Dange Review: A frustrating film with a rewarding climax

Written and directed by Bejoy Nambiar, the action drama drowns in its own style
A scene from Bejoy Nambiar's Dange
A scene from Bejoy Nambiar's Dange

Director Bejoy Nambiar's Dange is a visual spectacle. Right from the initial frames, the film sparkles with innovative aesthetics. There is an urgency with which shots are edited together, along with a pulsating reverberance in the music. It is ferocious and energetic. Right before the interval, in a juxtaposition of two scenarios that have a striking resonance with each other, we follow an intense conversation between Xavier (Harshvardhan Rane) and Yuva (Ehan Bhat). It is intercut with a boxing match between two other characters who have had some issues lately. It is not revealed if this match really took place or if we are just seeing an imagined recreation. As they beat each other up in the boxing ring, we are cut to the other side for a fiery exchange of words. Here, everything is yet to blow up, and the tension rises with every second. Yuva and Xavier have a history that makes itself bare in the present. The entire sequence feels stunning with how it is edited and what it represents within the film. However, it doesn’t manage to pierce your heart, for there is not enough emotional attachment to the story and its characters. So, while it may arouse your senses and stun you with its glaring aesthetics, there is nothing worthwhile in its layers to hold it together.

Directed by: Bejoy Nambiar

Cast: Harshvardhan Rane, Ehan Bhat, Nikita Dutta, TJ Bhanu and Taniya Kalrra

The film suffers from this dilemma throughout, where its indulgence with form increases as the story suffers from stagnation. It is set in a medical college in Goa, where student elections are due. Among the favourites of the students is Ambika (Taniya Kalrra), who runs a forum called ‘Aawaz’ with others. The college management selects the daughter of a powerful politician as the president of the student council. Raising her voice against her selection for the role is a Dalit student leader Gayatri (TJ Bhanu), who is passionately idealistic. Operating within this background, there are personal rivalries that come up and past traumas that reveal themselves. There is love, heartbreak, and the violent reactions it causes in the testosterone-pumped minds of these college youths. Bejoy’s filmmaking tries to make sense of everything through its own trajectory. As evolved and innovative as his style may seem in some scenes, it fizzles down to an uneven territory in others.

Time and again, we are shown a blue-toned flashback scene involving Xavier and Yuva as kids. It is a scene that involves abuse and is repeated multiple times as if to just torture you. It brings a sense of shabbiness to the aesthetics, revealing their inherent shallow nature. The style is nothing but face-value trauma-porn. Deep down, it operates in the same old, drowsy ways. In yet another scene, acid is poured on a character’s hand, causing severe burns. The manner in which it is shot seems detached from the rest of the film. It is loud and exhausting to watch and creates a sense of discordance with the film’s overall appeal. It gets messier post-interval as things get further entangled and there’s little time to focus on individual emotional beats. Finally, the film gets back in the game in the final 20 minutes with an ambitious and brilliantly staged single take.

With loud music coupled with the camera floating everywhere and matching the actors’ newfound vigour, the climax is a sight to behold. It provides a perfect release of all the pent-up emotions through its stunning display of visuals. It is among Bejoy’s major strengths to provide a spectacular experience. Everything that he builds from the start through his style finds an apex resolution in the climax. If only this sensorial symphony was matched with a uniform storyline to such an extent that it converged with the emotional beats, the film would have hit the home run.

On top of all this, the performances don’t hold our attention enough either. Harshvardhan Rane does all the heavy lifting as a college senior. He tries to hit multiple notes and creates a balance between pumped-up muscular antics and meditative restraint. Ehan Bhat struggles to bring any nuance to his act. He is either clenching his jaws and widening his eyes or shouting on top of his voice whenever he is nudged slightly. Nikita Dutta, as his love interest, and TJ Bhanu are convincing in doing what they do as per the script, but that is not enough to incite interest.

As an experience, Dange doesn’t believe in giving you narrative relief; it makes up for all those shortcomings by packaging it in a shiny layer. For instance, the stagnant character graph of Xavier is fuelled up by a nose ring that Harshvardhan wears along with the golden strands in his long hair. That also explains the incessant intercutting, rampant camera movements, and hard-boiled music. What about the awkward emotional scenes, forced back stories, and a lazy political subplot? There are no explanations for them.

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