Sunday, August 14

Rising fails, Ketan falls

Another sensitive film maker succumbs to the lure of mainstream Indian cinema. The man who gave us Holi, Mirch Masala & Patel brings to you Mangal Pandey: The Rising.

What is the Rising? It attempts to be a whole lot of things. Its wanna be Lagaan, it’s wanna be historical chronicle , its kaleidoscope India ( straight out of a glossy travel magazine) and therefore it ends up being nothing.

To start with Ketan’s India of 1857 lacks sincerity. India in 1857 was not about starched colorful turbans and salubrious men discussing British Rule casually. It was not about opulent ballrooms contrasted by idyllic pastoral settings. It was about a society that was being stripped of its religious rights, its age old beliefs, an army that was pitted against its own people, loosely held states reeling under British interests, the ignominy, and the starkness of an imperialist set up, none of which hit us in Ketan’s cinema.

If history remains silent about Mangal Pandey and the possible causes of his revolt the movie takes the confusion to a different level. Mangal Pandey in Ketan’s world looks at home, hobnobbing with a British official or making love to a nautch girl yet he shuns the untouchables and the greased cartridge.

Farrukh Dhondhy’s screenplay leaves room for more research. He has sourced enough stereotypes for the movie – white man beating up the black , Indian women nourishing white children ( courtesy Roots : Alex Hailey) the friendly British Officer, the great Indian Bazaar where women get auctioned , the white – black friend ship ( courtesy : Paul Scott, Lagaan , etc. etc.) so on and so forth. The roles are poorly essayed, the characters do not traverse a journey , they merely play a part and fade, stories are left midway –the tenuous relationship between Gordon and the widow Jwala ends up in a soft love making sequence by the candle light… a la Parineeta.

Ketan Mehta’s treatment of women in Mangal Pandey is reduced to pulling crowds through extremely highlighted curvatures. Rani heaves and sighs in her backless choli, her talents wasted in a male dominated story line while Amisha does what she is best at- the sacrificial lamb act.

The only exception to this fledging piece is A for Aamir. Yes, he is struck back and struck back with a vengeance. Aamir fills up the screen with his presence. He tries to find the real Mangal Pandey, a sepoy who shot his senior official prompted by probable religious reasons in this highly ambitious project. Aamir portrays the struggle of a man caught between the job and the duty with aplomb. His intense expressions and his conviction lend credibility to the character. Also noteworthy is Toby Stephens as the warm and affable Gordon – a desired balance to the conflict ridden Mangal.

The dialogues fail to strike a chord. The legend of Bhagat Singh had Ajay Devgan telling an Indian police officer: “ Tum namak ka farz ada karo mein mitti ka karz ada karta hoon.” It gave us goose pimples. Mangal Pandey tells his English counterpart: “Aapne hamaari dosti dekhi hein aab aap hamara krodh dekhenge”. Run off the mill.

A R Rehman fails to create magic in this movie. Ketan’s The Rising may do roaring collections thanks to its marketing efforts but its actually Ketan’s falling as a filmmaker.

This Independence Day one would rather watch “Patel’.

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