The year 1995 brought the romantic comedy front and center in Bollywood. A month before the release of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Ram Gopal Varma's Bollywood musical treasure Rangeela ("Colorful") brought a new look-and-feel to the Bollywood musical.
The film stars a youthful Aamir Khan as Munna, a streetwise orphan who now earns his living as a small-time seller of black market movie tickets. His best friends are Pakya (Rajesh Joshi), his street-smart counterpart, and Mili (Urmila Matondkar), a dancer and Bollywood movie extra.
Munna and Mili's relationship seems at first to just consist of a series of arguments. But there is no doubt that they care about each other, even when misunderstandings get in the way. Their long-standing relationship is based on a foundation of honesty and trust, which is why they easily bounce back from their verbal battles.
Just as he is on the verge proposing marriage to Mili, she discovered by movie superstar Raj Kamal (Jackie Shroff) who handpicks her to be the female lead in his latest film.
Recognizing his lack of education and bankable skills, Munna comes to the heartwrenching understanding that despite their long-standing relationship, Mili has moved into a life beyond Munna's reach.
Make no mistake about this film. It is primarily a musical connected by scenes of the evolving relationship between the three principle characters: Munna, Mili and Raj Kamal.
What makes the film work from start to finish is the evolution of the story and song from street to stage. From the opening "Rangeela Re" filmed on the streets of Mumbai to the frenetic "Mangta Hai Kya" dance sequence between Munna and Mili on a movie set to the nearly erotic "Hai Rama" big Bollywood production number, Rangeela presents an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the Bollywood film industry.
One of the charms of Rangeela is its unique quality due to a series of firsts both on and off the screen.
- The heroine, Mili, gets her first big break in the film industry when the former heroine marries her driver and leaves the film.
- Rangeela was Ram Gopal Varma's first Hindi love story and won a Filmfare Award for Best Story.
- This was A.R. Rahman's first Hindi film and his outstanding film score skyrocketed him to national and international fame. The Rangeela soundtrack received multiple awards for music, lyrics and playback singing. Rahman won the Filmfare RD Burman Award for New Music Talent which was the very first award of its kind after the death of the legendary Music Director RD Burman.
- Manish Malhotra's costumes for Urmila were much appreciated and helped established him as a successful fashion designer.
Rangeela also has another, less known claim to fame. In 2004, was remade in Hollywood as Win a Date with Tad Hamilton.
Don't let the old-Bollywood technology of the 1990s dissuade you from seeing this film. It is unfortunate that many of the digital copies of Rangeela available are not in the widescreen version and no blu-ray versions appear to be on the market. Regardless of the version you can access, Rangeela offers entertaining viewing.
If you are new to Bollywood, check out this evergreen Bollywood classic.
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