It opened as just another Bollywood movie at the box-office, on a nippy February morning. The Aamir Khan tag brought limelight in its wake, and the youth flavour that the promos peddled guaranteed initials.
Almost 10 months later, Rang De Basanti is more than a superhit Hindi film gunning for Oscar glory. In an era when films had stopped making a difference, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s feature ended up as a generation’s wake-up call — quite simply living up to the poster punchline.
Bollywood is about big budget, bigger moneymaking drills. But when a script like Rang De… connects with its core audience (in this case, the youth), inciting them take to the streets for a cause that isn’t solely about selfish gains, you know it’s special.
In this context, Rang De… comes to the fore once again in the wake of two successive, high profile legal decisions: the Jessica Lal murder case and the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape-and-murder case. Street protests, candlelight crusades, student petition campaigns triggered off by what was shown in the film undeniably had an impact.
The brains behind Rang De… would rather downplay it all. “When we wrote and, later, shot the film we didn’t expect it to fuel popular protests over issues of wide interests,” says Kamlesh Pandey, conceptualiser, scriptwriter and screenplay coordinator of the film.
"We knew there are plenty of people in this country who are sensitive to what’s going on wrong around them and only wanted to make them aware of the fact that they have a choice to raise a voice. The mass movements over the Jessica, Mattoo cases, as well as the reservation protests, patterned on the film actually surprised us."