Decoding Rangeela — India’s First Musical
9th September 1995
It’s a day after Rangeela has released. As a seven-year-old back then, I have no clue about what this film is about. The only thing that excites me is ‘Yaai Re Yaai Re’, a song that I must have heard in the auto while going to school. I was in class 2 then!
I vividly remember the visuals of a little kid (Aditya Narayan) standing atop a building’s terrace and singing ‘Chocolate khaane me tension hai…doodh peene me tension hai…tension tension tension!’
And the tension (literally) was to ask my parents to take me to the theatres to watch the film. Back then, parents used to book movie tickets after looking at the star value, questioning whether it is suitable for family viewing etc.
But then this was one movie, I desperately wanted to watch. I vaguely remember my dad coming from office on a Saturday afternoon, and me throwing a huge tantrum to watch this film. While he opined and promised me to take us next week, I was hell-bent on watching the film on that very Saturday.
Finally, after much ado, my dad gave in. But the next question was — Will we get tickets at such short notice? This wasn’t the era of click-n-book, and there was only a single theatre in my entire neighbourhood. Pre Pre-Multiplex Days! A small theatre that went by the name — Meghraj
While we went to the theatre and were disappointed to see the ‘Housefull’ board, my dad made one attempt to connect with the theatre’s manager. And guess what! Half an hour before the night show, we got Balcony Tickets for Rangeela. This is one of my brightest childhood memories of watching the film on the big screen.
This week marks 25 years since the film released. And it is not a bit of surprise that even today the film holds a special place in my heart. While the thought of watching the film only for the title song may be childish enough, there is more to the film than that memory.
Watching the film from the Balcony seat, I could hear whistles of people — every time Munna (played by Aamir Khan) appeared on the screen. The whistles went louder when Mili (played by Urmila Matondkar) grooved to ‘Yaai Re..Yaai Re’ and ran across the beaches of Goa in ‘Tanha Tanha’.
An iconic confrontation between Mili and Munna after a spat with a banana vendor and the dialogue ‘Ek Kele se tera kya jaata hai’ and ‘Yaaro Sun Lo Zara’ that followed were scenes that remind you for the uniqueness and simplicity that the film was made of.
A dreamy sequence when Munna visits Mili’s rehearsal studio and sees her practising ( Maangta Hai Kya) and gets transported into her cinematic world, Jackie Shroff and Urmila’s dream sequences (Hai Rama Yeh Kya Hua and Pyaar Ye Jaane Kaisa Hai) and a song for Munna’s heartbreak (Kya Kare Kya Na Kare).
Rangeela had a song for every situation, placed so well. The music by A.R. Rahman — his first full-fledged Hindi Album that would be a milestone for many of his successes that followed through the years. Mehboob’s lyrics was a breath of fresh air, and are popular even today.
Rangeela was a massy film but made with so much heart and classiness. I wonder reading through the film’s trivia why director Ram Gopal Varma calls this as his worst film?
Even before Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) could taste his biggest success with Satya (1998), Rangeela put him in the top league.
Rangeela was a simple film, a real film. The simplicity of the film’s storyline, the nuances and impeccable detailing that went into the characters, the dreams and aspirations of the middle-class, the setting of the film. Despite being a commercial potboiler, Rangeela addressed this so well. And today, in an era, where we are talking about nepotism, here was one director who made his mark with a film that spoke of so much within the film industry. The outsider who becomes a star (Mili), the star who wants a life of reclusiveness (Kamal — played by Jackie Shroff) etc.
Even the secondary characters that form a part of the film’s narrative — Steven Kapoor (played brilliantly by Gulshan Grover), Producer PC (Avtaar Gill), Gulbadan Ji and her Mummy Ji (Shefali Shah and late Shammi Ji), Neeraj Vora and Madhur Bhandarkar — leave a mark with their realistic performances, and the best part is you even remember these characters and let out a laugh even today.
Another highlight of Rangeela was its crisp writing by Ram Gopal Varma, Sanjay Chhel (who later directed Khoobsoorat with Sanjay Dutt and Urmila Matondkar) and Neeraj Vora. Watching the film now, makes me wonder, why don’t we write such spontaneous content today?
The iconic scene when Munna visits a five-star restaurant and the server (played by Rajiv Mehta) tells him ‘Air Condition chalu hai’, to which Munna replies ‘To Idhar Ghuma Na’ is probably the biggest impromptu situation ever written in Bollywood.
Another scene which keeps in me splits is when Gulbadan Ji arrives late to the film set along with her mother (Shammi Ji) and orders Sitafal Milkshake, to which an assistant comes and tells PC ‘Abhi Sitafal ka Season Nahi Hai…November me milega’. PC’s reply to this one is even more hilarious — ‘To jaake November se le aao!’
Then the sequence where Munna is waiting at the bus stop and asks a person ‘Bhai saab Time Kya hua?’, to which he replies ‘Kya Ghadi Ghadi Time Poochta Hai…Ek Baar Bola Na..’, the counter reply by Munna ‘Akadta kaiko hai…Sirf Time Poocha Hai…Ghadyal thodi maanga…Chal Paper Pad!’ — I haven’t laughed without my tummy hurting at such beautiful subtle humour that we have seen in Rangeela.
Twenty-Five years later, Bollywood isn’t the same what we saw in Rangeela.
Aamir Khan and Ram Gopal Varma never worked again after this film, and neither did Aamir Khan and Urmila Matondkar.
Ram Gopal Varma, whose initial success put him in India’s finest league of directors, now isn’t quite fancied about the idea of making films like Rangeela. I wait for the day when I’ll see the prolific filmmaker in his fine form again.
Rangeela will always be a cult-classic, my personal favourite. But then there is also Satya, Bhoot, Daud, Kaun, Sarkar (1), Vaastu Shastra, Rakhta Charitra, Shiva and Raat that talks about the director’s successes, which sadly is far less from his list of bad films.
A.R. Rahman and RGV worked again in Daud, but the magic of Rangeela couldn’t be replicated.
For cinephiles like me, a true 90s film-buff, I feel nostalgic and maybe to an extent like an old film critic writing about this film.
To me, and maybe even to most film lovers, Rangeela quintessentially will be India’s first full-fledged musical.
As we celebrate 25 years of Rangeela, I type this with my headphones plugged in grooving to ‘Yaai Re….Yaai Re’ for the umpteenth time!