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Rang De Basanti - The color saffron
Criticism from the FILMSTARTS editorial team
Rang De Basanti - The color saffron
By Christoph Petersen
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra uses all the typical stylistic devices of today's Bollywood cinema for his political drama "Rang De Basanti - The Color Saffron": The hip young characters all look like models and wear the coolest clothes, become as modern as possible with fast cuts and trendy music and presented in a desirable way. But “Rang De Basanti” does not tell a typical Bollywood love or family story. His youthful portrait, which is politically extremely consistent right up to the end, can best be traced back to Mani Ratnam's courageous terrorism drama “Dil Se ..” (1998) with megastar Shahrrukh Khan in the Compare main role. "Rang De Basanti" is an exciting thriller, poignant drama and the intense, rousing feedback from the MTV generation, long considered apolitical and uninspired.

The young London documentary filmmaker Sue (Alice Patten) has been working on a film about a little-known group of independence fighters in India in the 1920s and 1930s for two years. Dock shortly before the start of shooting, her producers get cold feet, suddenly saying that Ghandi is the only place to make money. So Sue sets off alone without her team to Delhi, where she is only supported in her project by the Indian student Sonia (Soha Ali Khan). The first auditions were catastrophic, the Indian youth no longer seem to have the slightest connection to the freedom struggles of their ancestors. But then Sue gets to know Sonia's friends: Even the daredevil DJ (Aamir Khan) and his buddies just live into the day, have no great personal or political ambitions - and yet Sue recognizes the heroes of that time in them.

The first rehearsals fail as well as the castings, DJ and his friends are just joking, they just don't take Sue's project seriously. But over time, the actors identify more and more with their roles and get an insight into what it meant to live in those times. When Sonia's fiancé Ajay (Madhavan) dies in a plane crash after the filming is finished because the government has enriched itself by buying inferior spare parts from Russia, the young people's political awareness is fully awakened. At first they demonstrate peacefully. But when they are beaten up on the orders of the corrupt defense minister and Ajay's mother (Waheed Rehman) is so badly injured that she falls into a coma, the college students take just as drastic measures as their ancestors did during the wars of freedom ...

The film is extremely clever at interweaving the stories of the rebels of that time and today's youth. During the first filming, the levels are completely separated from each other, first you see DJ and his friends, then excerpts from Sue's documentary - no wonder, the roles are so foreign to her apolitical actors that they simply recite the texts they have learned by heart. But later, when the college students slowly begin to understand their ancestors, the cuts between today's India and the saffron-colored film clips become faster and faster. When DJ becomes a rebel himself after Ajay's death, the levels initially even run parallel until they finally merge completely into one another. Anyway, director Mehra has chosen an extremely intelligent dramaturgy. By extending the period in which the young people indifferently and without illusion in their comfortable life, well over half of the film, it shows how quickly even normal people can get into the situation of having to fight for their convictions against the system.

The means that Mehra's characters use in his film are more than questionable in their bloody consistency - at least the question of whether they are still rebels or already terrorists is absolutely appropriate. But that is by design. Of course, Mehra does not want Indian youth to band together to hunt down corrupt politicians. But the extreme images and deeds at least encourage the viewer to think about the broken Indian system and his own responsibility towards it. First and foremost, this quality of the film is of course important for local moviegoers, but German viewers should also take this political fable seriously - because even if we are still quite good in international comparison when it comes to corruption, it is in certain areas Areas - just take the health system - definitely not to be underestimated.

At the beginning it is surprisingly difficult for the viewer to find their way into the film - but it is usually especially with Bollywood films that one is immediately drawn into them. But that's because at first all characters apart from Sue and Sonia behave like reckless, selfish idiots - with whom it is difficult to identify. But of course that is a necessary evil, since Mehra is interested in developing these characters. And as soon as they have recognized their responsibility to others, the film develops tremendous emotional power at lightning speed - so that one or the other tear should roll down at the powerful end. "Rang De Basanti" combines entertaining Bollywood cinema with an important message and great emotional impact - it can thus be described with a clear conscience as one of the strongest Indian films of recent years.
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