Set in the 40s, towards the end of the second world war, Rangoon is a love triangle between a married rich producer Russi Billimoria (Saif Ail Khan), the heart throb of the nation, the daredevil actress Julia (Kangana Ranaut) and Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), a braveheart in the British Army fighting against the invading Japanese. When the British convince Russi to send his paramour Julia to the Indo-Burma border to regale the troops, Jamadar Malik is assigned as her body guard. War is no hurdle to a passionate romance, and Jamadar Malik falls madly in love with the free spirited Julia, who finds in him a release from Russi's possessive, protective nature (he calls her his "kiddo", treating her as his expensive toy, albeit always with love and respect). But Julia finds out that Malik is a spy - he works for Bose's INA, and is tasked with spiriting out an expensive, exquisite sword to fund the INA's war effort. Will he win over Julia, or will she turn him over to Russi and the British? Or will there be another twist in this wartime romance saga?
Rangoon scores a perfect 10 on cinematography and set design. The locales are absolutely stunning, and the grim war scenes have been shot at a quality rarely seen in Bollywood. Even the lighting is spot on. My favorites are the plane attack on the river, and the mud fight between Shahid and Kangana.
Saif is dependable as Russi Billimoria, a dangerous streak always underlying, but never really surfacing. Shahid is also restrained and sincere. But Kangana absolutely hits it out of the park with a performance that's sexy, childishly innocent, free spirited, and very lovable. This is one Bollywood actor that never fails to wow!
However, the film lacks the razor edge that would have made this an extraordinary movie. While the first half sets up the stage beautifully, the story meanders post the interval - and the screenplay takes a major hit too. Even the liplocks between Shahid and Kangana lack chemistry and feels very superficial. The movie is peppered with songs that do not add too much value to the narrative, although "Yeh Ishq Hai" is very soulful! The climax, when it finally arrives, is dragged on forever, and could have been easily snipped nice and short to leave audiences desperate for more, instead of relieved that it's finally over!
A little less indulgence, and Rangoon would have been a “Bloody hell’ of a movie!
ps: Do not miss the wonderful rendition of Azad Hind's anthem, a beautiful version of the Indian national anthem!