No matter what the raging controversy is about the new film about Mangal Pandey, whether it was too harshly anti-British or that Pandey, India’s first so-called freedom fighter, was blasphemously portrayed as a having a relationship with a nautch girl, the picture was a pleasure to watch. I went to the film with approximately 20 other Hindi learners last night, and was really pleased with the quality of the film, from the costumes and acting to the fight scenes and the dialogue (even though I wasn?t able to understand the poetry of the Hindi ? mein seekh rahi hoon!) True, the dance scenes probably have no business being in a film about such a serious subject, but I found that they were a welcome break from the tense dialogue. Plus, how can you hate a movie in which Rani Mukherjee plays the nautch girl? Her raspy voice is cool and she’s got more substance to her than most of the other Bollywood actresses.
An additional controversy about the film is that some parts of the plot are fabricated. According to Saul David, author of The Indian Mutiny: 1857, the film’s depiction of the British East India Company murdering Indian civilians, among other things, was inaccurate. Nevertheless, the underlying story, that a mutiny grew out of the Indian troops? refusal, due to their religious beliefs, to use gun powder cartridges that were greased with the fat of pigs and cows, was one I’d never heard before. I definitely attribute this to the facts that a) American public schools don’t teach enough about World History and b) because I failed to study up on Indian history before coming to India. However, it seems like this is a textbook case for a contemporary Cross Cultural Communications class. Gosh?even my university CCC professors failed me there.
I understand that the film is playing in the U.S. and U.K. right now, so I highly recommend buying a ticket. Yeah, so you’ll have to watch three hours of subtitles and listen to the strange sound of British-accented Hindi, but Aamir Khan (Mangal) delivers some superb acting and the ending will make you (or, at least, me) weep. (Abhi meeri dil Hindustani bhi hai.) What’s more, at a cost of over $20 million, The Rising is the most expensive movie (so far) in the history of Hindi cinema.