My immediate reaction to Rang de Basanti was severe disappointment. So swayed was I by its theme, the build-up of the first half, the immense potential of the story, I was bitter at its eventual derailment. I didn’t dislike it so much as disapproved. Strongly.
Some time has passed, and with it comes moderation. I must admit that my aversion to the experience hasn’t eclipsed the beauty of Prasoon Joshi’s poetry in the film. Fresh, vigorous, spontaneous and so very evocative.
Listening to the songs now makes me realise that the filmmakers were completely seduced by the idea of spilling blood. There simply had to be deaths, multiple deaths, massacres. They were convinced: young alpaayashoos, insane moths flying into the flames; flickering licks of fire roaring into tall flames, young vehshis feeding it with their own selves, offering everything they possess to make one glorious blaze.
abhi abhi hua yaqeen
ki aag hai mujh mein kahin
hui subaah, main jal gaya
suraj ko main nigal gaya
roobaroo roshni hai
I’m taken with the images in this piece. The bemused awakening, ‘ki aag hai mujhmein kahin’ is soon put in perspective – this is no ordinary fire in the belly, our young martyrs have swallowed the sun. And of course it will soon consume them:
aandhiyon se jaghad rahi hai lau meri
ab mashaalon si bhad rahi hai lau meri
ham lapakte saaye hai
ham sulagne aaye hai
ghar bata ke aaye hai
we have come to burn,
we have left word at home…
there is no turning back.
Sacrifice, the colour of blood, self-immolation are recurrent themes: jin mein ho junoon junoon woh boonde laal lahoo ki…. Had I heard these pieces with any attention before I saw the film, I wouldn’t have blinked at the bloodbath that ensued.
Aside: AR Rahman who simply gets more and more brilliant with each composition is also a man who knows precisely what he wants. Naresh Iyer, who sings Roobaroo with Rahman, was a contestant in Channel V’s Super Singer. Rahman was one of the judges on the show, and in a very amusing twist, dropped him from the contest and offered him this song. He didn’t sing well enough to make the cut, but he had exactly the voice the composer needed, so that’s that and what’s what.