Movie: The Rising (The Ballad of Mangal Pandey)

A wanted to see this movie and I was a little hesitant about doing so after seeing the movie poster at tube stations all week. It wasn't that the poster artwork was bad. It was that the main star of this movie -Aamir Khan (and who is featured on the poster) - sports a moustache that curls up to the sides in an extravagant in your face facial hair kind of way. By Friday however I had seen some other stills from the film including a wrestling scene between Khan and Toby Stephens so I was happy to see what the fuss was all about then.

The story focuses on the lead up to the first Indian war of independence (or the Sepoy Mutiny as the British East India Company would call it). Being a Bollywood-meets-Hollywood film no serious epic drama is complete with colour and movement and songs and dancing. Plus lots of camerawork to make you dizzy. This pads out the film for at least an extra hour and a half. It was during one of these giddy all colour and singing extravaganzas I wondered if the Bollywood style would have made Attenborough's Gandhi more interesting a film. It probably would have made it twice as long...

This movie wasn't as subtle as Gandhi. History lessons were shoved down your throat and various other bits like the cruelness of the caste system and the suttee were piled on top of that. At least there was every now and then this loving friendship between Officer Gordon (Stephens) and Pandey (Khan) to fall back on. Pandey saved the Officer Gordon's life in Afghanistan at one point so that meant for the rest of the film they would look each other in the eye and not say much, or fall about drunk together, or wrestle. I never thought that life in the East India Company would be so much like life in Soho...

But anyway, A warned me that the mostly south Asian audience would be badly behaved so they lived up to expectations. I wondered whether it was because Bollywood films have long stretches of singing and dancing in between improbably plots so it is quite possible for the audience to tune out and do other things. So they did. They got up out of their seats, they played with their mobile phones, they chatted, and occasionally they watched the movie. In the end most still had a good enough time to applaud and shout "Long live long live mother India" so who can argue with the punters?

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