Khullam Khulla is an unapologetically honest biography

 First things first. This isn’t a fanboy’s musing. Any writer worth his/her salt can never ‘dare’ to write on ‘Khullam Khulla – Rishi Kapoor Uncensored’ without including this excerpt from the book, where Neetu Singh writes: 

“First, a checklist:

Is Rishi Kapoor a grouch? Guilty as charged.

Is he loud, gregarious, and prone to wound with words? Check all three please.

Is he suspicious of people, stiflingly possessive, difficult to live with? You seem to know my husband well. 

Is he generous with gifts? Not really.

Does he sulk? Do we fight? Have I ever thought of leaving him? Yes, yes, yes. I ‘ve entertained the thought of walking away every single day of our life together. 

So why am I still Mrs. Rishi Kapoor, thirty-seven years after saying ‘I do’?

Because thirty-seven years is a long time. And I cannot, would not, live with any other. Because once you get to know my husband, he’s the most straightforward man there is. Though, admittedly, it’s not easy to ‘get to know him’.”

The closest I could manage to get to Rishi Kapoor was during the recent Vadodara Literature Festival organised by, an online platform for authors and poets, where Rishi Kapoor launched the festival and spoke eloquently about his book. Excited to meet up the ‘Luck By Chance’ actor, I took along my copy of his biography (That I had ordered online right on the day of its launch), along with two books penned by me, which I wanted to gift him as mementos. 

He took my books and kept them aside, speaking in an irritated tone, “I don’t want this…I don’t read books!” Dejected, I meekly took them back, along with his book, thinking, ‘Why should I read a book of someone who doesn’t read?’ He smiled and asked my name, and insisted on signing his book. This stark contrast between his tones of ‘I don’t read’ and ‘What’s your name?’ within a single minute, defined Rishi Kapoor for me, who is unapologetically honest and sincerely affectionate. 

Like Neetu Kapoor would like to put it, ‘Once you know Rishi Kapoor, he’s the most straightforward man there is.’ And the only way you could get to know a celebrity is through interviews and biographies. Khullam Khulla is a free-flowing conversation between Rishi Kapoor and the reader, which could well have been christened as ‘Ek mein aur ek tu’. 

To be honest, I have never been an avowed ‘Rishi Kapoor Fan’. He is one such actor from our film industry who is loved and adored by one and all, but seldom revered or put on a high pedestal. The actor was never a superstar and makes no bones in admitting this fact that he has always been around, battling many a superstar storm. I am yet to come across anyone who dislikes Rishi Kapoor. Well, how can you not like an actor with the most innocent smile? 

A simple YouTube search of songs like ‘Mein shaayar to nahin’ and ‘Hum tum ek kamre’ from Bobby, ‘Tere dar par’ from Laila-Majnu, ‘Ek mein aur ek tu’ and ‘Khullam khulla pyaar’ from Khel Khel Mein, ‘Dard-E-Dil’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ from Karz, ‘Chug chug Bombay se Baroda tak’ from Rafoo Chakkar, ‘Hoga tumse pyara kaun’ from Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, ‘Mil gaya humko saathi’ from Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, ‘Parda hai parda’ from Amar Akbar Anthony, ‘Sochenge tumhein pyaar’ from Deewana or ‘Gawah hain chaand taare gawaah hain’ from Daamini, encapsulates his illustrious filmography. 

As for his ‘Privileged second inning’, his roles in films like Agneepath (The shocker), Luck By Chance (Strangely, he doesn’t speak about this film in the book), Do Dooni Chaar (A role of a lifetime) and the recent Kapoor & Sons (Warm and memorable role), which introduced us to a whole new terrain of his craft that remained unexplored all through his ‘Jersey days’.

Meena Iyer approaches the autobiography of Rishi Kapoor with a style that complements with the actor’s temperament. Rishi Kapoor has always been a spontaneous actor (A fact he has vouches for in his book) and his book is replete with honesty and spontaneity, especially in chapters like ‘Dream run, defeat and depression’, ‘Buddies, bad men, peers and contemporaries’, or ‘Fights, flare-ups and fans’. 

The actor minces no words in coming clean about the awards he bought, the Bachchan tirade, the Javed Akhtar grudge or the incident that distanced him from his buddy, Jeetendra (They do share a cordial relationship, but not like the good ol’ days), or the love and affection he has for his wife, Neetu Kapoor. In fact, the chapter, ‘Neetu, my leading lady’ comes across as a heartwarming love letter that every husband or lover would cherish and relate to. 

It would indeed be a crime to include any excerpt written by him because that would spoil the fun of reading Khullam Khulla. After reading this book, you’d end up knowing Rishi Kapoor so well that you wouldn’t mind if he doesn’t reciprocate to your ‘autograph/selfie requests’ or reject your gifts. You’d understand that he is a man who is incurably honest. Well, to sum it up, ‘Khullam Khulla – Rishi Kapoor Uncensored’, written by Meena Iyer is a book that engages, enthralls and entertains with an effortless ease. To quote the marketing cliché, ‘Rush, grab your copy today!’

Rishi Kapoor’s response on this book review:

Trapped is predictably convenient

A guy trapped inside an empty building with no means of communication, no electricity, food or water. This one-line description is enough to make every cinephile worth his ticket flock to the multiplex and get glued to this no-interval-no-song film promoted as India’s first ‘survival thriller’. Since the word ‘survival’ is quite a giveaway, you expect the protagonist to survive. So, we zero in on the ‘how’ part of the film, which becomes the reason to stay invested in ‘Trapped’, a film produced by Phantom films and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane.

Well, the ‘how’ part is precisely where the film disappoints. Within the first thirty minutes, one could hear the audience whispering the obvious solution for the protagonist. “Oh, come on, it’s a Vikramaditya Motwane film! How can it be so obvious…There must be some layer to it,” I said to myself, averting the distraction.

“Why doesn’t this guy check with the broker about the basic amenities of the apartment before closing the deal? Is he sure whether the girl (Geetanjali Thapa in a brief but memorable role) he is buying the apartment for is going to dump her current alliance and marry him the next day? Why doesn’t he call her up in the night or hint her about the surprise (or shock) that awaits her? There’s a huge dearth of homes in Mumbai and empty buildings (with ready furniture and balcony grilles) are fiercely guarded by watchmen, lest the trespassers might start residing in them.

So why is this watchman so laidback and claims that he has never seen anybody residing in it for the last two years? Why is water and electricity supply still present in an apartment which has never been inhabited for two years? How is it possible that the protagonist’s girlfriend, office colleagues or family (If he had one) never bother to trace him or even ask him about his whereabouts towards the film’s end.

Questions of such kind keep cropping up all the time while watching Trapped and the only way you can appreciate this film is by lauding the details and most importantly, the background score by Alokananda Dasgupta, the innovative ideas of survival by writers Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta, sound design by Anish John, and like they say, ‘above all’: the nuanced performance by Rajkummar Rao.

The actor transforms himself into his character, Shaurya and is perfect to a fault. It is the writing that lets his character down because by the first hour of the film, the audience writes him off as dimwitted (Which harms a film that attempts to portray him as an innovative and resilient survivor) and there hence is a complete disconnect with his character. After a certain point, you stop caring about him and begin wondering why the filmmaker didn’t choose to make a short film instead?

In an interview, director Vikramaditya Motwane stated that with Trapped, he has set the stories of ‘Buried’, ‘127 hours’, and ‘Cast Away’ in an urban backdrop. But alas, the point he seems to miss is the transformation that the survivor goes through during the whole process. Trapped, with all its ‘survivor thriller’ trappings, fails to rise above its predecessors. Sigh.


Silsila: A complex love triangle with a touch of simplicity 

After colours and bhaang, Holi celebrations are incomplete without ‘Rang barse’, the Holi anthem from Yash Chopra’s Silsila. Picturized on Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha (While Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar passively look on), sung by Amitabh Bachchan (with complete abandon), shot by Kay Gee and edited by Keshav Naidu, ‘Rang barse’ captures the essence of Holi in its true splendor, so much so that no ‘Balam pichkaari’ or ‘Do me a favour let’s play Holi’ could dilute its magic even after over three decades of its release in 1981. 

“Launga ilaachi ka beeda lagaaya…”

For the trivia buffs, the song, ‘Rang Barse’ was penned by Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan. It was based on a Rajasthani folk bhajan revolving around Meera. The original lyrics were: ‘Rang barse O Meeran, bhawan mein rang barse…’ The lyrics were tweaked to suit the flavour of the film’s story. ‘Rang Barse’ is pivotal to Silsila purely because it appears at precisely the moment when Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan, who else can play ‘Amit’?) and Chandni (Rekha at her sensuous best) are caught red-handed, quite literally. 

“Neeche paan ki dukaan, upar gori ka makaan…”

The camaraderie between the characters of Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor (As the affable Shekhar) is something yet to be replicated in our times. The scene where Shekhar and Amit recall their past crushes in drunken stupor and the silly ditty, ‘Neeche paan ki dukaan’ sung by the duo is infectious enough to make you hum it subconsciously all through the film’s first half. Despite not playing the lead, Shashi Kapoor makes his presence in a brief role and must be commended for adding humour to an otherwise ‘serious film’. 

Dekha ek khwaab to yeh silsiley hue…

Silsila marked the debut of Javed Akhtar as lyricist. In one of his interviews, Javed saab stated, “I should thank Yash Chopra and keep thanking him forever because I was very reluctant and I did not want to become a lyricist. Perhaps he was so sure that I would be able to do it to his satisfaction that he really forced me into it and I must thank him for that.” True indeed, as Silsila, without ‘Dekha ek khwaab’, ‘Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum’, or ‘Neela aasmaan so gaya’ would have been a bland love triangle with no poetry as its soul. 

“Phool khamosh rehkar bhi apne rang aur khusboo se bahut kuch keh jaate hai…”

There’s a scene in Silsila where the characters of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha decide to meet up at a flower exhibition. The choice of this venue speaks volumes on the aesthetic sense of Yash Chopra. We seem to have become so conscious about the ‘running around the trees’ and visual euphemism of a kiss being depicted as ‘flowers kissing each other scene’ that we have abandoned the flowers. These days, we don’t get to see enough of flora and fauna in our films. 

“Kab tak yunhi khamosh rahein hum?”

No matter how much one would admire those ‘flower exhibitions’, ‘Holi celebrations’, ‘Shashi-Amitabh camaraderie’, ‘Javed Akhtar’s lyricis’, but Silsila will always remain about the hushed relationship that Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha once shared or perhaps didn’t.  

In an interview, Yash Chopra said that Rekha and Amitabh were very much in a relationship before Silsila. He had decided to cast Smita Patil and Padmini Kolhapure along with Amitabh Bachchan but later changed his mind. When Yash Chopra approached Amitabh Bachchan, he remained tight-lipped about the casting of Rekha and his wife, and suggested Yash Chopra to approach the both ladies on his own.  The veteran director admitted to constantly being on tenterhooks while filming the three. The atmosphere was evidently tense for all. Once Silsila was completed, Amitabh is said to have completely ignored Rekha till this date.

Rekha, however, had this to say about his denial in one of her interviews: “Why should he have not done it? He did it to protect his image, his family, his children. I think it is beautiful. I don’t care what the public thinks of it. Why should the public know of my love for him or his love for me?” 

Silsila didn’t do well at the box office and the ‘traditional approach’ of the director seemed to have disappointed the audience, who were keen to know the ‘truth’ behind the Amitabh-Rekha affair. Amitabh Bachchan once tweeted: ‘Silsila was written off by the critics as ‘Silly-Sila’, and is now called a classic’. 

Silsila, with its real-life chemistry of the lead actors, maturely handled subject of extra-marital affair, its confrontation and its consequences, indeed leaves us with a question: Does art imitate life or life imitate art? Go figure.

Listen to the radio? 

Many moons ago, Don Williams sang, “I try to find a way to explain to you, what’s on my mind and not sound so plain to you, but you’ll realize if you close your eyes, the feelings my words can’t show, they’re playing on the radio. Listen to the radio, oh listen to the radio…”
Decades after, in the age of FM Radio Channels, I wonder what the veteran might have to say. Like me, he would have surely deleted this song from every playlist. “I don’t eat pan masalas. Buying property is the last thing on my mind. Marathon doesn’t excite me. Jewelry is for the Bhappi Laheris. So why on earth should I be subjected to a series of radio spots playing to a torturous schedule of almost 60 spots per 60 minutes? Isn’t radio supposed to play more songs?” rues Milin Desai, founder of Baroda Cyclist Club and a music enthusiast. 

He further elaborates, “Well they do, but songs between the ads, whereas it should be vice versa. And what is it about yelling in front of a microphone? Aren’t the RJs taught that the microphones they are yelling at are super sensitive? Just like our ears. The only seeming way to teach them a lesson or two is to make them listen to their own program on a headphone.”

“Ads no longer inform us on radio channels. They are crammed between the songs and force-fed to us, day in day out. The motor-mouth RJs keep blabbering stuff they could well share with their friends over cutting chaais or suttaas, why would any listener be interested why they got late for a film or how they felt during a trip to grandparents’ home or how they spent their holidays or festivals?” wonders Sanjeev Somanath, a Marketing professional. 

“The RJs also have a choice to share anecdotes of actors, composers, lyricists, producers and directors, which has a connection with the songs being played. There’s a treasure of film literature beyond lazy Google searches, which could be shared everyday over a cuppa. There’s so much radio can do, which remains unexplored,” suggests Milin Desai.

Well, the rantings eventually subside after a brief conversation with Kshitij Banker, the popular RJ of Radio Mirchi, who states in a matter-of-factly tone, “You pay for newspapers, internet, magazines and yet are bombarded with full page ads, pop up digital ads and so on. And radio is free so how are the radio stations going to pay the RJs, Program Heads, Marketing Executives and other technicians? Ads are the only means of revenue for us. And it isn’t something that we don’t do anything about it…there are slots where we have back-to-back songs too.

I believe that RJs are beyond information broadcasters. The reason why FM radio works is because of its local connect. While hiring RJs, we always prefer someone local, who knows his or her city inside out. For instance, a guy from Mumbai may not be able to understand what Sindhrot Bridge or Akota-Dandia Bazar bridge mean to a Barodian. During calamities or even massive traffic jams, radios are the most easily accessible mediums and prove to be really helpful and relevant.

Furthermore, the biggest highpoint of radio is that it is live. People connect with us one-on-one through this medium. Many listeners still call me up and share interesting anecdotes of their lives, not to be broadcast on the radio, but just because they feel a certain connect with me as an RJ. This wider reach and closer connect is precisely the reason why our Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the medium of radio to reach across the length and breadth of the nation through ‘Mann Ki Baat’,” asserts Kshitij.   

On the other hand, if you tune into the Vividh Bharti, they are always soft-spoken and the number of radio spots are negligible or at least don’t grate on your nerves. Nevertheless, you do have to endure those long lists of names like Munna, Nita, Rita, Mohan, Sohan, Seema, Nandu etc, which is thankfully aborted by that golden line – aur unke bahut saare saathi. The content intrigues you. The anchors win you over. But by the time you are hooked, they are quick to announce, ‘Is ke saath hi hamara yeh karyakram samaapt hota hain, namaskar”.

Sathya Saran: My biographies focus on the subject as a creative artiste, and track the work and career

In a nation besotted by the charms of cinema, the genre of cinema literature is yet to find its aficionados who’d lend their Midas touch and turn them into bestsellers. In such scenario, there comes an author like Sathya Saran, armed with the curiosity of a journalist, and an editor’s penchant for perfection, penning heartwarming biographies like ‘Ten Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey’, ‘Sun Mere Bandhu Re: The Musical World of SD Burman’, ‘Baat Niklegi Toh Phir: The Life and Music of Jagjit Singh’ and short story collections like ‘Night train and other stories’, and ‘The dark side’. Here’s a brief chat with Sathya Saran, author, former editor of Femina, and Consulting Editor at Harper Collins: 
How did you begin your career in writing?

I have always enjoyed writing, even while in school. My career began when I went for an interview to relieve a friend who was also my junior in MA LIT, from his job as Magazine Editor of a newspaper titled ‘The Hitavada’, in Nagpur. He was migrating to Canada and wanted to present me as someone who could take over from him, so he could be relieved. It was to be a trial. But I enjoyed the job so much, that I stayed on, practically writing the entire two-page section under different names, until I could find good writers to contribute to the different sections. Happily, we found some good writers quite soon. Circulation on Sunday soared, and two pages grew to four, and my career took off. Of course, I added a Journalism degree to ensure I learnt the theory too, besides the hands-on learning.

What do you enjoy writing the most – biographies or short stories?

Both. Stories are more fun, but more spontaneous and need a certain quiet frame of mind to take shape. Biographies are stories already written, I only need to gather the facts and find a new way to present them. I have tried to do that in each of my three biographies. And in ‘Sun Mere Bandhu Re – The Musical World of SD Burman’, I have tried to weave in the storytelling technique into the factual retelling of the maestro’s life. 

Which is your favourite short story from your book, ‘The Dark Side’ and why?

Hmm…Tough one. I like ‘Sunday Evening’ a lot, and ‘Through a Looking Glass’. And ‘Night Train’, of course. 

What is the actual process of writing a biography? Do you conduct the research on your own? And what kind of challenges do you face while writing a biography?

Yes, mostly I reasearch on my own. ‘Ten Years with Guru Dutt – Abrar Alvi’s Journey’ took two years of research, while the Jagjit Singh biography took about six months or so. For SD Burman, I had an offer from the founder of a fan club to collect old published and recorded interviews and conduct fresh ones on my behalf, and I gratefully accepted. Of course, all of what he gave me was welded into my narrative, with due credit, where required. 

The main challenge is getting people to talk. And as all my three subjects were no longer alive, I had that issue to deal with. However, Abrar sahab, Chitraji, Gulzar sahab, Sanjeev Kohli, Waheedaji and many others could fill the lacuna of a missing subject and help with valuable information for each of the books. 

How much does the person you are writing about seep into your conscience and affect your life or change your perspective towards life, especially while writing about Guru Dutt?

It really happens. While writing Guru Dutt’s biography, I partially inhabited the world of Guru Dutt films, despite having a full-time job. It was like a spool running at the back of my mind, in the subconscious. With SD Burman’s biography, it was more serious, as I had to think like him, or how he might have thought. And even write letters on his behalf. I think growing up in Kolkata and Guwahati and being familiar with the culture of Bengal helped me there. 

But sometimes it was difficult to shift gears to the present, or from the present to the book. With the Jagjit Singh biography too, a deep empathy grew towards the person, who was so much more than just a singer and composer, as I had imagined before starting work on the book. I do think the three biographies enriched me in different ways. And knowing Abrar sahab will always be something I will treasure as a gift. 

How do you decide what anecdote to keep and what to discard? Is there something like ‘Deleted chapters’ from the biographies that you have written?

No deleted chapters. I write very tightly, and seldom delete or add paras or portions. If i try, it does not work, the structure gets lost. But yes, there are portions in Ten Years that I left out despite knowing details, on Abrar sahab’s request. He did not wish to hurt anyone. And as it is his book as much as it is mine, I respected his request. 

My biographies focus on the subject as creative artiste, and track the work and career, and the personal angles connected with that. So, there is no quest for sensational details. And thus, no need to ‘ delete’. I use as many anecdotes that show the person’s nature and genius. Repetitive incidents and stories are left out after I decide on the most interesting ones. 

Do you think there is an audience for cinema literature in India? 

Yes, and no. The number of books on cinema stars that are on the stands, says a very definite yes. But serious books are harder to sell. However, thanks to the interest, and the fact that there is a dedicated readership even for books that try to delve into the craft of the subject and the subject matter, books that chronicle a life, or a period in cinema or track the work of a film-maker, a singer, or music director are growing in number. We may finally be creating some record of the history of cinema greats. Something the industry itself has not cared to do. 

With the thriving of digital platform, have you noticed any change in our reading culture?

Yes. A serious lack of attention. An inability in many of the younger generation to read books, a focus on celebrity news rather than good reading, and no understanding of the joy of reading good prose. But there is a sizeable percentage of exceptions to this norm. 

What next? 

Two books, one on cinema and one on ‘How To Look Like Miss India’, are with two different publishers. And I am back to my favourite subject; starting on a new book on another musical genius, for Harper Collins India. It is most exciting. But of course, many hurdles must be crossed en route to reaching the writing stage. 

On a parting note, what advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

What I always tell my students, and anyone who asks me for advice: Read. Read. Read. Just as you cannot run unless you learn to walk, or sing unless you listen to music, you cannot write unless your read a lot. Reading helps you grow your vocabularly, and develop your style. It takes time, trial and error, and a lot of preparation. But it is a fun journey. If you learn to enjoy it. 

– Prakash Gowda 

Arth redefined  man-woman-other woman relationship 

For a long time, Arth was a ghazal album for me in a combo-cassette with Saath Saath. The ghazals, be it ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho’, ‘Jhuki jhuki si nazar’, ‘Koi yeh kaise bataaye’, ‘Tere khushboo mein base khat’, or ‘Tu nahi to zindagi mein’, each ghazal is a gem in itself, which changed the dynamics of not only Hindi film’s music, but also ghazals. Almost a decade later, I stumbled upon the film and it left an indelible mark on me. 

Sathya Saran, author of Jagjit Singh’s biography, ‘Baat Niklegi to phir’, states, “The ghazals of Arth combine lyrics, tunes and rendition to bring alive the emotional state of the characters involved in the scene. The music is soft but captures the mood of the lyrics, adding the right touch of emotion, drawing the viewer into the scene.”

Based on the extra-marital relationship of Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen Babi, Arth, released in 1982, broke many a stereotype of Hindi films, lending a new perspective to the ‘other woman’ and an end which only someone like Mahesh Bhatt could possibly pull off.  

“Once Arth released Parveen didn’t give a damn about what the world thought about her. She had stopped caring about people by then. The media unnecessarily made a big thing of it. Most people do not realise that her breakdown had happened much before Arth was conceived. In fact, her first mental breakdown was also chronicled in Arth. I have never felt that I exploited that memory.

The reality and the subsequent breakdown of this beautiful woman, right in front of my eyes, was so intense, that I had to exorcise it in some way, and film was the best mode. The turbulence and intensity of the time I spent with her is beautifully recorded in the film. Parveen and I parted ways when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

In fact, I had started a film with her, Ab Meri Baari but after 11 reels, I had to shelve the film because couldn’t do it anymore. Once the heady days of wine and roses were over, the scene was scary – I was high on LSD and she went through a series of nervous breakdowns. I went through trauma and a hell of my own making for two and a half years and all this is reflected in Arth,” shares Mahesh Bhatt in one of his interviews. 

As soon as the news was out that Shabana had bagged the Silver Lotus for Best Actress, Arth became the focus of media attention, Rajkumar Barjatya asked to see it and immediately after, bought the film for distribution. And that paved the way for Mahesh Bhatt to make Saraansh for Rajshri Productions.

Arth remains immortal for its closing scene (Will delve on it later) and the party scene where an inebriated Pooja (Shabana) reprimands her husband (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and his mistress (Smita Patil) and tells them, “Pati ki seva mein aurat ho kabhi ma aur kabhi behan banna padta hai aur bistar mein kabhi r**di.” 

Shabana Azmi won National Award for her stellar performance in Arth. This fanned the popular ‘Shabana-Smita cold war’ and also affected the equations of Mahesh Bhatt with Smita Patil. “For weeks, Smita didn’t speak to me, till we ran into each other on the staircase at Park Hotel where I’d gone to meet Vijay Tendulkar. Smita was ranting. I coaxed her to look into my eyes and assured her that I had no intentions of being dishonest with her. Maybe it was my lack of talent that had prevented me from doing justice to both characters. Suddenly her eyes overflowed with tears and hugging me fiercely she laughed, “I can’t even hate you!’ And we were friends again,” shares Mahesh Bhatt in an interview.  

The dialogues of this closing scene, which I would refrain from divulging here, are sure to leave an everlasting impact on you as a viewer, wherein you witness Pooja finally understanding the ‘arth’ of her relationship, and in bargain, it gives you a whole new ‘arth’ of man-woman-other woman relationship. In hindsight, I feel that Arth is a film that can only be appreciated by the mature, who have seen life at close quarters and understand the fragility and strength of relationships.



Rangoon is a visual symphony



“All the world is a stage!” announce two jesters on the map of the world, where one is dressed up as Winston Churchill and the other Adolf Hitler, which is quite a befitting tribute to the Shakespearean adaptations of Vishal Bhardwaj. The gag takes a potshot at Hitler, who enacts a dog looking for a place to relieve itself and finally finding ‘relief’ in his own land, Germany.

The gag, in a way, is about Vishal Bhardwaj, who after having explored varied terrains from Saat Khoon Maaf, Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola and Kaminey finally finds solace in his own Shakespearean genre that he began with Maqbool and Omkara. Rangoon comes across as a beautiful blend of these two masterpieces by the filmmaker who composes his films, not just make them. Rangoon, featuring Kangna Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan is a stellar example of flawless casting and impeccable performances by its leads.

A love triangle with a patriotic twist, Rangoon transports you into its era, where filmmaking wasn’t about indulgence of directors with multiple takes as the makers had to be at the mercy of the British for their raw stock supply. Where love meant celebrating the scars and adorning a wounded finger with the ring of commitment. Where life is sacrificed because there is a reason worth giving up one’s life for. Vishal Bhardwaj encapsulates the varied hues of love in two hours and forty-seven minutes of sheer visual artistry.

Kangna Ranaut, as Miss Julia or rather ‘Jaanbaaz Julia’ gives her all to this role of a lifetime. The best part about her performance is that she sheds the Kangna Ranaut we have all known, and metamorphoses into Julia. Be it action, comic or emotional scenes, this gem of an actress nails it with the ease of a veteran. Saif Ali Khan as Rustom ‘Rusi’ Billimoria is spot-on. The handicap of his hand reminds you of Langda Tyaagi, an immortal role he essayed in Omkara.

Shahid Kapoor sinks his teeth into the meaty role of Jamadar Nawab Malik, convincing you that he has been a prisoner of war for 8 years in Rangoon and Singapore. Richard McCabe as Major General Harding is quite a surprise here, breaking the stereotype ‘Goras’ that we are used to watching in our films. This character is obsessed with Mirza Ghalib and Hindustani Classical Music and never misses an opportunity to quote Ghalib. Kudos to writers Matthew Robbins, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Sabrina Dhawan for such nuanced writing and character sketches. After watching Rangoon, you’d feel as if you knew these folks, including Saharsh Shukla as ‘Zulfi’, and Kawaguchhi, the Japanese soldier whom the characters of Shahid and Kangna hold captive.

Rangoon is a road movie, a war film, a love triangle saga, a musical – all packed into one. The production design and costumes adroitly recreate an era gone by. The only area where it lets you down is, surprisingly its music, which is the forte of Vishal Bhardwaj. After a point of time, the songs seem redundant and fail to connect with you as an audience. The only song that stays with you is ‘Yeh ishq hai’. Vishal Bhardwaj’s composition and Gulzar’s lyrics leave you awe-inspired, especially in the line, ‘Bekhud se rehta hai, yeh kaisa sufi hai. Jage toh Tabrizi, bole toh Rumi hai’. Tabrizi was the spiritual teacher of Rumi, the Sufi poet and philosopher.

Pankaj Kumar paints the reels with his masterstrokes reminiscent of the forties and shoots the film like a visual poetry. Aalaap Majgavkar edits the film with the deftness of a goldsmith, who knows the precise amount of artistic gold to be retained and commercial copper to be mixed.

Rangoon, in all its vintage glory, is a visual symphony punctuated with poetry.