The film Rang De Basanti completes 15 years of it’ release on January 26. (Hindustan Times)
The film Rang De Basanti completes 15 years of it’ release on January 26. (Hindustan Times)

15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless

Rang De Basanti was a critical and commercial hit when it released on this day 15 years ago. And we are still talking about the film. What makes it so special? We talk to director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Prasoon Joshi, Sharman Joshi and Kunal Kapoor for their take and memories of the making the film.
By Kavita Awaasthi and Rishabh Suri
PUBLISHED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:58 PM IST

What is it about Rang De Basanti that makes it relevant even after 15 years of it’s release? Was it the story about five friends? The performances by the actors- Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth to name a few? Or the music by AR Rahman? We get talking to the team to know what is it about RDB that we are still talking about it even today:

Sharman Joshi (played the role of Sukhi Ram)

15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless
15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless

Rang De Basanti is one of the films closest to my heart. The subject is still topical and it will always be, as in struggle of people with the government. It turned out to be a cult film and it had so much to offer, in terms of entertainment and social message. It was an exceptional film but a difficult one too.

We did discuss the screenplay and how it would translate onscreen but Mehra did it beautifully. The difficult part was how the past and the present would work out, the characters are shooting a play and they start relating to it and begin living the characters. It was exceptionally done. There’s one scene I remember, when we are in a jeep and all of us are high on alcohol and Aamir turns his left and he sees Chandra Shekhar Azad riding on a horse. It was so beautifully imagined and shot. To say, present characters relate to the past but to bring it on celluloid is difficult.

I’d auditioned for this part, and back then, in the early days of my career, it was a dream to be cast then and there. After acting two-three scenes, I got an okay from Mehra. I was so happy that I went to my car and started screaming with joy.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, director

15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless
15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless

RDB has grown more than a film. Even when it was released, it had a huge impact, not just to cinema goers but to the collective consciousness of the nation. It also travelled well all over the world, not just in festivals, in educational institutions, film schools, management studies and found its way to various facets of life. The film has remained young and evergreen and I don’t know how to describe it but it is a humbling experience to see your work remain relevant.

It was a salute to young generation along with being a wake-up call. The idea of India was in the hearts of the youngsters to make India a better place, to make it more livable and work towards perfection as whatever you do is less.

That the film is completing 15 years, one part of me is so happy yet there is a part which is not very happy because the film is still relevant. The cause it spoke about, the voice it had, if you look around, it looks like so much has changed but nothing has changed. Things like tolerance with each other, social and political awareness, the young participating in the running of the country and the corruption which has dogged for so many years. It is an endless work and I am not blaming or pointing fingers but I hope one day, Rang De Basanti becomes irrelevant. It says, lots needs to be done and we need to participate in the idea of India.

Prasoon Joshi (lyricist and dialogue writer)

15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless
15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless

Aamir, with whom I was collaborating on for a product campaign, asked me to write the dialogues of the film, so I gave it a shot. Simultaneously, Rakeysh sort of talked about the lyrics. It’s a challenge, writing both the lyrics and dialogues together, which I did in many other films subsequently. I remember I was in Goa and finished the dialogues in 15 days, and cracked the mukhdas. While thoughts were coming to my mind for the songs, I was clear I won’t write them, as it would be repetitive.

Picking any one song is very difficult, all are special for special reasons. I remember Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister that time, he watched the film, came out and gave me a hug and told me ‘sooraj ko main nigal gaya’, he was repeatedly telling me that line. He himself was a poet and was very moved by the line. For Luka Chuppi, it was originally not in the film, we had no plans for that. There was just a background score that was supposed to play during R Madhavan’s character’s funeral. I was sitting with Rahman and told him, what if this was a game of hide and seek between a mother and a son? This song was then written to composition.

Kunal Kapoor (played the role of Aslam Khan)

15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless
15 years of Rang De Basanti: The team reveals what makes it timeless

I’ve always believed the best kind of films are the ones that not only entertain but also have something important to say. Something that makes you look at the world around you in a different way. RDB had both. We always knew it was a special script, but what we didn’t know at that point is that it will go beyond just being a film and become a movement. I think for me the most important message in the film was the one that talks about not being cynical and complaining but to take responsibility and bring change. And I think that really struck a chord. I remember going for theatre visits after the release, and we had so many people who said that they had people in the families and friends that were so affected by the film, that they had decided to leave their jobs in other countries and come back to India, to try and contribute to the country. It’s very rarely that a film can stir that sort of emotion.

I actually used to be an assistant with Rakeysh and I was an assistant when the script of RDB was being written. So I was looking forward to working on the film as an assistant. But then I decided acting was what I was most passionate about and joint a theatre company. A year and a half after that they were casting for RDB and I called Mehra and told him I’d like to audition. He thought the audition was great, put me through a couple of more auditions after that, and I was finally on.

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