Before its release, there were speculations that Rangoon was Fearless Nadia’s story. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though Julia (Kangana Ranaut) may be modeled on the swashbuckling actress of the 30s and 40s, Rangoon is primarily a story of love and sacrifices. On one end is Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor) whose love for country trumps all. On the other end is Rusi Billimoria, a shrewd powerful producer who gives up all to be with his Julia. Julia herself doesn’t know what true love is till she finds Nawab. The love she felt for Russi, unbeknownst even to her, was nothing but a need- need for security, success and fame. Russi picked her from the streets, made her the queen of screen and owned her, yet when it came to matters of the heart, it was Julia who was the captor.
For a Vishal Bhardwaj film, the story is fairly straightforward, yet the emotions have multiple layers. Julia is used to men lusting and fawning over her. Yet for Nawab, she is nothing but abewakoof pretty face. When she asks Nawab to forget the brief intimacy they shared, he simply agrees, in a way taking away her power. It is she who has to chase him, unlike Russi who is ready to leave his family for her. Nawab, on the other hand, is ready to pull a gun on Julia, and she still melts for him.
The drama unfolds when Nawab is asked to escort Julia to the front lines in Burma to cheer the Indian troops. Though Julia is reluctant, Russi persuades her to go. Russi wants to keep the British happy and also needs stock from England to shoot his films. Only, he ends up getting more than he bargained for. Thrown together in trying circumstances, Julia and Nawab fall for each other. Nawab is a man of character and conviction, the kind Julia seldom meets in her tinsel world. Nawab doesn’t barter conviction for personal gains, rather he is ready to die for it. In comparison Russi is petty, expecting quid pro quo.
Vishal Bhardwaj has got a huge canvas and he makes full use of it. The scenes are authentic and the colors rich. Camera, in many scenes, is placed in a way to provide viewers an immersive experience of the action unfolding on the screen. The film successfully captures the look and feel of the 40s. However, it could have been edited tighter. The part where Julia and Nawab try to return to India could have focused more on the leads’ chemistry than their journey. And Vishal could have done away with most songs. They are too close to each other.
Julia and Nawab are roles that actors die for. Shahid’s an assured performance, Kangana can portray vulnerability few others among her peers can. Saif has limited scope but he delivers where required.
In Rangoon, Vishal Bhardwaj has embraced the masala Indian films are known for. Being an intelligent filmmaker, his is not any proletarian but a gourmet dish with a rich taste that you definitely want to partake of. A nice experience, this Rangoon.
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52789457
Rating : 3/5
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj