Rang De Basanti–the awakening of a generation

Imagine a cool group of friends who go out bike riding; spend quality time at the movies and restaurants; attend parties, hang out with friends, and get drunk every now and then. Cut to the reality: in real life, such things seldom happen to a group. In fact, people seldom get time for themselves. In movies, however, we get to see and live such lives. The objective of making such films may vary from filmmaker-to-filmmaker and from film-to-film but the essence remains the same. It is pertinent to mention here that the Hindi film industry, which is more popularly known as Bollywood, has dealt with such light-hearted themes.

While some films end on positive notes, there are movies that begin on a light note and end on a melancholic note. One such film is Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s magnum opus Rang De Basanti (2006) starring Waheeda Rahman, Aamir Khan, Soha Ali Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni, Kunal Kapoor, Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Alice Patten among others.

A ‘firangi’ film student (British) travels to India for making a documentary on India’s five freedom fighters and casts five young and fun-loving men only to changes their lives. This forms the premise of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti.

The film student Sue Mckinley played by British actress Alice Patten brings with her a diary of her grandfather James, who served as a colonel for the British Raj in the 1930s. The diary chronicles the lives of five freedom fighters – Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Shivaram Rajguru, Ashfaqulla Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil.

She finds it a Herculean task to get suitable actors for the documentary film ‘The Young Guns of India’. However, when she befriends Sonia (Soha Ali Khan), she gets introduced to a group of so-called ‘spoilt brats’. But then her rendition and narration of the script as well as the dialogues ignite the fire in them. Slowly and surely they begin to realise the importance of doing something good for the nation.

But instead of showing off nationalism and patriotism, Mehra and co-writer Rensil D’Silva keep it bare minimum – the five actors take it upon themselves to at least change something on their own. They wear Western dresses, watch movies and above all parties while filming the documentary and yet embrace the pious feeling of doing something for their nation.

Not only the documentary but a real sad incident in their lives causes them to change their very outlook towards the nation’s political system. Their friend and Sonia’s would-be husband Ajay Singh Rathod (R Madhavan), a flight lieutenant in the Indian Air Force, gets killed when his MiG-21 jet malfunctions and crashes.

The jobless group of friends gets meaning and a job – teaching the politicians a lesson. They replicate what they do in the documentary film – killing the main ‘villain’/’culprit’. They shoot the man responsible for the MiG-21 jet crash. Rang De Basanti has its moments – Ajay proposing Sonia, ‘Luka Chuppi song’ and the last dying scene.

Filming dying scenes is a daunting task as it requires precision and economy of words/dialogues. Though the entire film is thought-provoking yet the last scene leaves us thinking whether they should have met their end like this? The last scene is filled with laughter from two dying friends.

About the author

Shanku Sharma

Shanku Sharma is a journalist and film-buff. Being a Film Studies student (Master of Mass Communication and Journalism), he likes to read books on cinema and film studies. He also likes to pen down his thoughts on world cinema.

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