LOVE IN THE TIME OF WAR
The film is a war-romance set in pre-independent India. As is known, there were differing strands in the movement. Mahatma Gandhi adopted ahimsa to get freedom; Subhash Chandra Bose was the force behind the Indian National Army that got on the front foot to boot the enemy out. Even as this strife played out, Julia (Kangana), the daredevil actress of the 40's ruled hearts. Closer home, her married producer Russi Billimoria (Saif) is besotted with her and at the border, Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid) loves her to death.
Rangoon is an ambitious attempt to actually tell a triangular love story against the backdrop of war. The canvas is huge. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography is exquisite. The narrative that marries Casablanca (1942) to Chicago (2002) — wish the music here was peppier — plays out interestingly in parts. You have grim war-scenes fading out to allow some naach-gaana. Then there is a good measure of romance thrown in, albeit without the fire. Also there is also an infiltrator angle that allows for intrigue. Bhardwaj, whose repertoire includes truly-fine works like Maqbool, Omkara, and Haider delivers, but not entirely. Some frames just hang, some scenes feel tedious. In his attempt to pack in too much on war, love and deceit, the maker ends up with some haphazard division of war scenes versus love games, leaving the viewer muddled.
Saif gives his movie-entrepreneur act a razor-sharp quality. And, Shahid is outstanding. Kangana of course is the piece de resistance. You can believe that two men would cross swords for her. While she is a child-woman or “kiddo” to the sophisticated Rusi, who treats her like an expensive buy, she becomes the heartbeat of the patriotic Nawab, who loves her spirited side. However, as pointed out earlier on, though the love scenes are written well and aesthetically shot, they lack passion. The multiple lip-locks between Shahid and Kangana don’t ignite flames.
There’s a dialogue in the film where Saif tells a British officer, “We’re actors, we know how to convince people.” That isn’t entirely true here. Borrowing Julia’s oft-repeated phrase, “Bloody hell’, one wishes these three had truly dropped their guard. It would’ve certainly added more rang to this movie extravaganza.