Director: Venky Atluri
Cast: Nithiin, Keerthy Suresh, Vennela Kishore
Imagine two siblings. The older one gets all the love and attention from everybody until the younger one arrives. Then, all of a sudden, things take a dramatic turn at the sight of the newborn baby. The older one doesn't get neglected altogether. He'll still be looked after and given food and milk and water, and even called upon by his friends and family to play a few games. But the younger one draws more eyeballs now because that's how human nature works.
In Rang De, Arjun (Nithiin) and Anu (Keerthy Suresh) aren't siblings, but their situation falls into the same category. When the film opens, Arjun is a young boy who gets his cheeks pulled by the people he's surrounded regularly – this is also a metaphor. He lives in a bubble and he's always showered with toys. He wishes, however, to blithely while away the time with a girl of his age. He doesn't get bored of being the center of attraction; he just wants to talk to a person he can run around with, for a change.
With Anu's entry, he feels the earth, under his feet, shift. That's not what he asked for. They are both little kids, but since she's a newcomer in the neighborhood, people welcome her more with open arms. This naturally irritates Arjun and the introductory scenes that are dipped in the bottle of wry humor make this point pretty clear.
Their minds get occupied by different versions of each other as they grow up. Likewise, their feelings and aspirations do not sit on the same couch. As is the case with mainstream Telugu cinema, the leading man is a happy-go-lucky fellow, who joins an engineering college to make friends and spend his money on alcoholic drinks, and the leading woman is an overachiever.
She's smart and shares her Cadbury's with him, but he's cunning and always looking for an opportunity to get ahead of her in life. She considers him to be her confidant, whereas he thinks of her as an enemy that he needs to get rid of. Some of these elements, in varying combinations, were present in Race Gurram (2013), too. But, there, the sentiment was about sibling-rivalry. The younger sibling (played by Allu Arjun) was jealous of the benchmark set by his older brother (played by Shaam), so he tried to sabotage the latter's career. And, in this film, the protagonists end up as a married couple, even though Arjun hates the very idea of being involved with her in a legal capacity.
Rang De has laugh-out-loud comedy as it features Suhas, Abhinav Gomatam, Brahmaji, Vennela Kishore, and Naresh. The supporting actors are more like ants who gravitate towards a sweet dish (the hero). In fact, in the scenes where Arjun is absent, Anu is given the chance to talk about her love for him. And these places serve as the setting for action segments. Director Venky Atluri rolls out the red carpet for the hero to save the day.
If a hero takes a deep breath and utters a punch-line before he starts to punch extras, it's an action film. And if he makes the bad boys cry while targeting them for misbehaving with women, it's a rom-com. These clichéd situations – and the ensuing action scenes – aren't novel. We have been seeing them for decades now and they really don't add any meaning to the narrative.
There are two lip-smacking scenes that I savored, nevertheless, in Rang De, which came out of the blue and knocked me out. One is where Anu tells her mom (played by Rohini) that she doesn't have to listen to her when it comes to the matters of education and marriage as it's her life, and the other scene is set in a dining hall in Dubai.
When young women rebel against their parents, they do it with tears in their eyes. They ask for permission and blessings in Indian cinema. But Anu does none of that. Her desire to study with Arjun in a foreign land is stronger than her mother's stubbornness. Their strains of argument play out wonderfully with both of them shouting at the top of their voices and it's undoubtedly the best chunk of the story. If Atluri wanted to be cheeky, he could have made Anu ask her mother why she's getting worked up about her wedding alone when a man of her age is being sent to another country with pats on his back.
And in the dining hall scene, Anu throws a glass of water on Arjun's face while having dinner as he makes fun of her eating habits. She tells him to ask his mother, or sister, about food cravings during pregnancy and walks out of the room, as more than half a dozen people exchange confused stares. These are essentially the kinds of conversations that rom-coms should focus on instead of making the heroes flex their muscles every now and again.
Rang De doesn't take a politically – and a morally – correct stand in many places. Some of the decisions taken by the leads are definitely questionable. But it offers a funny space to its leads to grapple with the gears of a wobbly relationship.