Rangoon review: Kangana , Shahid’s ambitious film is deeply flawed

Kangana Ranaut tries her best to save Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon, but oddly written characters don’t let it become an engaging watch. Here’s our movie review, reports Hindustan Times
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan, Shahid Kapoor
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Rating: 2/5
It may be one of the most awaited films in recent times but Rangoon is a royal misfire. Within minutes of the movie’s beginning, you realise the promise of a heart-wrenching period drama was a farce — a set-up to promote a self-indulgent film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. The director Vishal Bhardwaj has desperately tried to play to the gallery, and has miserably failed. The film’s plot, set in the 1930s, is thin. Producer and former action star Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) is the friend, patron and lover of Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut) — an orphan he bought for Rs 1000. Julia, inspired from the iconic Fearless Nadia, is a top action star when the Second World War begins. She is exuberant, slightly cynical and keeps repeating, ‘bloody hell’ – only that her character is grating enough for the audience to say it back to her. Julia seems to be taking a cue from the top Western heroines of the 1940s, but her feminism isn’t liberating and appears to be solely driven to prove the adage that beautiful women are dumb. She accidentally gets trapped in the beautiful jungles of Arunachal Pradesh with cocky Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), the third vertex of the love triangle. He has been a war prisoner and serves in the Queen’s army.
There’s little more to Malik than his deliberately hardened expressions and rippling muscles. Until this point, Rangoon appears to be reaching a point where it could be called a ‘love story in the backdrop of war.’ But it turns out to be a tug-of-war, between the Bhardwaj who made Maqbool and Omkara and the Bhardwaj who made Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola and Haider. Shahid always gets good roles in Vishal Bhardwaj’s films. Two stage coordinators comment on everyone from Hitler to Churchill like Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah did in Maqbool.
In another instance, the sound of a train engine transforms into a song like ‘Aao na’ from Haider.
Saif returns as a rich film producer in Rangoon: Everything boils down to Kangana Ranaut’s Julia and her antics. She is undoubtedly a rock solid performer, because if there is one actor who shines despite odd writing, it’s her. She is terrific as a theatrics-loving stuntwoman. The poor script never lets Julia reach her pinnacle but she steals the show even with small scenes – her sitting on Saif’s thigh on a slight signal and then defying him seconds later, her monologue on being a kept – but the meandering story loses too much steam too quickly.
Kangana is the saving grace of Rangoon: The movie is picturesque. Colours come out of the screen and soothe our minds. Lighting and choreography are pitch-perfect. Every beat is nuanced, every frame caresses the bleeding hearts that keep waiting for the fire to ignite. At 167 minutes, Rangoon isn’t only long but painful. And this isn’t the pain of love. And it doesn’t end in pleasure.