Celebrating Aamir Khan’s Cult Classic: 20 Years of Rangeela

Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Rangeela’, a film that is still remarkably fresh, turns 20 years old today.

4 min read
Urmila Matondkar and Aamir Khan in a scene from Ram Gopal Varma’s&nbsp;<i>Rangeela</i>

Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela turns 20 years old today. It’s a film that is still remarkably fresh, and different from the thoughtless romantic comedies that our industry tends to churn out year after year. To mark this cult film’s 20th anniversary, we have zeroed in on five reasons why it deserves to be celebrated.

Ram Gopal Varma

<i>Rangeela</i> was RGV’s best (Photo: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/abpnewstv/status/638673818404327424">@abpnewstv</a>)
Rangeela was RGV’s best (Photo: Twitter/@abpnewstv)

Now almost done and dusted with his career in Hindi cinema, Ram Gopal Varma was once a virile filmmaker who knew how to turn ironic passions into engrossing narratives. He redefined the neo noir with his gritty, unflinching portrayal of misfits, but in Rangeela, he is at his pleasant best. This is a film that speaks of unabashed, fervent romance without any hint of violence, and does a deeply satisfying job of it. A crafty equilibrium of wry observation and emotional involvement, Varma dispatches mush to the gallows and gives us three lovers, alive and kicking with ardour.


Before RGV offered him Rangeela, A.R.Rahman’s works were dubbed from his Tamil albums. The first Hindi film of the man who would soon be termed as the ‘Mozart of Madras’, Rahman poured his musical genius into this album. Play it again, and you would notice how it still sounds so unsullied, so thrilling. Asha Bhosle’s sexy rendition of ‘Tanha Tanha Yahan Pe Jeena’ and the glorious ‘Rangeela Re’, the tapori cheekiness of ‘Kya Kare Kya Na Kare’ and ‘Yaaro Sun Lo Zara’, the scorching desire in ‘Hai Rama’, and above all, the splendid ‘Spirit of Rangeela’, Mehboob’s words gave wheels to Rahman’s music, an intense drive that glows like hot ember.

Urmila Matondkar

Urmila Matondkar in a scene from RGV’s<i> Rangeela</i>
Urmila Matondkar in a scene from RGV’s Rangeela

Who could have imagined that the child star of Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom would grow up to raise a storm, just by running on the beach? Urmila, giving everything to Mili’s character, brings a fluid rhythm to the film. As the lover of Munna, she is the simple charming girl next door, but with the movie star Raj Kamal, she is the queen of oomph. A trickery of acting and a fine act of balance, it deserves our applause. The sexually compelling dreamer, Mili is Urmila’s finest turn at the movies, and we doubt, she could ever top it.

Aamir Khan

Urmila Matondkar and Aamir Khan in a scene from RGV’s <i>Rangeela</i>
Urmila Matondkar and Aamir Khan in a scene from RGV’s Rangeela

Since his debut, Aamir was the ideal chocolate boy hero, finding success with films that had him as the vulnerable, youthful lover. But his Munna is a stark departure from the roles he had played earlier. He is a smart chap, but not smart enough to understand the pretension of class aspirations. Remember the restaurant scene? He wears his street lingo like Ghalib wears his couplets, completely at ease. He sings and dances like the romantic hero we have seldom seen on our screens. Aamir inhabits the character of Munna so well that he makes his star persona undetectable. Jackie Shroff works well as the movie star Raj Kamal but Aamir just walks away with our claps and hearts. There are many magnificent characters to Aamir’s credit, but Munna belongs to his ‘best of the best’.

Manish Malhotra

Urmila Matondkar sizzles in a Manish Malhotra design, in one of <i>Rangeela</i>’s song sequences
Urmila Matondkar sizzles in a Manish Malhotra design, in one of Rangeela’s song sequences

The unbridled eyesore of fashion that started in the ‘80s reached its zenith in the ‘90s with strange frocks, weird hairdos, weirder lenses, voluminous hats, greasy makeup, we could go and on. Fashion in Hindi cinema was at its worst in the ‘90s and the effect spilled over onto the streets, with the utterly vulnerable public aping those styles of unspeakable horror. But designer Manish Malhotra changed the rules of the game with Rangeela, by making Mili the utterly butterly delicious fashion candy. From the skimpiest to the most elaborate, Urmila Matondkar sizzled in outfits like that hot cupcake on which you would bet your every paisa.

(The writer is a journalist and a screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. Follow him on Twitter: @RanjibMazumder)

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