Sunday, August 14, 2005

Review: Mangal Pandey- The Rising

It has been one of the most awaited movies this year. But, after watching the movie the first thing that comes to your mind is whether this movie warranted so much hype. It is a really good movie but does the end product really require 2 years of labour (i.e excluding the other 2 years Aamir took for looking the part, the mooch, the hair etc.). Once you get out of the theatre, you replay a few scenes/parts of the movie in your mind but the overall package somehow doesn’t feel as special as Lagaan. I think a reviewer should never have preconceived notions about a movie- but come on, a movie from Aamir Khan after 4 years…you would definitely feel that this is going to be a mind blowing experience while you keenly munch on the popcorn when the first scene rolls out on the big screen.

Mangal Pandey was not a mind blowing experience but I felt that it is definitely worth watching. When I was in class 8, History was a subject that I loved despite the dull and boring NCERT history text books. I found it very interesting to know how different things were back then. The revolt of 1857 or our first war of independence sounded very silly to me then when I was a 12 year old. Cow and pig fat being used as grease for cartridges didn’t sound rebellion worthy. Moreover, I had a paan chewing history teacher who drenched you with her saliva. You are in her radar even if you are sitting in the third row. So my history classes on the first war of independence with ‘Jayalakshmi Miss’ were very forgettable. So the Revolt remained silly to me until yesterday.

There is a scene in the movie which made me understand why this war was so important to us. Mangal Pandey (Aamir Khan) lies on the hospital bed while Captain William Gordon (Toby Stephens) urges him to apologize to the British East India Company so that he could escape death row. Mangal Pandey smiles at the captain and explains to him that he was not sorry for anything he did and how he feels that his death could stoke the fire of millions in the country. Gordon responds to Pandey by telling him that losing so many lives over an issue that could be settled with reason is simply not worth it. Pandey then tells him that grease wasn’t the issue any more. An upper class Brahmin like him who thought that coming in contact with an untouchable sweeper was a sin felt like an untouchable in his own land. He could chew on those very same cartridges and wipe out the Brits if it could bring him independence. That scene, I felt was soul stirring and aptly summarized the entire revolt, something no one ever did in my high school. But, the problem with MP is that such scenes are very far flung for a film whose theme is patriotism.

The performances in the movie were superlative. Toby Stephens played the part of a person torn apart between two different cultures extremely well. He speaks hindi so much better than some of the people who speak an anglicized variation of hindi nowadays. Aamir Khan breathes fire in every frame of the movie. I thought his voice did not match the intensity of his physical demeanour. The bonding sequences between Aamir and Toby seem to be forced. Rani Mukherjea’s role as a nauch girl was very limited. The character was not given enough importance. It felt like they included the character just to have a romantic angle to the story and shoot a bunch of songs on the lead pair. Talking about songs, I felt all the songs were introduced at very inappropriate moments. Just when the pace is picking up and when you feel completely entrenched in the movie, the cast starts dancing to ARR’s melodies out of the blue. A bunch of jokers sitting on top of an elephant breaking into a song every half an hour was also very irritating. I really didn’t know why the director Ketan Mehta had to incorporate an item number in the movie. It simply jars the movie’s narrative. Amisha Patel has very little to do in this movie. She plays the role of a Sati Maatha- a woman who is about to be burnt alive along with her husband in his funeral pyre. It was shocking to see that the widow’s eyes were glazed as she was high on opium while they make her sit in the funeral pyre. She doesn’t realize what is happening around her until they set fire to the body. That was an interesting detail which finally answered my question of- “Why on earth didn’t women just run away from the pyre?” Capt. William Gordon quite predictably saves her and another love story blooms. Ms. Patel has 4 scenes in this 3 and a half hour saga. I couldn’t identify anyone from the supporting cast but all of them acted decently well.

A.R.Rehman is brilliant. I liked all the songs in the movie. The movie literally transports you to 1857, the costumes and sets in the movie are authentic. I felt the editing was not up to the mark in the movie. The movie didn’t flow very well. It was awesome in parts but collectively didn’t manage to work. The idea of having a Hindi voice over when the characters spoke in English was novel. You get to hear the English dialogues; they don’t mute the English dialogues and start the voice over. Om Puri’s voice was really good and his voice over would have definitely been appreciated by the non-English speakers. I am sure there will be inevitable comparisons with Big B’s voice over in Lagaan.

Overall a good movie. Even though it doesn’t quite match the expectations that I had, it is still worth a watch.


Blogger karthik durvasula said...

Don't u think we have painted the brits as the bad guys for far too long?

How come we don't see similar movies about ghori, or some of the mughals (i have aurangazeb in mind)?

As i see it, the brits have become punching bags, much like the germans after WWII. All war movies were about how the Allies triumphed. None cared to show them as human beings with a passion (for whatever crooked purpose).

Same goes for the brits in india. The immense organisation that has to go into controlling around 200 million (was around 300 around 1947). Mind u, the brits themselves had a small contingent - around 100k-200k. Now, think about it! doesn't that require organisation at the highest level.

can't we for once get out of this stupid patriotic fervour and see that there was a lot to appreciate in those 'assholes'?

Another thing, we call communalism, casteism, regionalism... bad - cos they are supposed to be segregating factors. Then by the same yardstick, isn't nationalism/patriotism bad too? we are being segregated from the rest of the world. For fancifulness, i wanna raise the point that, tagore, whose works drip:) with both art and rationalism, was extremely disappointed that the fight against the british had become a nationalistic one.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

Good review :)
@Karthik: As for making movies of all those Mughal n Persian invasions --Most of these invasions(tho not all) dealt with destroying Hindu temples as that was where the gold was stored in those days. Don't know if you read Tamil but if there is a translation available do read Cartoonist Madhan's "VandhargaL VendRargaL'. It is a very good account of these invasions and the atrocities as well as the good that came of it.
And to think Prithviraj wouldn't have been slained if his father-in-law had come to his aid and not stayed at home to take revenge for Prithvi eloping with his daughter...u feel like killing that old man.

IMHO, once these movies are made there will always be a section which would find some reason in it to start a communal flare...History would again be lost.
But i may be wrong :)

11:08 AM  
Blogger majanx said...

Good review, dwag.

"...similar movies about ghori, or some of the mughals...aurangazeb..." - Karthik
I am sure we'll never be seeing movies on them for two reasons.

First reason: They eventually became rulers of India, and as a result Indians themselves (you dont want Indian movie-makers to potray great Indian rulers as villians and tyrans. whos gonna buy that, not me. lol).

Second reason: A certain community in India looks upto to them as ones who laid the foundation of a particular religion. Potraying them as villians will hurt this particular community's sentiments.

"...a section which would find some reason in it to start a communal flare..." - Kumari
Exactly what I meant. I totally agree with that.

5:22 AM  
Blogger majanx said...

But hey karth...
dont you think it was terribly cheeky of Amir Khan and Co. to make film on the mutiny, get a famous brit to play the baddy, get the UK Film Council to provide for huge amounts of the moolah, and then, if that was not enought, show it to the brits themselves even before we indians could see it (it was released in the UK before it did in India) ooh, its sooo bad, its goooood :))

and guys, guess what? See how our colonial masters are reacting to the film. check out the link below.

Parts of it are outrageous! Parts like "...the reality was that no greased cartridges were ever issued...", "...Mutiny was caused because the British were..too lenient, rather than too severe towards their (Indian) soldiers", and many more! LOL!

The brits should be happy with the fact that we Indians dont keep asking for a public apology for all their s*** on every possible oppertunity. Unlike China, which is hell bent on smacking the peace out of every Japanese citizen untill it gets a compensation for all their colonial crimes.

Poor Brits, poor mo**ing brits. They need to get a life, and pronto!

-Peace Out-

9:06 AM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

Asking for apology frmo a generation that didn't commit the crimes is stupid. It is like punishing u for ur father's crimes. or asking me to say sorry cos my dad killed someone. Yes, u might have reaped the rewards of his actions, but that still doesn't mean u apologise for it - the apology has no meaning.

the point of financial compensation is an entirely different one, and i agree it should be done.

as for the mughals/the rest of the muslim invaders - a couple of u have said that it would hurt the sentiment of a certain proportion of the population - if it does it is cos they are biased. the truth should not be offensive to anyone. and if we are scared to portray it cos people will be offended, then imagine our history textbooks, they will have nothing in them! (which might not be such a bad idea) - basically, with such actions, we will be nurturing a population without tolerance - by not exposing them to the truth.

If the fight is against inhumanity, i dunno what would happen in portraying the truth - as said, communal/sectarian riots will always be there.

The only reason for the 'anti-brit' movies we see is that they have become punching-bags.

That brings us to the point mayank referred to and is very important, we couldn't stave off (if u call after 300 years, staving off) any one except the brits - so basically, that is the only place we actually routed the outsider. that might be a real reason for all these stupid movies. Cos we can't show ourselves to be winning horses in anything/any other fight - we seek security in the few vicotries we've had.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think a commercial movie with a leading bollywood hero is made for the director to be brutally honest. If the movie is about the British being jolly good fellows will the movie sell? Now that was talking purely on a commercial stand point.

I know the focus of the discussion is that its not really fair on our part to blame the Brits for something that has been done generations ago. But was this movie released solely to blame the current generation of Britons? This movie was released for making money and in the process teach Indians some history.

"- we seek security in the few vicotries we've had." Obviously we cant walk up to people and say "Hey dude we are useless, come hump us any time." Come on we ought to have such movies that can increase an average joe's self respect. Patriotism might be the fervour of fools. But patriotism I feel will provide hope to the lesser fortunate. What has patriotism got to do with hope? Its just that I feel that MY country should move forward and if these kind of movies help me entertain such thoughts I AM ALL FOR IT.I really dont feel for the punching bags I am happy that they serve their purpose.

1:13 PM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

ok, i had no intention in posting a reply to anon's post (from MA, USA, i am told by my sources). but, kumar's 'friendly poke' about my getting screwed by this chap have encouraged me to say a little something about the issue:). yes, vanity, it is.

ok, that done. let's start. first of all, Anon and I are on diff pages of the patriotism issue. He says go for it, and i say it is stupid. So, I can't really argue with his logic for the rest of the post which i thought was entirely consistent (with his views on patriotism).

however, i do wish to discuss another point that i referred to in my last post. The issue of patriotism itself.

As anon sees it 'he is for it', but i think he a fails to answer why patriotism is any different from communalism. A religious fanatic could say the same crap about his religion, and any patriot has no right (morally) to question/cast aspersions on the communalist - logically, both of them indulge in the same irrational fervent bias.

Having said that, I wish to come back to the main point that a show of (false) patriotism in films does not help anybody. especially patriotism that is targeted by half-truths.

You wanna make people proud, make them proud of our whole ancestry, both good and bad. if u show them what is only the 'good' side, then u aren't really making them proud u are forcing on them the view that we were a great country - which is soemthing they have to conclude on their very own.

In the end, such sad shows of (false) patriotism help nobody. they make people, as i said, people devoid of tolerance. So, in essence, u are treating the symptoms, not the cause of the illness that is rampant in our country - an absence of pride.

8:56 AM  
Blogger majanx said...

"...apology frmo a generation that didn't commit the crimes is stupid..." - karthik
u obviously havent heard of the term Political-Apologies. Go check out
It's a search engine for all Political-Apologies recorded. U'll find that the rest of the world doesn't find them stupid after all. I myself would be millionth of a percent happier if the queen apologised for the crimes.

"...our history textbooks, they will have nothing in them!..." - karthik
Our history books already dont have much, just to please a certain portions population. And when a certain Dr. M.M. Joshi wants to 'correct' them, he's termed communal.

"...we seek security in the few vicotries we've had" - karthik
U seem to have forgotten that we had more wars (and victories) with Pakistan than any other country. So your arguement about 'few victories' is automatically wrong. And no other country has been a more favourite punching bag of bollywood than Pakistan. So, do u think all those movies were also 'stupid'. And if yes, is THE-RISING as stupid when compared with them.

"...and I are on diff pages of the patriotism issue." - karthik
If a movie on the first war of indian independence does not ruffle your patriotic feathers, i wonder which page of patriotism u are on.

"...a show of (false) patriotism in films...sad shows of (false) patriotism..." - karthik
huh?!! what was that?!! A movie on the 1st war of indian independence is a 'false' show of patriotism??? so, what the movie depicts did not actually happen? or is the theme not strong enough to generate patriotism. just why 'false'?

"...illness that is rampant in our country - an absence of pride" - karthik
Exactly dude! I totally agree with u there for once. That's why these movies are required once in a while, to remind us of ourselves (even though they are not meant for that; they are cash-cows in reality). and this tactic is employed not only in bollywood, but everywhere. and its pretty effective, i personally believe.

so to conclude...
@ karthik : just shut the f@&$ up, and no more crap from u. OK?
@ mayank: ooh thanx for bringing peace on this world. we will never forget u. u are our favourite blogger. what would be blogging w/o u. i love u mayank. special thanx for wippin' karthiks behind. LOL!!! (oh dude, ur so gonna hump my happiness ;-))
@ dwag: dude write something new and fast! this arguement's gone far enuff.
@ rest of commentators: thanx for making this world a better place with your invaluable contributions.
@ jobless public: show's over. time to go home. c'mon, off u go.

4:23 PM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

mayank, i have 5 mins before i leave the house for the airport:), so i will keep this very short.

"your arguement about 'few victories' is automatically wrong"

u quoted the above with reference to Pakistan. Sorry to say u don't know ur history. Go and read the 'simla agreement' and then decide if we won the war or lost it.

i see empty rhetoric in ur post. and most of it exactly what i was objecting to - irrational thought/bias.

I will post in more detail when i reach america.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Sanketh said...

I think it is the mush that screwed the movie. Amir Khan shd've stuck to the good judgment that he showed in Lagaan. :)

And bacha log don't get too emotional about the patriotism thing. It is total time pass. I've seen a million arguments on this and I know there clearly isn't a definite answer.

Somehow I feel this is one more redundant emotion that the world can do without. :)

11:31 PM  
Blogger PS said...

Seriously guys, I don't think this movie merits such arguments.

It is a business venture, made to make money... I don't think the makers were particularly patriotic, or looking to start a debate on anything...

1:57 AM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

dude!! what was that about!! ur latest post (that u subsequently remove)! it freaked me out man.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aaaah! all these arguments mean more visitors to kaaka's (dog) page! please stop stoking his ego.

11:18 PM  
Blogger karthik durvasula said...

dude, post the new one. getting bored with MR. Pandey and the Khans.

10:33 AM  

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