In the decade of turmoil, call for independence, of a love triangle, a controlling suspicious yet besotted lover, a forbidden romance in the time of war. A heroine meets a soldier. She of the lights and grease paint he of the camouflage and pure grit.
Set in in pre-independent boiling with patriotism India. Pacifist Mahatma Gandhi’s Ahimsa versus Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army. No dialogue, no bi-lateral talks, just kick the enemy out says Bose. Japanese hate the British, India Hates British, so Japan and India have to love each other and so we have a war in the famed Indo-Burma border jungles a collaboration between Bose’s Indian National Army and Japanese.
The story is simple, this war-romance talks about the triangular love story of a fearless, glamorous and gorgeous star from 1940’s Bollywood, in the jungles of the India-Burma border. She popular actress and heartthrob “Julia” loves the married “Russi Billimoria”, a studio baron, producer who uses her emotions and charms to get around to plying his trade. She is his tool kit to run his trade. So what if has to entertain uniformed troops. T he Bombay’s film industry in the 1940s loves to love her, men can fight for her yet she is treated like commodity. She cannot love, her life is mortgaged to the studio bosses whims. All hell breaks loose when she falls in deep love with “Jamadar Nawab Malik” a soldier on Indo-Burma border. Once the bitter truths about the dream of Indian independence are laid bare; the battle is not just the enemy outside it but within too.
Kangana can evoke a certain jealousy in every human. She is so spot on and effective. She is spunky and well etched to not sure. But she at like it is even now the strong woman is known due to the me she associates with. So what if she is an achiever. Does she care? She lives for the moment, like the brand logo of scar she carriers with her. She is a find for a man. She is childlike and loves with a vengeance, not everybody will understand that love.
Saif Ali Khan, big studio boss avatar is an illegitimate child of his bhradalok character in Parineeta and his selfishness of being who is he. He plays the British and is sophisticated studio baron. He uses flatter as a to do business and charm as a marketing tool against his not so naïve yet willing to look naïve Julia who is being used in exchange for the “mutual fund” kind of conditional love full of conservative traps. He is a plain manipulative mentor. We all have seen one in our lives. Saif gives his movie-entrepreneur the required evilness with his treating of Julia like the most expensive purchase at an auction.
Shahid is outstanding as Nawab. He is what is needed to evoke the love of motherland in you. He loves his motherland and Julia. Simple and effectively simple. Shahid Kapoor’s steely portrayal of a man on a mission and his feelings for Julia don’t balance.
How is this a Vishal Bhardwaj movie? Look at how he has molded to build characters. Look at Kangana eyebrow and mannerisms. It is like looking at something that happened long time back and we watch it unfold. The movie is flexible, teases and just flows like pouring the chocolate sauce of events on the vanilla world of the films. There are grim war-scenes, songs and romance and intrigue.
Once you enter the haveli and close the door the British cant touch you, then Bose knocks on your door and tells you to come look at the enemy within your own backyard. He adds the masala of patriotism. The movie charts it course in Rangoon, the director stops being the master of the fact finding deep emotion drilling vessel and becomes this flamboyant cruiser who uses history, legacy and the dark human emotions to paint his canvas. Had it not been Bharadwaj, the story would have died in the jungles itself, but here his craft and his deft handling come to the fore. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography understands his director’s vision. Add to that the music and background score essential to create the war-romance-war feeling.
The actors bring to stage a lovely mix of talents, perfect fit of character and actor choice. Rangoon, Burma, Myanmar these are not just words they are emotions a lot of Indians have encountered in their lives and heard from families. Watch this sepia production and sit back and pay attention to the Azad Hind Fauj version of Jana Gana Mana. Do you feel something in your heart, it is called the the revival of old feelings of patriotism.