Rang Rasiya review: Nudity is fine but weak script, choppy editing make film messy
Rang Rasiya at best is like one of those printed copies of Varma's paintings that's sold on the footpath and far from the original ones in which vibrant colours fleshed out characters from Indian mythologies and Hindu gods and goddess and therefore a DVD watch is just fine enough, it sure doesn't call for a theatre visit.
In a scene in Ketan Mehta's Rang Rasiya we see Raja Ravi Varma (Randeep Hooda) paint a picture of his muse, Sugandha (Nandana Sen) as the goddess of Knowledge, Saraswati. After, the painting is done and Sugandha sees it for the first time, she is moved to tears, seemingly by the beauty of it. However, once the camera moves from her face and pans into the painting itself, you will realise that she might have been crying because the woman in the illustration doesn't look a thing like her.
As the audience, you too will have those moments during the film, when you will want to cry your eyes out, not because of the emotional scenes or the drama that's unfolding in front of you, but because of the lack of it. Mehta's Rang Rasiya is about one of India's most famous painters, Raja Ravi Varma, a man who introduced us to Hindu gods and goddesses in human forms through his paintings. Varma also happens to be the man who introduced consumerism in India. It was his mass-produced images of gods and goddesses that found their way into Indian households and though more than a hundred years have passed Varma still remains in thousands of our homes and his paintings of Hindu gods are still worshipped.
In Rang Rasiya, Mehta tries to chronicle the life of Varma — his passion for art, his conflicts with self-righteous godmen who try to impose artistic censorship on him, his lust for appreciation and need to reach out to the masses and lastly, his relationship with his muse, Sugandha, who also happens to be a prostitute and while all these sound great in paper, somehow, onscreen, it seems like an epic fail.
To begin with, the dialogues in the film are facepalm-worthy. If you thought that a film based on a story that's already hundred years old cannot sound dated under any circumstances, perhaps you should check out Rang Rasiya for cringe-inducing dialogues in the first fifteen minutes of the film, like when a maid servant whom Varma likes to paint, asks him seductively, "Kya tum sirf ek chitrakar ho aur main ek cheez". You are left wondering if it is one of those B-grade 90's films with hammy wink-wink nudge-nudge dialogues.
At one point we see Sachin Khedekar, who plays the role of a diwanji in the film, welcomes Varma to his Mumbai home. He gives Varma a warm hug and as if he were one of those nice hospitable guys in Sooraj Barjatya films says, "Welcome to Bombay", because, hey! that's how Indians spoke to each other 100 years ago.
It also doesn't help that the background score of the film sounds like Om Namah Shivaya-meets-Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. In every other scene, the score keeps giving you cues about how you should feel and although initially it sounds annoying, you soon realise how crucial it is for the background score to tell what to feel, especially because with such abrupt and choppy editing, it is very difficult to figure out which way the script is going.
The film is based on the biography of Raja Ravi Varma written by Ranjit Desai and a lot happens in it but somehow nothing really holds your interest. Hooda struggles for most parts to bring alive the character of the iconic painter. He neither seems like the passionate painter, nor the ambitious achiever that Varma is made out to be in the film. However, in the later parts, as we meet an ageing Varma, struggling with his business, Hooda seems more in character. Sen looks pretty and cries buckets of glycerine as Sugandha is expected to do for the most part. However, of all the characters, somehow she is the only one who manages to make you feel for the role she is playing. Every other character, including Jim Boeven as Fritz Schleizer, is so half-baked you might forget them even before the credits roll.
Rang Rasiya gets a little better post interval, but even then, it struggles to reach the end in a seamless way. The much talked about frontal nude scene for which the movie has run into a lot of trouble in past years comes post interval, and trust me, you will miss it if you so much as think of blinking. However, for what is worth, this scene actually is a crucial point in the movie and of all the shoddily done scenes, it is perhaps one of those rare scenes that has been picturised aesthetically.
There are many issues that Mehta tries to address in this film — artistic freedom, art and consumerism, art and religion. He also tries to focus on the relationship of a painter and his muse but most of all he attempts to tell the story of a modern man, way ahead of his time. However, in the end nothing really comes together. Rang Rasiya at best is like those printed copies of Varma's paintings that are sold on the footpath which are a far cry from the originals where vibrant colours fleshed out characters from Indian mythologies. A DVD viewing is just fine enough, this one sure doesn't call for a theatre visit.
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