beautifully with the central love story embodied with supreme sensitivity  in  the John-Lisa pair.And to  think that we always thought of John and Lisa as actors incapable  of  overcoming their   inherent urbanity!It’s Sarala as little Chuhiya whom you’ll find hard to  get  out of your head. She is the most  credible child performer  ,on  a  par with Ayesha Kapoor  in  Sanjay Bhansali’s Black. Normally  children in films respond to adult situations in  an unnaturally knowing way.  Chuhiya remains a child caught in a frightening world of persecution and perversion.

Like bolts  of blue feelings , Deepa Mehta inter-cuts the  wretched lives   of  the characters with glimmers of hope.  Even when Mahatma Gandhi makes an unexpected appearance  at  the end the  director doesn’t allow her vision of poetry to be crowded by  postures of polemics.While you grieve for  these  doomed  disintegrating lives, you cannot miss the  subtext of social  reform that underlines their lives. The hallmark of  a true work of art  is the level of  sublimity it achieves in its characterizations while conveying  thoughts on the quality of lives. What Deepa Mehta has to say about  the plight of women in India  75 years ago  remains true to this day. Hopefully  things will change  before another 75 years pass.Water leaves us with much hope, and some frightening misgivings.

3. Lage Raho Munnabhai(2006):  It’s all a  “chemical  locha”(aberration).  Munnabhai meets Mahatma Gandhi and they get along  like a house on fire . The prophetic  leader from the past has a blast as he tells Munna how to deal with an avaricious builder(Boman Irani) and other ouch-casts  of  society. It looks  like Circuit  has competition this time. Even as  he remains  a   fiercely loyal Hanuman  to   his mentor Munna, Munna this time   shifts his loyalties  and attention to the lovely RJ Jahanvi and     to  Mahatma  Gandhi who keeps  appearing in Munna’s day-time reverie to advise  the  benign  gangster  on  love life and other vagaries  of  being  human.  Munna and Circuit, arguably cinema’s most adorable and roguish  reformists   since  Laurel and Hardy   go about the business of generating humour out of the pathos of the human condition. The sequences, all fiercely and  famously path-breaking have us in splits.Watch  the love-lorn Munnabhai answer a  Gandhian quiz   on a phone-in radio quiz with the help  of  kidnapped professors…it’s  one of  the most comically animated sequences seen  in the movies of the new millennium.

To look at Lage  Raho Munnabhai as a ‘serious comedy’ is to seriously undermine  the motivations and impact  of  the series(and let’s  face it, there’s no getting away from the Munna-Circuit jodi for  the producer and  director).Playing  the sweat-smart  ruffians  with hearts of cool, Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi bring a chirpy enchantment  to  their roles. Their  parts have hefty  hearts. But there’s more. There’s an  innocence and a desire to make  the world a better place.The Munna-Mahatma dialogues  sparkle with  satirical wisdom,  thanks in no small part to  Dutt and Dilip Prabhavalkar(who plays Gandhiji with tongue-in-cheek conviction). The dialogues  by Hirani and Abhijeet Joshi  constantly probe the festering moral and social system  of  the nation without getting hysterical on homilies. The individual scenes  make light  of  national issues without  ever trivializing  the cult  of   the conscience.At heart—and boy, does  this film have  it in plenty!—Lage Raho Munnabhai is a parable  on love and companionship. Whether it’s Munnabhai’s bonding with his faithful companion Circuit(watch  the two actors  turn that potentially mawkish sequence at  the dockyard into something special)  or Munna courting love(Balan)  and Gandhism, the narrative dodges false notes by remaining sincere  to  the characters Every actor gets a chance to special in this enriching take  of  non-violent  protest and radio-activity   . But Dutt and Warsi go beyond. Sanjay Dutt proves  again that he has shaped up into  a  fine performer who can mingle poignancy with satire the way Raj Kapoor did in those parables  to  innocence  like Shri 420 and  Awara , or like Sunil Dutt did in Milan and Meherbaan.

Warsi manages to steal some scenes from Dutt. Vidya Balan is gloriously glamorous  and likeable,  though she  could’ve toned down those expressions of coy contemporaneity  that  make her look like a model for cornflakes.

In fact some of the emotional moments  like  those between Jimmy Shergil and his screen-father  Pariskshat Sahni  or that flamboyant  wedding finale where the bride Diya Mirza  tells  the  truth about her horoscope at the cost of turning her groom away,  do not have  the emotional impact  which one thought they would.Though  a wee short of tears, Lage Raho Munnabhai goes a long way in creating an  enduring and endearing parable  on  the importance of being earnest  in a world of growing duplicity.

The narrative is so  unfailingly heartwarming and  the characters so  full of human kindness, you wait for  the plot to be weighed down by excessive self-importance. The fall never happens. Lage Raho Munnabhai remains true to its characters  till the end.One of Munna’s favourite words  is ‘daring’. It must also be  Raj Kumar Hirani’s favourite word. In   a  world of  extravagant  cynicism  and  rancour he  dares to dream of  Gandhian  peace. When the aggressive Munna  turns  his  other cheek , you wonder if  Gandhian values have a  place in our heart.They most certainly do have a place  in Hirani’s art. Shall we take it up from there?

Image source: Imbd
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