Readers Write In #190: On the spirit of Rangeela/Bombay…

Posted on May 25, 2020

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(by Aneesh J)

That free-flowing spirit of Aamir aided with Ramu’s love/lust for the Bombay film industry& Amitabh…

Hardly has any-body been able to capture the spirit of the Bombay film industry likeSai Paranjapein the ‘80s and then, Ramu in the ‘90s. Ramu’s ‘Rangeela’ especially stood out to me; since in December 2019, I visited Columbia studios in LA for 3 hours spending 200$, and got to know where the hotel-lobby scenes of ‘PRETTY WOMAN’ were shot; and more so, TITANIC, where, a gradient parking lot was used to shoot the entire drowning scenes in the Atlantic Ocean. My initial reactions were, “Are you effing kidding me?’? This is where Jack drowned?? What the hell!” The lady-guide who took me to that 3 hour-tour was obviously noticing my increasing problems. After the 3-hour tour, she said, “Let’s have a pint of beer.” Still disappointed, I said, ‘ya whatever’; and mentioned to her, “You know, with your tour, you just took the life; whatever was left, out of me – while you educated  me that the ‘TITANIC’ was never shot on the Atlantic, you also exposed me to the beauties of the studio-system in Hollywood, and in our own country, the salt of the Earth, and the smell of the studio.” And then, in 2020, we have our CV at the mercy of CV [Corona Virus] and nothing is going to be the same ever.Will I ever watch the US open again at the Arthur Ashe stadium? Will I take the D train on the sub-way again? Will I ever visit the free Shakespeare-plays again in Central Park? I don’t know: And there are far more important truths to life – our loved ones; the ones who are stuck alone. Here’s a brutal truth about loneliness; it will strike you at any age. And the so-called young are now being made to realize what the loneliness of parents mean. Don’t just deal with it; come out with solutions.

And recently, I was goaded into watching some songs/scenes of ‘Rangeela’ and kept wondering, ‘Goddamn, this man captured the spirit of the Bombay film industry without its life line; the local-trainsl and then it got me thinking, how farcical Mani Ratnam was in ‘Nayakan’ and ‘OK Kanmani.’ Budget? Logistics? Yes; I get it. But look at what Ramu accomplished! You see, since Bombay affects me personally, and Mani is so, so capable of making locations a part of the script, it was improbable for me, perhaps, to think of Mani not utilizing the actual locations of Bombay. And, I have read Mr. Rangans’s ‘Conversations with Mani Ratnam.’ Passing off Bombay as Bombay doesn’t work – for me at least. And now I have opened up a can of worms – what about Canada being passed off as District of Columbia or Maryland? I don’t think, I only write. Someday, I need to merge these two.

In RANGEELA, scene after scene, Ramu, a video-shop vendor from Andhra Pradesh, captures his love for the Bombay film-industry; wickedly, satirically, and in an extremely smart-manner.

Who would have thought, in 1995, there would be a Hindi film with a musical? And in Rangeela style? Who would have thought that the beginning credits would start with Prithviraj Kapoor and end with Amitabh Bachchan – Ramu’s obsession!? And then, he would mock the workings of very same industry, be it Mohanlal saying,’ Aise Hi Hello ke Bayaalis call ke record hai mere paas.’ in ‘Company’, or at Karan Johar, who proclaims at the launch of his film with a ‘Khan’, ‘This is not a love story, it is a love saga.

I feel, Ramu’s obsession with Amit and his Bombaiyya shenanaigans were long over-due. Urmila was named Mili. Why? Ramu never liked seeing Amit in sensitive roles! Why would he name Urmila ‘Mili?’

The most radical aspect of ‘Rangeela’ was how it was true to the flimsy nature of films and how true wasit to real life! In that scene when Aamir and Urmila practice ‘acting’, it was stunning to see Aamir ‘act’ – badly. Aamir was resplendent at bad acting! And do, carefully, look at what Urmila’s over-all says!

And then there’s Aamir’s reference to Amit’s act in KHUDDAR:Aur Insaan mar gaya.. Khuddar was in 1982. JBDY, a brilliant satire at that, was in 1983. Whatever you say, Naseer, in your biography, you, Kundan, and Vidhu owe this one to Amit: And each and every actorworking in Bombay needs to owe an allegiance to Amitabh as the greatest ‘ Bambayiyya tapori’ ever. Live with it!

And then there’s this song with Aamir looking as a poor P.T teacher, rather than a dancer: Face it, I am a big fan of Aamir but he was never ebullient enough like SRK, who, himself, had talent enough to go with the flow. But as Aamir fans, we were college-kids; un-requited love and all that crap – he hit us with his soul. In a so-called ‘thin’ film, Ramu hit us the hardest. He hit us because he was addressing us, the people, the ordinary folks. SATYA, and COMPANY will remain his greater accomplishments, but this one, a ‘light-heated’ film hit us most with ordinary dialogues.

Going back to where I mentioned Mani’s failure  in capturing the spirit of Bombay, look at this song. where Ramu captures the spirit of Bombay so beautifully: Look at the characters involved; the 6-sigma accomplished Dabbawallas, the guy who cleans the sewers, the drunkard, the guys who sleep on Marine Drive to be kicked out. And then there’s this one; Aamir recognizing that he cannot ever-reach Urmila, but then, Ramu subversively mocks every-one of those obsessed with Hollywood! In a single song, Ramu takes you from placing Urmila on a pedestal, to forts, to a horrifically-yellow foamed couch that can transport you from NYC’s Brooklyn Bridge to Chicago’s Wabash Ave, and then Chaplin’s Tramp; conveniently placed on an industrial location! This is ridiculous; but then so the industry; and so is life- as we are experiencing. Not only that, in this song, he managed to make the entire state of Tamil Nadu stop hating Mehmood! Who would have signed off on a song starting with ‘Ai Yai Yo.’! And released in Madras!!

Throughout, Ramu keeps the spirit of the film intact. In the previous song I mentioned, Aamir is dressed impeccably, but look at his tie. That is ‘RANGEELA.’ When you ‘see’ the film, it is important you notice Aamir’s dress-codes; if you could even call it that. Look at where he wears the yellow clothes on his ‘Happy Birthday’ and the clothes he wears in the songs. And this Rangeela was quite different from Dev’s Rangeela Re; Waheeda and Lata saved the day![ Really, who could provide grace to this line? [‘Aasoon ki saadi hai, dukh ki hai choli’]

And then there was the climax with Pakya; the entire theater went roaring withwolf-whistles when Urmila walks out of her film’s premiere-showand finally confesses her love for Aamir: On the one hand, there’s Jackie’s broken, tragedy-after-tragedy; and on the other, there’s Aamir confessing, ‘Aapun Tere Duniya mein nahin tik sakta Mili, aur itna bada dil nahin kisi doosre ke saath dekh sakta.’ But what to do Bhidu, we were studying in, what they call, the lawaaris departments of Mechanical/industrial & Production Engineering. No girls, no industry, and obviously any production happening. We understand you bro, but we had to go with Aamir.

And then, as kids, or college-kids, we only know Film-farce awards. In 1993, Aamir was deserving of the best actor for JJWS, but he was screwed-over to ‘honor’ Anil Kapoor when the entire world knew that Madhuri Dixit was the Bahu, Beti, and the MAN in Beta. Forget it. In 1995, we didn’t even want to watch that award-show, because we were sure, if you don’t give the best actor award to Aamir; ‘Saala Das ka Tees nahin, we would make your show 10 ka “Zero”! And that happened, the award was ‘awarded’ to Shah Rukh Khan for DDLJ! And then, I shocked! Shocked! The ‘award’ didn’t go to Aamir; and Ramu had already captured it in a scene; ‘Arre kaun Rakesh, ‘Khan’ ka Rakesh?’

Finally, this remains the one, and the only one association between Ramu and Aamir, and who knows, with the two being head-strong, what could/would they have achieved?

And on Rahman and the spirit of Rangeela, that requires a different piece, and I have already managed to put people so sleep..