*Warning: Spoilers ahead*
But before that here is the story: A young British woman Sue (Alice Patten, daughter of ex-governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten) comes to India following her dream of making a documentary about the freedom fighters. She is inspired by her grandfather’s diary an old leathered book which she embraces from time to time. Her grandfather was one of the Police officers who saw the undaunting spirit of the freedom fighters first hand and sympathised (only in spirit) with them. But he is not like the others (read General Dyer and co) because he is only doing his duty much against his will. Anyways, after Sue’s funds have been cut off rather ruthlessly, she comes to India to make her documentary anyway. Her friend and contact Sonia (Soha Ali Khan Pataudi) helps her to audition students for the role but it is all in vain. On a trip to meet Sonia’s friends, Sue finds her screen freedoms fighters right within the friends group. And there begins a journey of filmmaking and discovery for the 5 friends. They find a voice, a purpose, a life, and one of them even finds love. But this utopian picture is rudely ruptured right after the interval as one of the jacket-wearing friends (Madhavan) gets killed while on duty as an Indian Air Force pilot because of the inexpensive and defective engine was bought from Russia. The Defence Minister (Dr. Mohan Agashe) covers his back by laying the blame on the efficiency of the pilot while the friends seethe in anger. On an impulse, they decide to kill the Defence Minister to get justice for their dear departed friend, influenced as they were by the actions of the freedom fighters. In the end, they realise their mistake but by then they are too late.
- One of the protagonists is 40 years old and almost looks it but plays a 25 year old and that is okay in Bollywood because he is one of the well known faces in the cast. Aamir himself was supposed to have raised some doubts about this incongrueity but he was waved off by the director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
- The youthful camaderie is captured well all through the film. I felt almost like an invisible member of their group.
- The parallels drawn between the freedom fighters and these 5 misguided youth were unnecessary but the crux of the movie used to explain the motivations of the characters. I find it a poor device. No amount of desh bhakti can cancel out the fact that taking a life is all right. Which is why they have to be sacrificed in the end.
- The director knows this generation well and that comes through in this movie. However, I find it a bit incongrous that only the Muslim friend Aslam is shown as belonging to a lower middle class background whereas the rest seem to be quite well off.
- Soha Ali Khan finally has something to be proud off. She just wasn’t fitting into the bikini-clad tenee wenee roles that were coming her way.
- However, Madhavan and Soha where like ebony and ivory. Their pair didn’t gel that well like the other pair of Alice and Aamir.
- Alice Patten is one actor to look out for. She knows what to do in front of the camera. I’m not surprised to know that she has done theatre before. In the version that I saw, she was speaking English till she landed in India and then suddenly started thinking in Hindi (we know it thanks to the voice overs), which was slightly bizarre because no matter how many languages you learn, you don’t start thinking in the respective language.
- Radio confessions make the airwaves since all other modes of communication are outmoded or just not convenient or quick enough. I would have thought TV would be apt but then I realised that radio is a better because of its reach and lack of visuals. While it was funny in Frasier, here it just turns tragic with the young guns (with guns) confess their righteous wrong to the entire country.
- Kiron Kher and Waheeda Rehman make some memorable cameos.
- The parallel plot with Lakshman Pandey (Atul Kulkarni) and Aslam (Kunal Kapoor) was a necessary digression.
- Atul Kulkarni gets my vote as the best actor of the entire film. Yes, you have heard me right. Very few actors give me the goosebumps and he is one of them. The scene where he says sorry is one of the few scenes that I can remember without effort.
- Can one forget the songs? Entirely hummable and melodious. Hats off to A.R. Rehman! Apni toh Pathshala, Ru Ba Ru, the rap Pathshala by Blaaze were so well woven into the story that I didn’t notice them at all. The score was almost perfect with songs that tugged at the heart strings. (How’s my Bollywood language coming along?)
- The cinematography was ooh la la simply superb with intriguing angles and a fresh perspective.
- I will defintely credit RDB with bringing words like Pathshala back into vogue.
- About fighting the system, I didn’t get what the message was. Was the message of the movie was “Go fight the sytem, but at your own risk” or “There is no comparison with our freedown fighters” or “Pick your battles” or “Fight your battles but don’t look at the outcome”?
So, while RDB is no classic and has no intentions of being one, you can go watch it for complete wholesome entertainment. It is definetly better than most movies coming out of the Bollywood film mill. The only sore point? I didn’t get to see Aamir Khan on a horse thanks to the animal rights controversy.