‘Rangoon’: Bloody Hell, the Burden of Being Vishal Bhardwaj

The biggest problem with ‘Rangoon’ is the expectations that Vishal Bhardwaj has set with his brilliance.

2 min read
It’s tough being Vishal Bhardwaj. 

When you’re the guy who made films like Maqbool, Omkara and Haider - it’s almost impossible to not set the expectations high with every new release. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon with Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut - is exquisitely set and shot, the actors are pitch perfect, the dialogues are impressive, but somehow the period film with a searing story of romance, betrayal and patriotism fails to come together and pull at your heartstrings like it’s intended to.

Rangoon starts with a bang, flitting seamlessly between a war torn battlefield and a film studio, the pace is even and the plot unfolds effortlessly. While Bhardwaj gets the mood and tone right, where he falters is the graph, which he was a master at in his previous ventures. I don’t get to know when Julia (Kangana) and Nawab’s (Shahid) attraction for each other really transforms into undying love.

The narrative of Rangoon doesn’t take you inside the minds of its lead players. I still remember when I exited the theatre after watching Maqbool my head was swirling because the film was like a rollercoaster ride between Irrfan and Tabu’s minds. But Rangoon’s script keeps it to the nuts and bolts. Did excessive editing prune all the mind play?

Saif, Kangana, Shahid and lots of VFX in <i>Rangoon.</i>
Saif, Kangana, Shahid and lots of VFX in Rangoon.

Another element that weakens the film is the extensive use of VFX. While the computer generated imagery (CGI) blends in seamlessly in some portions, there are crucial parts where the VFX jars, killing the believability of the story-telling. The over-reliance of getting things “fixed” in post-production hasn’t really worked for Bhardwaj in Rangoon. Here’s a filmmaker whose strong point is getting the best out of his actors, working with lines, designing the apt ambience and creating memorable moments out of them, but he’s saddled with vital scenes that require a more expert use of VFX than what he got.

Post-interval the film begins to engage and grip you, it’s Bhardwaj on familiar turf, there is a simmering tension between the main performers, the background score is effective and the atmosphere of intrigue, espionage and treachery is intensely palpable. However, soon the afore-mentioned problematic elements of graph and graphics roll in to kill the climax. One of the main protagonists has a huge change of heart with no character arc in sight. The blowing up of a rope bridge and the subsequent action sequences are marred by amateurish VFX.

As always, Bhardwaj is a master at his craft, he gets his mood, atmospherics and characters right. Technically Rangoon excels (except the CGI), but it seems the filmmaker’s heart isn’t in the film, which is what makes it a soulless tale. But this war drama is still worth a watch, because even when VB makes an average film, it turns out to be better than what most Hindi filmmakers deliver as their best.

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