Rising Khan

The Rising finally releases this week. If nothing else, it's been an effectively marketed film. The trailer has been available for a while, yet:

For the past six months, irrespective of the film being screened, the audience at Chennai's Melody theatre gives a standing ovation to the trailer of Mangal Pandey - The Rising. The 90 seconds theatrical trailer showing Aamir Khan walking in shackles with the patriotic song Mangal ... Mangal ... , tuned by A. R. Rahman, in the background creates a stir.

What took so long? Well, there were personnel changes:

Aishwarya Rai has been thrown out of Ketan Mehta's The Rising starring Aamir Khan. The film that has been in the news for a year now was once again hit with controversy when Ash's international agents demanded that the producer Bobby Bedi double her fee after initially having agreed to a nominal one. They argue that the film will be released internationally as it is being made in English and Hindi so Ash should get her international price of 3 crores. Bobby Bedi refused and cast Amisha Patel instead. Bedi says that Ash had given him a content letter in May, and the shooting for the film was due to start in January - so how can she be so unreasonable at such a later stage. It seems Aamir Khan tried persuading Ash but she was incommunicado. On the other hand, Amisha Patel is thrilled to bits about doing the film.

And of course, there is the famous Aamir Khan attention to detail (a quality conspicously missing in much of India's film output). From BollyWhat:

Before every take of the sword fight, Aamir Khan would snarl to get into character. 'I've already shot one man,' he said. 'I'm sweating with the madness of complete violence.' A doctor was standing by. On Aamir's first swipe, he bends Toby's aluminum sword. Another take, and the sword is bent again. Another, and Toby's sword is broken in two. 'Shite,' Toby said. Then another breaks. 'He chews up swords like candy, yaar,' Ketan Mehta said, walking over. Only three swords are left for Toby.

The swords are kept in a bucket of ice water to keep them cool on the fighters' hands, and there is a discussion about whether the cold water is making the metal brittle.

Aamir insists on fighting with different, stronger swords. The audience will see what we've shot here and say, 'They're not really fighting,' he said. He wants to show the feeling of violence, or else get rid of the sword fight entirely. The next day, swords made of stainless steel are brought from Mumbai, and a day later the sword fight scene is shot again.

Naturally, there's the usual share of controversy:

Mumbai, July 30: Several theatre artistes organised a protest in Ballia (U.P.) against Aamir Khan starrer 'Mangal Pandey-The Rising'.

As the director Ketan Mehta did not shoot the film in the revoltionary's native village Nagwan in Ballia district. Asserting that if portions of the film were not shot in Mangal Pandey's native village Nagwan , they would also protest against the films screening . The protestors also burnt effigies of film's director Ketan Mehta.

Bwahaha. One of the master strokes in marketing this film was Aamir Khan's endorsement deal with Titan watches during production. In ad spreads, Aamir appears in full sepoy regalia and manages to pull it off. His mustache and long hair made for near universal saturation of the Mangal Pandey image in the Indian market. Talk about synergy!

But how is the actual film? Advance word seems to be really positive! Variety writes:

Bollywood cracks the epic code with The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey, a gorgeously lensed, well-structured audience-pleaser that harks back to classic Hollywood blockbusters of the '50s and '60s. Based on the 1857 Indian Mutiny that signaled the slow decline of BlightyBlighty's rule in the subcontinent, pic sidesteps the usual pitfalls of historical action-dramas made with Anglo-local casting for a good old-fashioned tale of heroism with a political slant. Opening-night attraction at the Locarno fest goes out worldwide through Yash Raj Films Aug. 12, and could cross over to fractionally wider bizbiz than usual Bollywood fare.

Largely shot in English, the movie has none of the awkwardness in dialogue or playing that's afflicted similar productions in the past, despite being directed by an Indian, Ketan Mehta ("Mirch Masala," "Sardar"), and using a largely Bollywood crew. Dialogue falls naturally into English or Hindi as circumstances dictate and, apart from a couple of overplayed supporting roles, the Brits come over as real characters rather than colonial stereotypes.

Thanks to good perfs by leads Aamir Khan ("Lagaan") and Toby Stephens, the personal conflict -- which, in true epic style, mirrors the wider drama -- is socked over at a human level that's finally very moving.

Interesting. From the trailer, The Rising had seemed to me to be India's answer to Braveheart. At any rate, perhaps this might be the next breakout film from India after Lagaan. And with the same star. Coincidence? I don't think so.

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- August 9, 2005 11:47 PM // Bollywood , Film