Interesting discussions galore at Naachgaana.com on Rang de Basanti; in response to this one:
Among the ironies that director Rakeysh Mehra misses is that in "twinning" Azad, Ashfaqullah, Bhagat Singh and co. with the film's protagonists, this viewer at least was struck by the contrast between the colonial era revolutionaries' focus on the abstract (Nation, Lenin, etc. uber alles) with the highly personal nature of the contemporary resistance (i.e. the contemporary characters are moved by a personal tragedy-- the death of their friend-- and never offer any linkage between their "rebellion" and any wider struggle for justice). The contrast might have been suggestive were it not for the fact that Mehra imagines one to be the contemporary transposition of the other. To put it another way, Bhagat Singh wasn't just concerned about getting the British out of India: land reform, women's rights, communalism, all of these concerned him. The student actions in Rang de Basanti-- of the "as he was [corrupt] so I slew him" variety-- say nothing about, and do not seem to me to speak to, the wider struggle for justice in Indian society.
What does this film have to say to the ghettoized Muslim, the Hindutvavaadi, the aimless DJ who frets about being anonymous and faceless in a crowd-- all characters that, incidentally, Mehra introduces, before abandoning any deeper examination of their stories? Either nothing at all ("how come you hate the wrong guy?!"), or something rather scary (should Aslam's dad and Pandey both be shooting their perceived enemies? What in the film's logic would prevent them from doing so, given that Siddharth's own on-air condemnation of violence towards the end is farcically belied by his own actions up to that point?) Rather, the film identifies corruption-- of the financial variety-- as the sin that cannot be forgiven where the Indian polity is concerned. Perhaps that is not surprising given much of urban middle-class India's mania about financial corruption, but it does make the "generation awakens" tagline ring a bit hollow-- what we have here is a rather conformist tale (albeit very well-acted and well-shot) not much different from the Tamil vigilante film formula. Rang de Citizen/Samurai/Gentleman anyone?