Readers Write In #267: “Kya karein kya na karein” (Rangeela) : More than a helpless lover’s song

Posted on September 10, 2020

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(by Ankit Sinha)

Film songs work best when a song says the unsaid, when it fills up for the limits of ordinary conversation. And Munna finds himself the epitome of this conundrum. At the beginning of the song, he berates himself in the effect of alcohol for his lack of courage, and soon people from a building nearby join him in his misery – it’s a wonderful way of setting up a song, as if everyone were leaving their petty worries behind to join the heartbroken in his misery, and it is also testament to Munna’s very nature – that he can speak without fear to a whole group of people, but cannot say what he wants to that one person who matters.

We see this conflict in the opening of the song – the dancers circle him like shadows as Munna sits worried with his head in his hand. This move ends in a way that is again true to Munna’s character – the brash Munna doesn’t like to wallow in pain, and as the dancers get the closest to him, he tosses his head up with a bam. Munna stands up, coming back to his tapori self, and begins singing by smashing a bottle of booze on the street.

The song, which is supposed to be a wistful number about the helplessness of a lover, ends up taking shape in Munna’s lingo and macho manners – consider this in a wistful song : “Aisa bolega, saala waisa bolega”. It’s a fine move to make a song not break character too, as we have seen in many films – how often do imperfect characters with completely different lingos shift into the fantasy of a valley, singing in chaste Hindi/Urdu verses. But, also take another careful look at it, and you’ll find that there’s something very solemn at the heart of this tapori sad song too.

The song is set on the street at night, and it is filmed in a beautiful maze of light and shadow. It makes perfect sense, because a person deeply in love, but without the strength or wits to do anything about it, is quite accurately like someone out alone on a dark street, with only one elusive light of elusive love and elusive hope lurking somewhere around in the dark – watch how the light source seems to be always away from Munna, and how him and the dancers are filmed as shadows against this light, or how Munna is filmed as a very small figure in the dark. He dances in this maze of dark and light to relieve himself, express himself in solitude when he can’t express himself where it really matters.

Mili appears in the song as the graceful beloved, like a fantasy of that perfect person against whom all your human imperfections become even more evident. We see this in how the light often frames her directly, and how she is dressed in sharp red as opposed to the darkness all around. Her dance steps in the song exude grace, while Munna’s exude helplessness (he wriggles his arms in the form of a “what do I do” question when he sings the title verse). The best example of this contrast of the perfect beloved and the imperfect lover is in the shot where Mili stands perched over everyone else, and Ram Gopal Varma films Munna and the background dancers as smaller creatures standing way below, as if in obeisance, framing them through the frame of Mili’s legs.

As the song ends, the dancers and Mili’s vision both disappear suddenly – the quietness of the night returns just like Munna’s own muteness in love, and he finds himself out on the dark, lone street as a miniature, lonely figure once again.