Well, believe it or not, but when all my friends back home in Kerala have just made it to the queue outside whatever theatre Amir Khan's much awaited movie Mangal Pandey - The Rising is being released, Padayatty is back online to blog his review of the movie! For once Raipur was of some use to me. It so happens that, the first show on the release date of any movie is at 5:00am in the morning. What do you say to that, eh?
An Amir Khan movie coming after such a long gap, especially when his last two movies (DCH, Lagaan) had endeared us so much to him, is bound to create the kind of madness that would cause blind fans like me to get to the cinema hall at any unearthly hour, even if the chances of getting any tickets were virtually non-existent. Despite these odds, me and a few other crazy guys (Achu, Sherin, Shrijith & Tapan) decided the gamble was worth a try, and stayed awake the whole night, and found ourselves an auto (with help from Sandeep Agarwal, my dear friend and junior), only to find at the cinema hall(3:50am) a battalion of fans crazier than us, who had camped overnight and were already in queue for the tickets! Tough luck. We'd have turned back not wishing to get trampled to death so far away from home, if it had not been for Sandeep who found someone on the queue who was willing to go to any limits to make sure that we got some tickets, if, we would give him a commission for his troubles. This was a better option than the stampede!(4:15am)
Time moved slowly as all of us waited, keeping an eye on our benefactor so that he wouldn't turn traitor. Meanwhile, people were doing all sorts of things to get to the front of the queue. They were all scared away by a guy with a lathi who kept waving it viciously, ocassionaly poking the odd guy who tried climbing to the roof of the ticket counter, or the guys sitting on top of the grilled corridor on the last lap to the ticket counter( they looked like monkeys). In between, one guy with his hair styled like Amitabh Bachchan(man did he look funny?) kept waving at the crowd below, from the roof of the theatre where he had somehow got to!
In between all these funny going ons and close shaves from being beaten with the lathi, we lost our benefactor in the crowd. But, there he was returning from the counter, beaming all over after having accomplished his mission. We grabbed the tickets and get on the queue for entering the hall.(5:00am) Here too a stampede is on. We wonder what the hurry is for as the show has not started yet. It is only after we make our way into the theatre that we find the reason.
The talkies people have sold more tickets than the total seats available. We see a crowd of people spilled all over the theatre, some standing on the chairs, some standing diretly in front of the projector hole projecting obscene gestures onto the screen. Well, what the heck... we got this far from nowhere, what's to standing andwatching the movie.
And so it was that my good friends and I, stood through the whole 3 hour long movie, dedicating our pains maybe to the spirit of fanhood!
Mangal Pandey - The Rising is the story of a man who probably was India's first ever martyr and freedom-fighter. A man about whom we have heard mentions in History classes as the man who started off the First War Of Indian Independence, but unfortunately about whom we do not know any further. A man who awakened to the possibility of being free during a period of ignorance that had blanketed the country. A man deserving to be equal in stature of any of the much filmed freedom fighters, but who till 'The Rising' has not. An unknown hero in a nation that loves its heroes. Ketan Mehta with his Mangal Pandey - The Rising pays tribute to this man and martyr, in an attempt to belatedly give this great his due.
The movie tells the story of the friendship between Capt. Gordon, an officer in the British East India Company and Mangal Pandey an ordinary Indian Sepoy who saved Gordon's life while at war in Afghanistan. They wrestle each other to tide over their differences, they get drunk together to play pranks on the bad Briton(i think he's the Smith guy from Lagaan), save damsels in distress from the sati pyre's, during the course of their at odds friendship, which as Mangal says is because of their skin-colour.
Mangal takes his trusted friend's word and bites off the rumoured-to-be-greased-catridges, forcing his fellow sepoys also to use the catridges. But later they find out that the rumour was not a rumour. This coupled with earlier incidents like the time when he had to shoot at agitated Indian villagers, causes Mangal to see the true colour of the Company.
When the Company fails to give due regard to the sentiments of the sepoys, they decide not to use the greased catridges anymore. An angry Company general threatens to shoot them. Mangal marches forward and stands in front of a cannon. This does the trick and the dissent starts spreading. Soon dissent spreads to other batallions. The soldiers take over the Company arsenal. The proud generals still do not gauge the seriousness of the situation. They try attacking the rebel sepoys, but end up having to turn back.
The sepoys from this point on see that they have it in them to be free. Mangal speaks of a government of the people to the visiting kings, who want their help in a all India struggle against the Company. They plan to launch all their attacks together and end it with a capture of the Red Fort.
The Company is also not keeping low. They divert a regiment from Rangoon towards India, which arrives earlier than anticipated by the Sepoys. The Sepoys all run away frightened, leaving a determined Mangal Pandey to take his stand against the Company's vast army. After firing a few shots Mangal shoots himself, in the hope that his blood would at least spark a revolt. Though Mangal survived, he was sentenced to death despite passionate arguments by Cap. Gordon on his behalf.
Mangal Pandey is hanged to death in front of a crowd of villagers. At Mangal's death the people awake to their power and the rest is what we Indians call the First War Of Indian Independence.
The music by A. R. Rahman is nowhere near the magic he's known for. The Mangal Mangal song raised spirits in the theatre. Me Vairi Vairi was also ok. The background music was at places western style and not quite fit for the scenes.
All the actors did their job well. But Amisha Patel still has to learn to cry.
The direction is not anything superb. So's the script. The movie has nothing artistic about it either. With respect to playing to the masses, instead of concentrating on patriotic moments and spirit dialogues, lots of time is wasted on the bollywoodkind of sex. Totally unnecessary. Some of the songs felt like planted without purpose. The climax, where the emotions should have been upped, was video footage of Mahatma Gandhi leading the masses and Nehru lifting the National Flag. That's not the way Lagaan ended... That's why it felt so good after coming from the cinema hall after that one!
Despite this, I liked the scenes where he faces the Britons alone, where he stands in front of the canon fearlessly and the one where he twirls his moustache at the Court Martial.
Verdict: Not up to the hype! Watchable, but nothing great to report.
Padayatty Rating: 2/5