Rangoon Review (No SPOILERS): The Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figure Version of an Actual Good Movie

This movie looks sooooooooo pretty.  And perfect.  And it kind of reminds you in a vague way of an actual good film.  But, at the center of it, there’s nothing.  It’s just wax, no heart.

Remember Bombay Velvet?  That movie which made you want to pry your eyes out before being subjected to one more second of this confusion and misery?  Okay, it’s not THAT bad.  But it’s close.  Somewhere between Fitoor and Bombay Velvet, but closer to Bombay Velvet.  Also, very similar to Bajirao Mastani.  If you liked that, you might like this (I did NOT like Bajirao).

It’s hard to realize how bad this movie is, because it is also so good.  Every frame is gorgeous, every song is magical, every performances is brilliant.  But it’s all in service of a big fat nothing.

Why am I even watching this movie?  I don’t mean the marketing campaign which drove me to the theater, and the big names that I am interested seeing on screen, and all of that.  I mean, what is the benefit to my life of giving up 3 hours to this film?  What will I learn from it, what will it inspire within me, what joy will it give to my life?  And……ZERO! ZIP! ZILCH!!!!  I don’t need another movie about attractive people in period costumes swooning around a war zone talking about Twu Luv.  Blech!!!

What message there is (besides Twu Luv) is all patriotic and about the need for India to be independent and the subtle cruelties of the British etc. etc.  Which is a vital and revolutionary message IN NINETEEN FORTY-THREE!!!!!!!  But why am I watching it now, in 2017, when there are so many many other messages I would rather see?

And it’s not just the one message about the British and stuff that has come to us perfectly preserved from 1943, there’s also a little message about untouchability, about women choosing love over money, about cruel wealthy collaborators abusing women, even about opium.

I don’t know why this bothers me so much, I mean, there’s plenty of movies about the Independence movement and they don’t bother me.  1942: A Love Story is one of my all time favorite films!  Maybe it’s because this movie feels like Bhardwaj bought into his own hype a little?  Like he lost track of the fact that he wasn’t actually making an anti-British movement which could help the war effort?  Or just lost track of his audience entirely?

(Or maybe it’s because I believed these actors were actually feeling something onscreen instead of just acting like they were feeling something?)

The movie kind of never looked me in my eyes, if that makes sense.  It was always so caught up in its own head that it never thought about what it might mean to someone else.   A very narcissistic film.

And maybe, in the head of Bhardwaj/the film itself, all of the pieces fit together and made sense.  But for me, not so much.  There was something about the film industry and acting versus reality.  And the justification for the INA (that part worked much better for me here than in Indian).  And a really really great evil British general character (sample dialogue: “I’m white, I’m always right.”).  And lots and lots of stuff about Love-with-a-capital-L.  But the film never seemed to choose one idea over the other, and also never seemed to fully figure out how these things came together.

And whenever it came close to figuring it out, we would just get another song!  SO MANY SONGS!!!!  And I love me some song sequences, but these were just odd.  Like, Moulin Rouge odd.  Or light operetta.  They would be talking, and suddenly start singing.  Who does that?

And then later we had to sit through soooooooooooooooo many stage performances from Kangana.  Which is nobody’s strong suit, Kangana or Bhardwaj.  The visuals are pretty, but the choreography is repetitive, and the dancing isn’t that graceful. The songs aren’t that great either.  Like, the sound of them.  I know Bhardwaj does his own composing usually, and I think he may have over-extended himself in this film.  There were a couple of really great songs, and also a fair number of real duds.


And Shahid doesn’t even dance!  Because he can’t, because that would mean his character has layers.  He has to stay serious and intense, and Kangana has to stay baby-ish and innocent, and Saif has to stay…Huh!  Saif is the most interesting character.  You know why?  Because he changes over the course of the film, he grows.  Shahid is a soldier, Kangana is lovesick, but Saif actually changes.


Maybe if this movie had Saif as the hero it would actually work?  Maybe this movie does have Saif as the hero and I just didn’t realize it?  Maybe I should make myself re-watch it and see if it is any better the second time around?  Naaaaaah.  Price is too high to pay.

(I’ll just watch this again, the superior Shahid period piece with a filmi background)

16 thoughts on “Rangoon Review (No SPOILERS): The Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figure Version of an Actual Good Movie

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday Shahid Kapoor! 22 Reasons I Love You – dontcallitbollywood

  2. Is Shahid secretly working for INA? I got that feeling from the trailer where he talks about willing to die for a cause greater than himself.As for the songs, it’s the same in all the Vishal Bharadwaj movies.One or two great songs and the rest of the album full of mediocre songs.The song Yeh Ishq hai was obviously earmarked for Rekha. Even though Arjit’s version was used in all the promotions, it felt like he was imitating Rekha.


    • Spoiler review going up soon, but you may be right 🙂

      Now you’ve made me think about Vishal soundtracks. Kaminey is the only one I really really love, and that only had 3 songs I think? So maybe for once he restrained himself and kept it down to only the really really good ones.


      • I love the soundtrack to Haider and have it plus the background score in my iTunes.

        I’ve listened to the Rangoon songs on Saavn and only like Alvida and the female version of Yeh Ishq Hai.

        I like the Phillauri songs 🙂


  3. Pingback: Rangoon Review (SPOILERS): Every Five Minutes is Another “OH COME ON!!!” Moment – dontcallitbollywood

  4. I kinda agree with most of your points. Vishal Bhardwaj composing for his own films has always been a factor in his favour, I think, but nothing really stood out to me in Rangoon. The impact that the ending should have had was lessened too.
    Towards the end, I had an interesting thought about whether Saif and Shahid should have exchanged roles. Still trying to mull it over.


    • I loved Saif’s performance, but I wish his character had been different, if that makes sense. Saif added on this complexity and guilt and all kinds of things, but for most of the film he was cast as the simple villain versus Shahid’s hero in a very black and white way. So I don’t know if I would want them to trade places exactly, but I would want more of that “hero” gloss on Shahid to have been given to Saif, and more of Saif’s grey tones to be given to Shahid.

      Early in the film, I had hope that Saif was a secret revolutionary and was just pretending to go along with this whole entertain the troops scheme. That would have been really interesting, the lowly soldier and the wealthy film producer fighting on the same side and in love with the same woman.


      • Saif being a wild card would have been a nice direction to take it, with a proper setup, of course!
        I was wondering if you’re planning on a review of Haider, if an occasion comes by? I remember searching for it and coming up empty. 😅


        • Still haven’t seen Haider 😦 See, it came out opposite Bang Bang, and I looooooove Bang Bang, so every time I went to see Haider I just saw Bang Bang instead. And now every time I think about streaming Haider, it just makes me want to watch Bang Bang.


  5. Pingback: Shahid Day Almost Done! Rangoon, My Least Favorite Shahid Film | dontcallitbollywood

  6. Pingback: Happy Birthday Shahid Kapoor! Two Dozen Reasons I Love You! | dontcallitbollywood

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