रंग दे बसंती
A disparate group of apathetic college students meet Sue (Alice Patten), a visitor from England with dreams of making a film about the legendary martyrs of Indian independence, Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, and their compatriots. At first they alternate between goofing around, tearing through the streets and the countryside, and working hard on the film. But when the students lose a friend, they attribute his death to corruption in the highest levels of Indian politics, and they are stirred to action in tragic parallel with the story of the film they are making.
I was lucky enough to see Rang de basanti on the big screen at the Somerville Theatre - it was the first Hindi film I ever saw on a theater screen - and the film left me breathless, weepy, and exhilarated. I knew my emotions had been manipulated but I did not care. It is highlighted by stellar performances from all the actors playing the students, especially Siddharth (as the neglected son of a wealthy businessman), Kunal Kapoor (a young Muslim whose family doesn't approve of his friendship with secular students), and Atul Kulkarni (a Hindu nationalist who comes to question his unbending loyalty to his party), Its pounding soundtrack by A.R. Rahman (the highlight of which is the title song) blended seamlessly with the story and set the mood and energy of each scene perfectly.
Rang de basanti has also been tapped as India's official nomination to the foreign language category of the Academy Awards. Its subject matter is controversial, though, and since it arguably advocates terrorism and martyrdom (though I do not read it that way), it's unlikely to make the final cut to receive an Oscar nomination. It's too bad, because I'd like to see this excellent film get some attention in America; it would be a good ambassador, representing the best that the current golden age of Hindi cinema has to offer.