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Bose: Dead/Alive Is Worth Visiting

Boss: Dead/Alive(available on AltBalaji)

Starring Rajkummar RaoNaveen Kasturia,Edward Sonnenblick, Anna Ador

Directed by Pulkit

Rating: ***(3 Stars)

 If one had to single out one actor this year for  the most outstanding  work in Indian cinema, it would have to be Rajkummar Rao who flitted from the flirtatious in Bareilly Ki Barfi to the portentous inNewton .

At the end of the year we saw Rao playing the much-misunderstoodSubhas Chandra  Bose in a series produced by Ekta Kapoor available on Kapoor’s streaming service AltBalaji.

 The saga , directed by a young Bihari named Pulkit with an abundance  of inputs from the series’ creative director Hansal Mehta, sprawls  in 9 episodes of 20  minutes each. I advise  you to watch the entire series in one  go to fully comprehend the resonant reach  of the research that envelopes the gripping tale of a freedom fighter who defied Gandhian norms  of anti-Colonialism  to forge his own language of protest and to  eventually form his own army.

So was Bose killed or not killed in plane crash?

 The entire series  is designed as  cat-and-mouse game between various representative  of the British Raj and  Bose, Rajkummar Raotaking us through the various stages of transition in the  enigmatic leader’s life with a surehanded cockiness that never suggests a shred of smugness. Yup, Rao is at the peak of his excellence and enjoying every bit of it without growing complacent.

Bose’s early scenes of youthful rebellion in Kolkata are shot with a spry mischievousness .In one sequence he beats  a Gora teaher with his chappal for insulting the Hindu religion and walks away from the mayhem with not an iota of fear or remorse, as the background score erupts with a  ‘Bose  Bose!’ chant that Salman Khan would have wanted in his next Dabangg film.

 Patralekha(seen with Rao in the moving film Citylights) has  a cute cameo in the first episode as a prospective bride for Bose who shares a stolen smoke with him on the rooftop. The cigarette  smoking habit is clumsily incorporated. Rao doesn’t seem  comfortable with the cancer stick.And that’s fine by us.

The writing borrows  trivial vignettes  from Bose’s life turning the bio-pic into a celebration of rebellious splendor unfettered  by the rules of governance. I enjoyed the  personal moments between  Bose and  his German wife Emilie(Anna Ador) and his insurgent allies more than the  pointedly political run-ins with Gandhiji(played with reasonable credibility  by Surendra Rajan) and Nehruji(actor SanjayGurbaxani strips   the charismatic  man of all charm and warmth).

 The more ‘epic’ moments in the saga suffer from monetary constraints. Let’s not forget, this series is meant to be watched on mobile phones and  computers. Not the best way to get to know a national leader who has for generations  been  much misunderstood and hugely maligned. However the key performers and some outstanding  writing(Eklavya Bhattacharya, Jyoti Kapoor Das,AnujDharReshu Nath)  ensure our interest-level in the subtle often sharply executed  flag-waving  doesn’t flag.  Locations standing in for Manchuria, Vienna and other places that Bose resorted as Colonial fugitive have been chosen well and serve  the series’ purpose effectively.

 However  the Britishers are portrayed as  quasi-caricatures. EdwardSonenblick(seen giving company to Kapil Sharma in  the recent filmFirangi) struggles to imbue dignity in a role that’s purely a colonial cartoon. Besides Rajkummar Rao, it is Naveen Kasturia playing the conflicted havaldar Darbari Lal who brings an endearingworldweariness to the role of  a British stooge who would rather not finger a fireball called Subhas Chandra Bose.The bantering  between Bose and Darbari Lal  contoured  by the shifting loyalties is  a highpoint in every episode.

 This series dares.And for its audacity alone, it deserves our attention.

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