Rang de Basanti (Color it Saffron) is directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, and features Aamir Khan, Soha Ali Khan, Madhavan, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth Narayan, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni and British actress Alice Patten in the leading roles. The film begins with the story of a young British woman, Sue (Alice Patten), an employee of the BBC. Through numerous flashbacks, we learn that Sue’s grandfather served as a guard in the jail where Indian independence freedom fighter, Bhaghat Singh and his compatriots were imprisoned. From her grandfather's diary, Sue learns about the heroic actions of the young men, their bravery under torture, and their willingness to die for their country. Inspired by their story, Sue urges the BBC to fund a docu- drama based on the diary. When rejected, Sue travels to India to shoot the film herself (despite a lack of funds) with the help of her friend, Sonia. The film proves almost impossible to cast initially, and Sue is frustrated that India's youth have become so disinterested in their heritage and history.However, four of Sonia's college friends reluctantly agree to be cast in the roles: DJ, the hip & Westernized leader of the group, Karan, the son of a wealthy businessman, Aslam, a young man who is caught between his college's modern culture and the teachings of his devoutly Muslim family; and Sukhi, an innocent and impressionable boy. (A fifth man, the devoutly Hindu Laxman, is later cast-- and sparks ensue between himself and Aslam). As the young men grow closer in the making and researching of the film, they begin to realize that the issues of government corruption Bhaghat Singh faced in his time are not so far- removed from their own...
Westerners may find some difficulty in adjusting to the quirky, 180 degree turns of Rang de Basanti. As with all Bollywood movies, the serious and profound tends to be mixed in with abrupt, sometimes comic music video- like performances that may seem irrelevant to the plot for more linear Western movie goers. However the theme of Rang de Basanti itself is one not limited by culture, and obvious parallels exist between the youth in the movie and the youth of today in any country.
Without being condemning or preachy, the film excellently portrays the quiet desperation and lack of purpose of the students, mixed in with moments of humor. Each in their own way and their own different backgrounds they are all overgrown children, without the responsibility and purpose of the previous generations-- trying to find a purpose and cause. In a well acted, almost touching scene between Patton and Khan, DJ, through half closed, tired eyes, admits to having stayed in college over four years to avoid the responsibilities and drudging routines of the real world.
Sue relates, "As I watched DJ sleep that night, a funny thought occurred to me. Maybe DJ wasn't sleeping. Maybe none of them were. Maybe they were all waking up." And indeed, the students' "waking up" is profound and inspiring in their discovery of actual individual accountability, patriotism and ideals-- and striking in its consequences.
An added bonus is the music, especially the catchy, almost addictive title song that mixes elements of Punjabi music with rock and modern Bollywood.
Admittedly, this movie is not for politically correct and government-loving individuals. From a politically correct view some elements of the movie could be viewed as extreme and terroristic. For those who are open-minded, however, and willing to try something different, and want to have some hope for the future generations of any country, watch Rang de Basanti.