Vishal Bhardwaj films have a distinctive flavour when it comes to romance, loyalty and patriotism. After adapting some of the smartest works of Shakespeare into acclaimed Bollywood films, the auteur is back with a war-time period romance Rangoon. Set in the times of second world war, when British were losing their grip in India and Japan was eyeing an opportunity collaborating with INA, Rangoon is a love story filled with tantrums, vulnerabilities and liberation.
The story is of Julia (Kangana Ranaut) who is hopelessly in love with her married producer Rusi (Saif Ali Khan). Rusi is possessive about her so much that he calls Julia his creation and can go to any limits to claim his 'property'. After much persuasion, Julia is sent to Burma to motivate and 'entertain' Queen's Army where she falls in love with Jamadar Nawab Malik. Now opens a horizon of deception, lies, innocence, liberation and self-discovery.
Unlike Vishal Bhardwaj's previous stories, Rangoon relies less on metaphors and more on visuals. The plot is more straight and symbolism is less. However, Bhardwaj has taken full liberty of his art and has very cleverly targeted the paparazzi culture, ignorance of the elite, perception of a woman, corruption and patriotism, all wrapped within a love story. If this is not a genius, we don't know what is. The human emotions in the film are the highlight. The tantrums of Julia, the way she befriends a Japanese soldier and both find brief solace in each other's story without understanding the language, the stern yet emotional core of POW Nawab Malik, the obsessive love of Rusi and the vulnerability of every character has been portrayed impeccably.
Kangana Ranaut brings a dimension of emotions and expressions with her. She is the star of the film. Filling the plot holes and covering the glitches, Rangoon belongs to Ranaut and her natural act of a confused lover. Shahid Kapoor is brilliant as Jamadar Nawab Malik, a man with a mission. He is restrained, strict and stern but the moment Julia is in front of him he risks everything. He is a passionate lover and sees every flaw of Julia as her strength. Saif Ali Khan, unfortunately, has nothing much to offer in comparison to the other two actors. While Saif gave his career's best performance as Langda Tyagi in Bhardwaj's Omkara, Rangoon fails to embrace the actor in him. Though his character had a lot of layers and potential, Saif is fairly average as a rich, jilted lover.
The music of Rangoon is the soul of the film. Vishal Bhardwaj once again weaves magic with Gulzar's words. Every song from Tippa to Alvida and even a peppy Mere Miyaa Gaye England has a purpose and it comes out so. The film has been shot in few of the most beautiful and authentic locations, making it a delight to watch. The film has been shot so aesthetically that colours of two different worlds blend into the frame perfectly.
Now talking about the flaws, the film's length makes it a little tedious for any Non- Bhardwaj fan. Crisp editing would have easily cut 20 mins of the film. The VFX used by the makers is also cringe-worthy and spoil the effect of the climax.
Overall, Rangoon is not Vishal Bhardwaj's most glorious of works but it has its own strengths. It is one of his most simple yet engaging stories that show you many colors and layers without actually deviating from the main plot.
Rangoon deserves a watch for its smart sub-plot, Kangana-Shahid's titillating chemistry and of course, Kangana Ranaut's vulnerability as a popular actress turned liberated lover Julia.