Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rang de Basanti Review of Review

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang de Basanti uses modern day Indian university students to illustrate the struggles of past Indian independence fighters, and vice versa. Mehra’s film uses diary entries from the protagonist’s grandfather, who was a British colonial officer in the 1930s, to detail the struggles of Indian independence. The film compares these struggles to the lives of apathetic and “westernized” students and their eventual decision to murder a corrupt governmental official. I think Aida’s description and analysis of the film is excellent.

The description in Aida’s review of how the film unfolds is accurate. The audience first sees a connection between the two groups at the start of the film, and gradually realizes how intertwined the two time periods and characters are. Like she says, the roles of the characters have been explicitly spelled out for them, and the knowledge they have gained in making the film leads them to realize they must follow through with their destinies. I like how Aida pointed out that the boys’ decision to kill the Minister is considered fate to us, but dharma to an Indian audience. We view the boys’ lives linearly, with the filming of Sue’s film leading to their murder of the Minister. However, if we view the world as a cycle, the modern day revolutionaries are as instrumental to the actions of the 1930s revolutionaries as the actions of the 1930s are important to today.

I also agree with Aida’s point that the film folds upon itself throughout the story - the two sets of characters complement each other, rather than one being used to further the story of the other. Like the “Bhagat Singh Topless and in Jeans” article asserts, the characters of the two settings are not juxtaposed, but rather coalesce into one representation of Indian revolutionaries. This article and Aida also discuss the transformation in the characters - from apathetic students to passionate revolutionaries. The wrongful death of their friend spurs the characters into action, and their protest scene is clearly analogous to Jallianwala Bagh.

One thing I noticed in this film as a result of our readings so far in this class is the differing perspectives western audiences versus non-westerners have on how a story should develop. The “MTV Culture” is present in the film and is shown throughout, mostly in the scenes of late-night driving and other revelry. To western audiences, or me anyway, this was at first as an obstacle to the boys ultimate goal. I wondered why it was included when it didn’t seem relevant. Based on previous films and class discussions, I think this is an example of the meandering story line that is so ubiquitous to Indian cinema and is considered necessary for character development.

I think its interesting to consider the significance of a British filmmaker both assigning the characters and creating the entire documentary. How legitimate is a film solely guided by a director who may unknowingly be working under the influence of “white man’s guilt,” as Aida mentioned? To answer Aida’s question, I think the only way to truly counteract the effects of subconscious, preconceived notions is to include those of all backgrounds in the creation of the film, with as much input as possible given to all groups.

I also think we should consider that the boys probably would not have undertaken the actions that they did without the influence of Sue. Does this take away from the force of their actions? If so, would it also take away from their actions had Sue been Indian?

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