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March 5, 2011

Rang De Basanti - Did the nation wake up?

Rang De Basanti (2006) or RDB as it is fondly called is just not a film, it refined Indian society in more ways than one. For the ignorants, RDB is a story about a British documentary filmmaker who is determined to make a film on the Indian freedom fighters based on the diary entries of her grandfather, who incidentally was a jail officer during the British rule of India. On coming to India, she meets a bunch of young college students headed by Aamir Khan (DJ) who are less 'Indian' than she ever imagined. When their dearest pilot friend dies in a MIG crash and accused by the defence minister of negligence, all hell breaks loose. They murder him in broad day light, triggering a series of events which ultimately lead to their death by the end of the movie.

RDB is a film that seems to shake people out of their somnolent apathy into taking a stand and doing something for the country. It questions the indifference with which we have accustomed ourselves to the armchair political agendas and social stigmas. Obviously, things have changed since it's release in early 2006 with the advent of social networking websites and mushrooming of numerous TV channels who keep shoving the 'right-vs-wrong' debate down our throats. But still a cleverly disguised history lesson is turned into a modern tale of patriotism which touches the right chords because it hits bang-on for that elusive, almost sick dichotomy of India - we won't do anything for the society till something bad happens to us.

RDB speaks for the middle aged middle class in the guise of speaking through the young. The youngsters here are not the protagonists but the instruments through which the concerns of an earlier generation are represented. The source of outrage is not really the minister's corruption, but his insensitive blaming of the pilot for the crash. The patriotism felt by DJ &Co. is as much petulance as righteousness. The mode of resolution is also keeping with the gratification seeking times we live in. Justice must be instantly bought. The killing of the minister and the subsequent elimination of the protagonists fulfills our need for a cinematic spectacle that stimulates out angst glands without causing any serious long term dysfunction. It is sad, startling and scintillating all at the same time.

RDB eventually denies the possibility of the very change it goads us to the up we cudgel for. It speaks for the patriotism that is defined as dying for your country in a blaze of media glory than toiling for it under the shroud of anonymity. It allows us to consume a sense of outrage in a packaged form. It is a great film because it pushes us as far as we can be pushed. It works because it makes us comfortably uncomfortable, which is all we can handle. In doing so, it holds up a mirror and what we see in it is not very pretty. By starting with apathy and moving on to activism, it allows us to locate ourselves in the narrative. Whether we are able to find ourselves in this mess is a question waiting to be answered, extremely urgently and quite impatiently.


Smita said...

I totally agree witg you.

I always say RDB is a modern classic and it is not a movie, it is a revolution! After watching the movies I was in trance for 2 days. I cried after coming back to home because I felt I am doing nothing for this country. The movie did change me & many others it gave us the thought that "we can change things if we want" verdict in Jessica Lal Case is a bright example of it.

P.S. I am getting ur comments in mail :) but as I don't have time at home I can't reply to them and can't access them from work. I just read them on my mob :)

The Survivor said...

RDB is going to be one of the cult movies which has the power to shake people up.

We keep telling that the Governments sucks, corruption is on a high, blame politicians but did we ever do anything to do something about it?

The movie makes you think and that we have within ourselves to do something about it.

Satans Darling™ said...

RDB does make one think. It has been directed so well and every time I watch it I get the chills down my spine. Believe it or not, it did make a difference to me, wrt raising my voice when something wrong happens. But the change has to start with each one of us. I do see the change around me, it's slow, but it will catch on...

Well written Amit!

Amit Gupta said...


Yes, Jessica Lal murder case would not have re-opened if there was no RDB. And also, a host of other rape cases which were lying in just files.

Good, you are getting my mails. Sometimes with an id like 'loveisalwaysnew', the mails go into spam folder. Till you are reading the mails, i am fine with it.

Amit Gupta said...

@The Survivor

Firstly, government don't have to be corrupt and we also have to stop the corruption at our end. But yes, if it is happening, raising your voice against it is a must.

Amit Gupta said...


Sure, the change needs to come from within..specially in circumstances where you are being felt undone.

suruchi said...

i couldn't agree more would remain a landmark movie and i have yet to find someone to disagree on that.

patriotism as a matter of discussion and thought becomes boring for the young n the restless unless it is not clad in the attire of fun and realism they can relate to.

that's why i guess the movie was so fantastic:-)

congrats on making it to the saturday pick...this surely deserved it:-)

the silent observer said...

brilliant...absolutely brilliant review in terms of content. you have not only talked abt the praises of the movie but have also shown aspects which are generally not discussed. I read the last two paras first then went ahead and read the whole thing again. Good Job.