Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya, based on the biographical novel Raja Ravi Varma by Ranjit Desai, is a film about offence and how acting on its impulses can oppress and ruin lives. In our part of the world, this story about modern India’s first major painter and his tryst with Hindu fundamentalist thought is unfortunately a relevant story not because of his widely appealing yet sophisticated art, but because his life-long struggle to keep his art free is not unheard of among artists even today. Discovering cinematic potential in the book and this subject is, in itself, a statement. Mehta, the maker of films such as Mirch Masala and Maya Memsaab, has been a director willing to take risks with his subjects. All this makes Rang Rasiya an important film, released after battling the censors for years, but that’s not enough to make it a classic or a provocative film.

This is a style very different from Mehta’s earlier films, although nothing radically new for the subject. The director uses old tricks from the Bollywood book—teary, high-pitched melodrama and a music score complementing it, glossing over details and painting just an outline of the artist’s journey. The writing is thin, heavily dependent on overdramatic dialogue.

Randeep Hooda in the lead role has a few moments, including a speech at his own trial about artistic freedom, and Nandana Sen, in the role of Sugandha, Ravi’s muse, seems utterly uncomfortable in front of the camera, cooing her way through.

Rang Rasiya is a wasted opportunity for a layered portrait of a colourful and bold figure in Indian art.

Rang Rasiya released in theatres on Friday.

Close