Banner: Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment
Producers: Sajid Nadiadwala, Vishal Bhardwaj, Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Richard McCabe, Shriswara, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Alex Avery, Satoru Kawaguchi
Writers: Vishal Bhardwaj (screenplay & dialogue), Sabrina Dhawan screenplay, Matthew Robbins (story & screenplay)
Music: Vishal Bhardwaj
Watching Rangoon is just like reading a book. You connect with the story so completely that it virtually becomes a part of you. You look at each character with the vulnerability of a reader and are engrossed in some simple yet beautiful detailing. Moreover, the movie scores on all three fundamentals of filmmaking – it intrigues you visually; its audio (music and background score) inspires you; and it hooks you with its narration.
Set in the 1940s, Subhash Chandra Bose is building his Azad Hind Fauj against the British colonial rulers in India and the fight for freedom is gathering momentum. The British, on the other hand, are engaged in fighting World War II.
The film revolves around Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut), a dazzling action star. Russi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan), a former action star and now a producer, is her mentor and the man behind her success. Julia and Russi are in love and she can’t wait to marry him.
Meanwhile, Russi becomes beholden to the British for business reasons. He promises General Harding (Richard McCabe) that Julia will perform for his army men on the Indo-Myanmar border. Here, Julia meets Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), an Indian serving in the British army. During an attack on their travels, Julia gets stuck with Nawab and the two fall in love. However, Nawab is secretly part of the Azad Hind Fauj. How the film unfolds forms the crux of the story.
Directorially, Vishal Bhardwaj stays true to his craft and delivers a masterpiece when it comes to audio and visuals. If only the story had been fleshed out adequately, the film would have been a splendid watch. Still, there are many memorable sequences, like the war sequences, when Nawab and Julia along with a captured Japanese soldier are trying to find their way back; Russi and Julia’s sword fight; a mime performance poking fun at Adolf Hitler; and the sequence where Julia goes out to save Nawab. The story does get cloyingly melodramatic at times, and the screenplay tends to stand still at a few points but the complexities in the narrative hold your attention.
The performances in this film are of a consistently high standard while production values are top-notch. Indeed, with huge sets and dramatic visuals of locations, this film is a perfect marriage of screenplay and locations. With a runtime of 167 minutes, it has a firm first half and, post-interval, many scenes leave you awestruck.
Background score and songs are another asset and they blend with the narrative beautifully. Editing by Aalaap Majgavkar is top notch. The segue is seamless, turning the narration into a brilliant experience. Cinematography by Pankaj Kumar is spectacular and is one of the USPs of the film. Each frame is beautifully captured and translated in a striking manner on the silver screen. Kumar captures the sets and locations exceptionally well. From locations to costumes, the look of the film is very apt.
Performance-wise, Saif Ali Khan oozes aplomb like a blue-blooded actor and is bang on with his character. Shahid Kapoor delivers a noteworthy performance and plays his part with conviction. Kangana Ranaut, as always, is phenomenal in her part. She is a firecracker of a performer and is the soul of the film. Richard McCabe plays his character with flamboyance and delivers a sharp performance. Shriswara is notable. Saharsh Kumar Shukla is excellent. Satoru Kawaguchi is good. Manav Vij is very good. The rest of the cast fits the bill perfectly.
Verdict: Rangoon is an experience that is NOT to be missed!