Mangal Pandey - The Rising is an epic tale of friendship, betrayal, love and sacrifice set against the backdrop of what the British called the sepoy mutiny but which for the Indians was the First War of Independence. 'Company Raj' as it was known, had been plundering the country, treating the locals unjustly and causing widespread resentment. After a hundred years of subjugation, the Indian consciousness is rising through the revolutionary prospect of change and self-rule.
During a fierce battle in one of the Afgan wars that the Company fought in the mid-century, Mangal Pandey, the heroic sepoy, saves the life of his British commanding officer William Gordon. Gordon is indebted to Mangal and a strong friendship develops between them, transcending consideration of rank and race. The friendship is soon challenged by the introduction of a new rifle called the Enfield . The new rifle has come with a new cartridge which is rumoured to be coated with the grease of cow and pig fat. The new cartridge has to be bitten before it is loaded, which ignites anger and resentment among the Indian sepoys. The cow is sacred to the Hindus, the pig forbidden to the Muslims. They will not touch such a kartoos (gun cartridge), it would defile them.
Set in one of the most beautiful countries on earth, told across the divides of time, Mangal Pandey - The Rising tells the tale of friends, lovers and enemies, exploiters and exploited, and the growth and awareness of a man and a nation. It is a story of one man and his dream of freedom. This sweeping epic is based on real historical events, seen as a trigger for Indian independence.
Born as Aamir Hussain Khan on 14 March 1965, Aamir gained critical and popular acclaim for his roles as an Indian film Actor, Director and Producer. In 2001, he made his debut as a film producer with the Academy Award-nominated Lagaan, where he played the lead role and earned his second Filmfare Best Actor Award for his performance. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with Taare Zameen Par, for which he received a Filmfare Best Director Award. This was followed by Ghajini (2008), which became the highest-grossing Indian film of all-time, unadjusted for inflation.
Khan then took a four year break citing personal problems, and returned in 2005 with Ketan Mehta's Mangal Pandey: The Rising. In Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's award-winning, Rang De Basanti, Khan's role was critically acclaimed, earning him a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance and various nominations for Best Actor. The film was the official entry of India for the Oscars and received a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the BAFTA Awards in England. Khan's work in his next movie, Fanaa (2006) was also appreciated, and the film went on to become one of the highest grossing Indian films of 2006.
As well as entertaining us in great style, the film whets our appetites to find out more about the rich and complex history of India and of the Raj. As entertainment, there is music, colour, dancing, movie stars of enchanting beauty and grace on display -- let's face it, this is an entertainment! -- and some exemplary acting as well.
People who take a dim view of Bollywood movies will be quite surprised and astounded by this film for its depth of feeling, its scintillating acting, and the challenges it poses to the mind and heart. For those who saw Aamir Khan's earlier outing, Lagaan, and were hooked, this latest film will be a treat. For those who found Lagaan too black-and-white, too simply laid out with the moral high ground too easily won, be assured that there is are new-found depths and complexities to be experienced in Mangal Pandey...and yet the film never fails to entertain.
It seems to me that Aamir Khan is the man to watch where Indian cinema is concerned -- he has the 'common touch' and mass appeal, and his films are richly entertaining, but he is introducing a mass audience to the public and engaged examination of difficult issues arising from a colonial legacy. He also invites western audiences to a fresh look at the history of the Raj, to try to really get to some balanced understanding of the colonial legacy. Khan is getting a lot of people -- in India, the UK, the US, and anywhere there are cinemas or DVDs -- interested and engaged in colonial discourse. It's great! His next outing is, I believe, a new film of The Mahabharata. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to that one! Please do see Mangal Pandey: the Rising. After that, I hope you will look forward to seeing The Mahabharata, too!
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