Let’s say a friend of yours is desperate for funds. You could help him out in a number of ways – approaching a moneyed family member, perhaps, or looking out for a loan. Instead, you recruit a couple of buddies and hatch a plan to rob the local bank. Things go well, until they don’t. The cops land up. A shootout ensues. You’re hurt. Your buddies are inflicted with major bodily harm. Yet, you get the loot, and you give it to your friend. Mission accomplished. But it isn’t over. The cops, desperate to retrieve the money, threaten your loved ones, one of whom ends up dead. But it’s worth it, you think, because your friend has the funds he needed. He’s set. Your life – and the lives of your buddies – limps back to normal. And then you discover that your friend has decided to renounce all things worldly, head to the hills in search of answers. He donates the funds to charity, the funds you and those around you suffered so much to obtain for him. What would you do?
You’d be angry, of course, but there’s little that can be done about a decision someone else has made. Plus, no one arm-twisted you to rob a bank. That was your harebrained scheme, and you knew it entailed danger, and there’s no one to blame for the unfortunate turn of events but yourself. But if you’re the protagonist (Rishi, played by Jackky Bhagnani) of Priyadarshan’s Rangrezz, you blame the friend, and set about exacting revenge. You grab him by the collar and scream, “How dare you live your life the way you want, changing your mind about what you want?” The issue, here, isn’t funds but love – the friend wants to get married to this girl, and their families vehemently oppose the match. But the borderline-fascist implication that people have to abide by the decisions they make in life, and those decisions can never ever be rethought, is the same. It’s chilling that this generation – the one with the most freedom to change its mind, unlike earlier ones, where your life was pretty much determined for you by your parents – should see such a story.
I hated the Tamil original Naadodigal, but at least that film was set in a somewhat rustic milieu where such attitudes – towards friendship, towards love, towards life – could be expected. And you reasoned out the characters’ behaviour saying that their outrage was fuelled by the realisation that they’ve suffered so much for nothing. But instead of pursuing this very personal angle, the film got carried away with overarching messages about friendship, love, life. By the end, it was practically a manual of nauseating behavioural codes. The Hindi version, set in Mumbai, is even harder to digest, given Priyadarshan’s style of long-winded exposition, filled with clunky, idiomatic dialogue and hysterical melodrama. “Dosti ke liye mujhe yeh karna padega,” Rishi says, with smug self-righteousness, and you want to grab him by the collar and scream, “What kind of friend are you if you cannot understand that your friend has the right to lead his own life, and not the one you want him to lead?”
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