I’ll start this review with a question. The question is this: Will Hindi movies ever rise above “re-imagining” of historical incidents? I had to spend hours and days in order to pass my History test. Where are the movies based on those? It’s funny how ardent fans defend movies like this and Bajirao Mastani and Mohenjo Daro, just because their favourite stars are in those movies. I had a quarrel a few months ago on the internet regarding Mohenjo Daro and the historical inaccuracies that were portrayed in that movie. One ardent fan told me to go back to school if I had to educate myself because movies isn’t for historical accuracy. Well, I don’t think I need to go back to school because I am the one pointing out the mistakes. It’s these blind fan-tards and the egoistic directors and producers who need a history lesson. There’s a slim chance that they might just get educated.

I always begin with a disclaimer and this review will be no different. I love Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies. Not Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola, though. I even liked 7 Khoon Maaf because of the overtly dark tone. So this isn’t some kind of a hate-review of sorts. I don’t have any hatred for the actors too. Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan are some of my favourite actors. Kangana Ranaut is great, even though I don’t like her off-screen shenanigans. That said, allow me to begin the review.

SCREENPLAY/STORY – The story is set in 1943. World War 2 is going on and simultaneously India is fighting their war against British Rule. Subash Chandra Bose has started his own revolution which is the opposite of Gandhi’s non-violent attack on the British Raj. None of that actually matters because we are stuck here with a love-story between Jamadar Nawab Malik(Shahid Kapoor), Julia(Kangana Ranaut) and Rusi Billimoria(Saif Ali Khan). Everyone has a dark past of their own and basically only one of them has character motivation. I don’t want to reveal that part because that’s the only thing that is interesting about the movie.
As the movie is set in a period which is the building block of my country, why would I want to see a love story? On top of that the love story is as dry as the Thar Desert. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s written by Matthew Robbins and his previous works include Crimson Peak and 7 Khoon Maaf. I know I hate love stories but love stories don’t give me a reason to like them too. So, not my fault.
Except Maqbool and Omkara, the love stories weren’t the centre piece of Bhardwaj’s movies. Kaminey‘s love story just nudged the story in a certain direction. Haider‘s love story existed so that we can experience the humane part of Haider. Whereas the entire plot revolved around Maqbool and Omkara because love guided the characters to their respective consequences. Rangoon is set in a war-torn era. An era which had so much going on and a love story would have been anyone’s last concern. At one point Major General David Harding even says that Julia is not his concern. Exactly, nobody cares about the frigging love story. The dialogues are vaguely poetic and full of one-liners and full of exposition because every character is reminding each other about their pasts all the time. The reveals of the hidden motivations of some of the characters are done so early in the movie that there is no surprise factor when it is revealed to the rest of the characters in the movie.

I won’t lie, I was actually expecting this to happen because it was fairly evident from the trailer. I think I should start doing movie predictions based on the trailers. At least I’ll have proof that my predictions are always right.

DIRECTION – When the story is already dry and bland, then 50% of the blame goes to the writers. Now the rest is on the director, Vishal Bhardwaj and I’ll blame him for the 12 songs that are in this movie. 12!! The movie keeps shifting from a war movie to a romance movie to a revenge movie and then a frigging musical! This is one of the multiple problems that haunt Indian cinema. The director just can’t decide on a single genre.
I always think that Bhardwaj’s hits have always come from stories based on Shakespeare’s plays and Bond’s novels(not James Bond bro, Ruskin Bond). That’s not entirely true. He has done Makdee(Horror) and Kaminey(Crime) and those were amazing because he stuck to the genre and didn’t digress. Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola suffered from the same problem that brought down Rangoon. As the movie keeps jumping from one song to another and one place to another, he establishes no sense of place. I am not sure if any of the sequences took place in Rangoon. Because, you know, the title of the movie is Rangoon.
I will give him props for capturing the time-period correctly. Even though, I don’t think that actresses would be singing on the train during that era but hey, what do I know? I am not from that time. Probably someone with real historical knowledge can correct me.

I keep saying that Bhardwaj should have concentrated on the real story regarding the freedom fight and should have invested in the action of the movie because Vishal Bhardwaj can handle action pretty well. There were real moments of brilliance during the action set-pieces and as I talk about the action, I have to talk about the CGI. The CGI was good only during two scenes. When the fighter planes attack and when a secret bomb goes off. Other than those two scenes everything was reminiscent of 80’s animated graphics. I keep complaining about the Hindi movie graphics and I am a layman but the difference is so visible that I think the experts will surely leave with blood-shot eyes. If the CGI people are so inept, then why don’t they opt for practical effects? Tarantino is the master of practical effects and he puts it to such great use. I guess that will take much more effort, wouldn’t it? Something that is clearly lacking. Effort.

SONGS(!!!) – Yes, I put three exclamations and made a special category for the songs because there are twelve frigging songs. I am making this category because some self-proclaimed pundits ridiculed me for the lyrics and out-of-place nature of the sequences. For this, I have proof!

Even though I have individually taken care of these people in the comment section, I won’t be saying what I said to them but I’ll be describing the reason why these people exist and why directors opt for songs instead of making sequences with character development and establishing the tone of the movie.
First, people like these exist because they have a vague idea of realistic movies. Their taste in movies haven’t entirely evolved from 80’s cinema and are in the process of accepting modern cinema. Directors like Vishal Bhardwaj and Anurag Kashyap are appreciated now because of their off-beat movies but they were really under-appreciated in their initial ventures. Those who understand their style appreciates it but also ridicules it. These 50-50 people who have grown a habit of defending movie people can’t and that’s why they can’t provide constructive criticism and may even resort to personal attacks. They are so used to the SRK and Salman kind of fandom that constructive criticism isn’t even a part of their vocabulary.
Second is why directors make such musical numbers which are redundant on the global scale? Because the above mentioned people download and listen and re-listen and feed the producers with some cheap cash. It’s easy. Using some pages of the script to move the movie forward is tough. It will require acting. But if you can vocally shout it out to the audience the job is done much easily, isn’t it?

Okay, enough bashing. Onto the context of the songs. The lyrics are too modern to be at par with the time-period. I know it’s by Mr. Gulzar, but being Gulzar doesn’t exempt him from criticism.  As one of the pundits mentioned that they serve as cabarets only. I am happy to confirm that it isn’t only shown through cabarets. They pop up all the time and not only as songs but as full-fledged dance numbers. The war for independence is going on and people are breaking out into dance numbers without musical instruments in the middle of nowhere. I’d love to see anyone defend 12 songs now as the movie is out. You’ll see the same people ridiculing Jagga Jasoos which has 26 songs and that too when the film-makers are themselves claiming that it is a musical, unlike this movie which made no such claim. Strange, indeed.

ACTING – This is one department I have no complaints about. Before I talk about the main cast, I want to mention Saharsh Shukla’s performance as Zulfi. I remember him as the sleazy dude from Highway and he also gave a great performance in Ugly. This is one supporting actor to look out for in the future.
Other than performances I actually bought in to the characteristics of each of the central characters. Shahid Kapoor portrayed the unwavering sense of Nawab Malik’s patriotism very well. He expressed it pretty well through his eyes and that sad smile. Bhardwaj really brings out the best in him and in Saif Ali Khan too. His character was also interesting. The fact that Rusi considered Julia as an object and the only thing he can hold on to was portrayed by Saif very accurately. Kangana’s troubled Julia was also evident and even when she is not talking, her facial expressions are a reflection of what’s going on inside her mind.

FINAL VERDICT – Obviously don’t watch this movie. Are you mad? There’s nothing worth watching here. I know I lauded the individual performances but that wasn’t enough to make the movie watchable. If you happen to like the songs then just re-watch it on Youtube. Why waste 2 and a half hour on this mess of a movie? Trust me. Give it a pass and re-watch Bhardwaj’s earlier movies. That will be worth your time.

Thanks for reading.