Rangoon is the equivalent of trying to order a la carte but being forced to eat a thali at a restaurant. You don’t really enjoy a thali because there are so many options and you end up wasting a lot of food.
That’s what Vishal Bhardwaj did with Rangoon. He had the perfect chef (himself), and had great ingredients: Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut. Then he decided to serve up a thali.
I expected to be blown away by Rangoon. I kept waiting to be blown away. Then I waited some more. The movie got over. I kept waiting.
From a director who has given us gems like Omkara, Makdee, Maqbool and Haider, it was weird that I spent most of my time trying to find a story in Rangoon.
Summary: Rangoon is a love triangle set in World War II during pre-independence India. Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut) is a popular stunt actress and is a muse of studio owner Russi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) who loves her. Enter Jemadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor) who falls head over heels for Julia. The problem starts when the lives of these three collide.
I decided to go back to the movies I mentioned above to see if I am an idiot or did Bhardwaj really try too hard.
Too Many Plots
Bhardwaj’s films rarely have one story. There are stories inside stories in most of his films. But there is always one strong story that dominates the film. Be it Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah who play the devious cops in Maqbool or Saif Ali Khan in Omkara, there is always another sub-plot that never takes away from the crux of the story.
In Rangoon, the movie goes into the WWII in great detail; I mean what’s the deal with telling us about Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and Subash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army? You feel shortchanged when it comes to the main love triangle.
The Love Triangle
This is not Bhardwaj’s first experiment with a trio in love. Remember Tabu from Maqbool? Her sheer elegance & beauty as Nimmi, a mistress to an underworld don won us over. She convinces her secret lover Irrfan Khan to kill the don and take over the gang. The beauty of Maqbool was that the love triangle held us breathless even after one of the protagonists is dead.
In Rangoon, the first half of the movie talks about everything else except the trio. And the movie gets really interesting when the three worlds collide, but by then–the movie is halfway through and you are left with very little time to appreciate Bhardwaj’s nuances.
The Irrelevant Backdrop
Bhardwaj is a master of creating drama. Haider was Haider because of the Kashmir insurgency. Makdee could only have taken place in village or a small town. That is one of the main reasons why people go to watch a Bhardwaj movie.
Haider was based on Shakespeare’s tragic story Hamlet, and had Kashmiri extremism in the backdrop. You had terrorism, political tension, military unrest, oedipal emotions, and sentiment. The backdrop so seamlessly dissolved with the screenplay that it made so much sense to watch.
When it comes to Rangoon, the war, the British, and the INA take away all the focus from the story. It looks like a retelling of the war instead of the love stories of three individuals. It looks more like a J.P. Dutta movie than a Vishal Bhardwaj movie.
The image of Kareena Kapoor running around in white Indian attire in Omkara (‘Oo Sathi Re’) is a very heartfelt moment. That song is all about the passion between Dolly Mishra (Kareena Kapoor) and Omkara (Ajay Devgn). Any scene in Haider with Tabu and Shahid is full of it.
But when we talk about love and passion in Rangoon, we come up with blanks. The multiple lip-locks between Shahid and Kangana don’t do anything for us. The naked scenes of Kangana that made headlines don’t make any difference as well.
I won’t try to describe the VFX here except telling you that it will leave you in splits.