What If… ? #3, #4: Rang De Basanti

Rang De Basanti was playing on TV recently, so I settled in to watch some of it. It is a very well made movie with strong performances all around, and could rightfully claim to be one of the best movies of that year. What some people had a problem with, though, was the ending.  The business of killing the defence minister, hijacking the radio station and getting killed seemed like a very sudden and unnatural denouement.

My feelings on the subject were ambiguous. The alternative endings all seemed cliched. Somehow, a sad ending with some kind of message seemed to make the most sense. The trouble was in the implementation. Something was off.

So I sat down to watch one of the key scenes in the movie, one where the group decides to kill the minister. The scene keeps cutting between the conversation between these friends and a conversation between Bhagat Singh, Azad &c. Now, there are earlier scenes where this particular stylistic device has been used, to indicate how playing these roles in Sue’s documentary has slowly seeped into their subconscious. So, it doesn’t feel unnatural here.

The problem is, this is too critical a scene to be monkeying around. Up until this point, the movie portrays a bunch of happy-go-lucky youngsters who are slowly waking up to the responsibilities of their generation, and get a rude shock when one of their number is killed and the government covers up its folly. While the plot takes a sudden turn with the pilot’s death, the characters still remain who you’ve so far seen them to be.

Taking these guys from that point and getting them to actually murder someone isn’t a smooth jump. The scene where they discuss it needs to be real, and the dialogue there needs to convey how they convince themselves and each other that this is what they need to do. Look at it this way: the viewer has identified with this group. By the end of this scene, he should feel like they are doing the right thing. There’s no margin for error here.

Instead, RDB handles this scene as if it is an opportunity to draw parallels with the past. It would’ve been okay if one or more of the characters had made a reference to Bhagat and Co’s actions or thoughts, and the others had responded. But to intercut between the two diluted the focus. Not a good movie, methinks.

The other crucial jump in continuity is right at the end, when the government’s response is to send a crack team to kill these guys in the radio station. Now, all you have seen so faer of the story is that these guys have gone on air and claimed responsibility for the minister’s assasination. They have admitted to being students of Delhi University who were disgusted with his corrupt ways and his indirect complicity in their friend’s death. None of this seems to warrant the response it received, and somehow it does not seem likely that a Government would try and do something this blatant.

I don’t really have a solution here, but surely there must have been some way to make the killing seem more plausible?

5 thoughts on “What If… ? #3, #4: Rang De Basanti

  1. Ramsu, i think this sudden jump from being a carefree bunch of youngsters to realization, was what pulled RDB down. The same transition from a very carefree youngster to a mature, responsible adult, was much better handled by Farhan Akhtar in Lakshya i felt.

  2. NK says:

    Although I see your point, dont you think that the fact that RDB has become a cult movie of sorts for all kinds of people would mean that the director has managed to convince them of the plausibility of this scene?? And the people I am talking about here are the ones like you and me who can claim to some exposure to good movies …..

  3. Ratnakar>> Lakshya handled the transition better for sure, but it also had a lot mroe time and a lot fewer characters to deal with. RDB had a challenge on its hands.

    NK>> I think RDB earned its acclaim by being about something, and doing it pretty entertainingly for the most part. I don’t dispute what actually happened in the movie either — I think the story made the right choices, and it paid off. But while narrating that story, the script could’ve tightened things up a bit more.


  4. Valid point about the killing. But as you have aptly summarized, there really isn’t any solution. Well, atleast no better way that I can think of.

    With regards to the massacre at the radio station, I was expecting it to be handled in the more um, conventional way. Court -> capital punishment -> final scene with everyone being hanged or something to the extent.

    The government’s decision seemed far too reckless.

  5. I liked the transition from being a carefree bunch to one that wants to make a difference. It inspires people to do the same in their own way, and makes us believe that we can change for the better when we need to, but only if we want to. That to me was the strongest point of the film — the invoking of a desire to do something to make a positive difference.

    And I can’t stress enough the bit about the ‘positive’ difference. If there is one thing I would change about RDB, it is the way in which the group addresses the desire to affect change. But therein also lies its element of realism — the bunch is, after all, immature. So maybe there is a circular reference to my first paragraph here?

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