When The Rising premiered at the Locarno fest, reports say that it received a standing ovation.
Here are a couple of reviews to the English version of the film by Western critics. The desi version I guess would have more melodrama (or at least I hope! What’s a Bollywood war movie without some kickass melodrama? Even the Hollywood manufactured Braveheart had goose bumps-inspiring melodrama after all!)
The first one is reproduced from The Variety magazine. I would’ve just given a link but it requires you to sign up for trial membership. Too complicated just to read one review, so here it is:
The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey (India)
A Yash Raj Films release of a Kaleidoscope Entertainment, Inox Leisure, TFK Films presentation of a Kaleidoscope Entertainment, Maya Movies production.
(International sales: Capitol Films, London.)
Produced by Bobby Bedi, Deepa Sahi.
Directed by Ketan Mehta.
Screenplay, Farrukh Dhondy; Hindi dialogue, Ranjit Kapoor.
Mangal Pandey – Aamir Khan
William Gordon – Toby Stephens
Heera – Rani Mukerji
Jwala – Amisha Patel
Emily – Coral Beed
Lol Bibi – Kirron Kher
Hewson – Ben Nealon
Lockwood – Simon Chandler
Kent – Kenneth CranhamGen. Hearsey – Jeremy ClydeSorabji – Sorab Adeshir
Kemala – Mona Ambegaonkar
By DEREK ELLEY 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 Blighty‘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 biz 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. In April 1857, Mangal Pandey (Khan), a sepoy (Indian infantryman) in the East India Co.’s army, waits to be hung for mutiny in Barrackpore jail, northern India. (The trading company, with its own troops, ruled the country for 100 years, under a mandate from the U.K.; latter took over direct rule after the uprising.) When it’s discovered that the hangman has run off in fear, Pandey’s execution is delayed, which allows for a flashback that occupies most of the picture. Flashback starts through the eyes of William Gordon (Stephens), a young Glaswegian officer who bonded with Pandey when the latter saved his life during a guerrilla ambush in Afghanistan. Hindi-speaking Gordon has a sympathy for the locals that’s in stark contrast to most of his white colleagues. Script intros a broad range of characters: Gordon’s racist colleague, Hewson (Ben Nealon); bigtime East India Co. employee Kent (Kenneth Cranham) and his daughter, Emily (Coral Beed); and Lockwood (Simon Chandler), an auditor sent from London to investigate company corruption. Trigger for the mutiny is the army’s introduction of a new gunpowder cartouche that’s rumored to be greased with cow and pig fat, making it off-limits for both Hindu and Muslim sepoys. (Cartouche’s sealed end has to be bitten off so the gunpowder can be emptied into rifles.) Other tensions are also building. Gordon rescues a young bride, Jwala (Amisha Patel), from the banned practice of suttee — a bride immolating herself with her dead husband. Meanwhile, Pandey is beaten by Hewson and his pals for defending a high-class prostitute, Heera (Rani Mukerji). Farrukh Dhondy’s script packs a lot of characters and incidents into the first hour but without any feel of being a cut-down miniseries, thanks to Sreekar Prasad’s smooth editing and dialogue which economically sets up the basic conflicts. Various personal, romantic and political strands — the last very typical of Dhondy, a onetime commissioning editor at U.K. web Channel 4 — come to a head at the intermission. Final hour translates all the foregoing into more action, as Pandey leads a mutiny that shakes the East India Co. to its core. This is the classic structure of all the best historical epics, and though the film employs recognizable Bollywood trademarks, helmer Mehta’s approach is more “Western” in its rhythms, pacing and avoidance of Asian melodrama. Musical set pieces are more integrated into the action, and the focus is kept tightly on the Gordon-Pandey relationship. Some story threads are underdeveloped (the wet nurse of Hewson’s mistress, especially), and Emily’s soppy character is wisely ditched early on. Mukerji makes the most of her feisty nautch-girl, and has a moving, dialogue-less scene near the end with Khan’s Pandey, but it’s a small role for a star of her caliber. Ditto Patel as Gordon’s lover. It’s Khan and Stephens who drive the pic, and both are excellent. Khan brings a dignified passion to Pandey that’s matched by Stephens’ robust Scot, and both get major acting ops in the final reels. Technical credits are aces on all levels, from Lovleen Bains’ realistically colorful costumes to Himman Dhamija’s eye-watering widescreen compositions. Musical numbers by top composer A.R. Rahman are typically rhythmic rather than melodically memorable, pushing along and commenting on the action.
Camera (color, widescreen), Himman Dhamija; editor, Sreekar Prasad; music, A.R. Rahman; lyrics, Javed Akhtar; production designer, Nitin Chandrakant Desai; costume designer, Lovleen Bains; hair and make-up, Penelope Smith, Slash Apeni Sandhu; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Robert Taylor; choreographers, Saroj Khan, Raju Khan; action co-ordinator, Abbas Ali Moghul; associate producer, Varsha Bedi. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande, opener), Aug. 3, 2005. Running time: 150 MIN. (I: 85 MIN.; II: 65 MIN.)
Okay, the second one has firang prejudices written all over it. This is from Hollywood Reporter.
But this one too says the movie has been well shot! I’m pretty sure we guys are gonna love it!
By Ray Bennett Thu Aug 4, 6:51 PM ET LOCARNO, Switzerland (Hollywood Reporter) – Ketan Mehta’s sweeping epic, “The Rising — Ballad of Mangal Pandey,” is a kind of Bollywood “Braveheart” as one courageous and doomed man confronts the might of the British Empire, plus there’s singing and dancing. Sumptuously designed and beautifully shot, the film will delight Bollywood fans but likely will fail to capture mainstream audiences with its melodramatic style and jarring combination of stirring action, brutality and musical numbers.For 100 years, the East India Company was the face of the British Empire, ruling one-fifth of the world and dominating the Indian subcontinent with the help of 300,000 Hindu and Muslim soldiers called Sepoys.In Mehta’s tale, the introduction of a new rifle in 1853 brought down the most successful private company in history. The rifle used a cartridge that soldiers had to bite the end of in order to pour the powder into the barrel. But the company used the grease of pigs and cows to seal the cartridges, and so placing them in their mouths violated the Sepoys’ faiths.At first, trusting the Company lie that the cartridges do not use pig or cow grease, Pandey bites the bullet, but when the truth is revealed, he leads the Sepoy in a rebellion that for the first time unites all the various creeds, tribes and castes of the region. It sows the seeds for the end of the East India Company’s reign, though India would not gain its independence from Britain for about another century.The saga is told in black-and-white terms with a clear division between good guys and bad guys. The dastardly villains are the ones in the red uniforms who speak as if they’ve just swallowed a plum. The only good British officer is, inevitably, Scottish.The Bollywood style is so bouncy and optimistic, however, that it’s difficult to sustain the effect of an oppressed nation when everyone, even untouchables and slave girls, all appear so jolly. The hero is savagely beaten by five Company men, but shortly afterward he joins the beautiful pleasure house girl Heera (Rani Mukherji) in a jaunty dance number.Although the film is expertly rooted in its period, Heera seems to have been parachuted in from the 21st century with her cover girl eyes and MTV choreography.There are many bold statements about freedom and peoples’ rights to their own cultures and faiths and a suggestion that there are modern versions of the East India Company at work in the world, which might well be true, but the message gets a bit lost amid all the happy singing people.