Here’s a confession! I watched this film a decade after its release. The cassette inlay card and posters cheated me to believe it is an adult film, which kids weren’t allowed to watch. The film wasn’t that frequent on TV either and one fine day, Filmfare gifted me its DVD. After multiple watches, Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela eventually became a very special film owing to various reasons. They follow, in that order!
Rangeela, for me, is Munna’s love story as I view the film through his eyes. I haven’t watched a more adorable male lead in a Hindi film ever since or ever before. Aamir Khan must have spearheaded heavy-duty projects like Lagaan and Rang De Basanti. Yet, Rangeela remains his most heartfelt performance to date. Loud, brash but equally vulnerable and insecure in matters of the heart, Aamir Khan wins you over with his splendid tapori act.
Varma doesn’t let his character come across as a whining loser. Munna is a guy who ends up questioning his self-worth. Munna is caring, values relations, is generally not-fuck-with-able, and gives a damn to the the world! Kudos to Aamir for pulling off those knitted vests, pink shirts and the cult yellow ensemble which even Ranveer Singh would’ve thought twice before wearing.
When Urmila set the temperatures soaring…
Urmila Matondkar made her first big splash with Rangeela. I am not sure how many will remember films prior to this (excluding Masoom, of course). We don’t even remember her name or her character traits as much as her aura in the film. I remember watching ‘Tanha Tanha’ on TV when nobody was around. Her spunk and the way she gyrated on the beach… these are moments that would go into annals of Bollywood history. In short, a star was born… to never look back. One glance at Jackie Shroff‘s face and you would know why!
Rahman’s arrival to rock the B-Town
Was there a more sensational Bollywood debut in that whole decade? I swear, this was one Bollywood soundtrack that I and most of the ’90s generation had helluva fun with as we grew up. There was this cassette tape that I played till it eventually broke. I had to purchase a new one in 1998 (ah, those days!) to keep the madness intact. Oh yes, the pictures on the inlay card continue to scandalize me, but thank you Manish Malhotra making history on the costume front.
Coming back to the soundtrack, every song stood the test of time. From Asha Bhosle’s spirited title track to Udit Narayan – Chitra’s energetic ‘Yaaron Sunlo Zara’, this album has something for everyone. Well, my current favourite is the deep ‘Pyaar Yeh Jaane Kaisa Hai’ for its profound fusion of melancholy and romance.
When Mumbai changes your fortunes overnight
In one of the most sparkling moments in the film, Mili is jumping with joy in front of Munna. She is sharing with him the news that she is about to be screen-tested for a big film opposite the reigning superstar Ram Kamal. For those who believe in fairy tales and also in the quality of Mumbai to make million dreams come true, this lovely little scene by the beach would work like fantasy.
For portraying cinema as just another profession
We are so used to Madhur Bhandarkar and the likes for showing our heroines as a disturbed, scarred lot. “Kaam par jaane keliye late ho rahi hai…” says Mili’s mother. We tend to think she is a sales girl or a regular office worker, but NO! Mili is a junior artiste who works in the industry she is passionate about. Her family doesn’t stop her from chasing her dreams. There aren’t accompanying mommas and uncles on the sets when she becomes a leading lady. Plus, the digs taken at film industry folks are neat.
The filmy family
I can’t describe how much I love the super-filmy Mr. Joshi (Achyut Potdar) and the ever supportive Mrs. Joshi (Reema Lagoo). The equation they share with their children is warm, but empowering and natural with their middle-class values intact. Even the younger brother Motilal (Suman) is a big roar with his constant bickering. An early predecessor of Dum Laga Ke Haisha’s Samar perhaps…
Friendships in Mumbai ghettos
Long before Gully Boy released and took everyone’s breath away by being a version of what they call poverty porn, Rangeela brought to us Munna and Pakya (Rajesh Joshi). It is clear that the young boys have grown up in the locality where they operate as black ticket sellers. Their lingo, their reflexes and their comfort level with each other suggest a close friendship that has stood the test of time.
Special appearances that weren’t forced
Shefali Shetty (now Shah) plays Gulbadan, who is this tantrum queen of a heroine who later marries her driver. Giving her company is her mother, played by Shammi. Gulbadan works for a seemingly passionate filmmaker Steven Kapoor, played with aplomb by Gulshan Grover. Then there is renowned choreographer Saroj Khan playing herself. We also have the young Aditya Narayan making an appearance in the title track lip syncing to his own song.
Mangta Hai Kya?
Now… this one deserves a special mention. I remember, as a kid, I used to get annoyed to the hilt when my brother played it on loop for days. I never quite understood the ‘point’ behind this song. Very quickly, it grew on me and this remains my most favourite Bollywood dance track till date. A R Rahman and Shweta Shetty’s energetic rendition add spice Mehboob’s Mumbaiyya-flavoured lyrics.
Rangeela, for me, is the finest Ram Gopal Verma film! The best frame in the entire film? This lovely ode to Varma’s favourite screen goddess:
Picture courtesy: Jhamu Sugandh, Varma Creations and my DVD
Author at Filmy Sasi