Rangasthalam: An Interval To Remember

Director Sukumar writes the interval with a great deal of thoughtfulness, stretching it to ensure he has control over the mood of the audience, writes Vikhyath Sai.
Rangasthalam: An Interval To Remember

The one thing that separates Indian (mainstream) cinema from world cinema has to be the Interval Bang! As a matter of fact, many Indian films follow the 4-Act-Structure (which actually isn't a real thing), i.e, where the second act from the 3-Act-Structure is divided into two halves — The one before interval and The one after interval.

This trend of the 'Interval Bang', in my opinion, got popular with Suresh Krissna's 1995 film, Baasha starring Rajinikanth. Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma spoke about an incident in his book Naa Ishtam, which was released in the 'interval' of his career, with the first half being till Rakta Charitra. It's about his 2002 Hindi film Company. Here's a loose translation of his Telugu words: "Many distributors called and told me that people liked the first half very much, but they expected the second half to be filled with a lot of fight sequences. Since there weren't any, they were disappointed. I didn't understand why they had expected something like that. I never promised any such thing while promoting the film. I thought about it for a while and came to a conclusion. It happened because the background music in the interval sequence is too dramatic and somewhat loud…"

[Spoiler Alert]

The interval sequence of this film is when Chandu (Vivek Oberoi) and Malik (Ajay Devgn) have a misunderstanding and part ways. Chandu calls Malik and warns him, "Ab tak jo khoon is company ko banane mei laga na.. wohi khoon is company ko barbaad karne mei lagega.. Tu aur teri company khallas!" (The same blood which is used to build your company, shall now be used to destroy it. I shall see the end of you, and your company!) And then, the BGM takes over.

Varma felt that, audience might have expected an action-packed gang war, as cued by the score. He also mentioned that it would have been different had there been mellow music instead, with an instrument like the flute indicating the pathos in two good companions turning rivals.

So, it is understood that the mood of the audience, especially during the interval sequence, plays an important role in deciding a film's result. It is mainly because the audience gets a good 10 to 15  to think about the film and process what they have just watched. And, the scene before the interval stays fresh in their minds, as that is what they watched last. It isn't the case when there's no break in between, because there's no 'free' time to think about, or expect anything. Therefore, the interval is both a boon and a curse to Indian filmmakers.

Now, let me talk about a film that played the 'interval' game in a very different style, Sukumar's Rangasthalam.

[Spoiler Alert]

In every masala film that's about the problems faced due to an oppressor, there are a few obvious tropes. Two of them are:

  1. The oppressor (villain) does something bad to the lead's (hero's) family, or someone very close to him.
  2. The hero who didn't show us his rage so far, reacts now.

Rangasthalam is no exception.

In any other masala film, this would have been the interval bang. That was what I expected, since the formula is: Hero kills/hits the villain's main henchman in the interval (and later, kills the villain in the climax). But that was not what Sukumar did here.

He had a few more scenes after this. Chitti Babu (Ram Charan) gets arrested for what he did. Then, his brother, Kumar Babu (Aadhi Pinisetty) bails him out, and contests elections. The villain's almost defeated. There's this so-called warning scene, as well. This has to be the interval bang now, but again, that was not what Sukumar did. He had one more scene. Finally, INTERVAL.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is to control the mood of the audience. If the interval was after Seshu Naidu (Ajay Ghosh) was hit or even after the brothers entered the President's (Jagapathi Babu) residence with their footwear, the audience would expect a face-off between the brothers and the president, in the second half.

But that's not what the film is about. The film is resolved when Dakshina Murthy (Prakash Raj) is killed. And this shouldn't fall out of place. Which is why the film has its interval with an emphasis on Dakshina Murthy. Not only that, the film also opens with the sequence where Dakshina Murthy is hospitalised after an accident.

It's not always that we see this level of thoughtfulness going into the interval.

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