Every so often Bollywood produces a rare gem like Rang De Basanti, a film that breaks the mould by offering something more sophisticated than the standard musical melodrama. Directed by Rakeysh Mehra and featuring Brit Alice Patten opposite Indian superstar Aamir Khan, it tells the story of an English filmmaker who travels to the sub-continent to make a documentary about the freedom fighters mentioned in her grandfather's memoirs. An entertaining mix of romance, history and social commentary, this quality production takes Hindi cinema in a fresh direction.
When helmer Sue McKinley (Alice Patten) recruits Delhi student DJ (Khan) and his pals to play the roles of revolutionaries whom her grandfather encountered as a police officer during India's pre-independence era, she's perplexed by their lack of interest. Beer, babes and US visas seem to be more important to the MTV generation than their country's colonial past. It's only when the status quo is shaken by an unfortunate incident that patriotic feelings and angst begin to stir within the group, leaving the audience to draw parallels between the struggle against yesteryear's Raj and the fight with today's corrupt rulers.
"FLITS SMOOTHLY FROM PAST TO PRESENT"
Successfully weaving historical facts with contemporary themes and characters, it's thanks to Mehra's smart writing and direction that you are instantly drawn into Rang De Basanti's absorbing plot, which flits smoothly from past to present. While Khan is on usual form, it's Patten who earns top points as the amiable foreigner who amuses the locals with her excellent command of Hindi. But it's the strong performances from the ensemble cast that impress foremost, all of whom are totally convincing as disillusioned youngsters learning the importance of personal sacrifice. Accomplished and universally appealing, this is the way Bollywood films should be made.