A man of the Mumbai streets falls in love with a pretty girl, but she has her eyes set on only one thing — her dream of becoming a Bollywood actress. This is a simplistic way of looking at Ram Gopal Varma’s 1995 directorial Rangeela, which completes 25 years of its release today. RGV’s Rangeela is more than just your generic romantic dramedy. While it has all the ingredients of the genre, the Urmila Matondkar, Aamir Khan and Jackie Shroff-starrer is a homage to movies from a movie buff. At least that is the primary thought that dominated my mind after recently rewatching the movie. It is also a small tribute to the ‘maximum city,’ which embraces the dreams of so many people daily. The city’s hustle-bustle, its crowded streets, its lovable, ‘tapori’ manner of speaking, its beautiful beaches and theaters — cinematographer W B Rao captured each aspect of the place intimately.
But when it comes down to storyline, the movie has its share of issues. Of course, Urmila’s character Milli’s transition from a dancer to the lead heroine is not realistic. Things don’t happen overnight to most people who aspire to make a big name for themselves in the film fraternity. Milli’s days of struggle — if she had any — are brushed under the carpet by the filmmaker. But I don’t think Rangeela was intended to be realistic to the core. If that had been the case, Rangeela would have been a darker, different film. Despite its runtime of two hours and 23 minutes, the movie is pacy as can be. It is a complete joy ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sometimes, the film also offers unique insights into the industry and how things function (or used to in the 90s). For instance, we see the heroine being accompanied by her mother on the sets of a movie, which was a regular occurrence back in the days. We also see a wannabe Hollywood director (Gulshan Grover’s Steven Kapoor) who is exhausted by the ways of the Hindi film industry, a character perhaps based on a different breed of filmmakers who wanted to bring a change in Bollywood at the time, but were being constantly contested for their novel ideas.
What makes Rangeela different is its treatment of the apparently ‘simple’ story. Here, unlike other romantic dramas, there is no villain. All the characters are struggling in their own way and whatever turmoil they are undergoing is circumstantial. The thing that drives the movie is love. Love for the movies which is encapsulated in Urmila’s wonderful portrayal of the always exuberant Milli. Love for a woman in Aamir’s Munna and Jackie’s Raj Kamal. Both men fall for our heroine, who is oblivious to their feelings for her. Both show us that love is being content with whatever makes the other person happy.
And of course, Rangeela will always be remembered for its music. The songs (courtesy AR Rahman), the background score, the choreography (courtesy, Ahmed Khan and late Saroj Khan) still sound and look fresh. The tracks and their lyrics convey what the film’s characters feel at a particular moment, and it does so without sounding outlandish and bizarre. Yes, it is slightly cheesy, but in the most lovely, nostalgic way possible. The story and the music support each other, and that reflects on screen very well. But perhaps the film’s leading role belongs to cinema itself, which is represented in the opening credits of Rangeela. The screen is graced by black and white images of various film personalities as soon as the movie opens. And the background score is, of course, the noisy traffic of Mumbai and its people.
Rangeela is streaming on YouTube.