The Rising Review

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In 1857, British authorities in India introduce a new rifle greased with animal fats —sacrilegious to both the Hindu and Muslim ‘Sepoy’ native soldiers. The incident leads to the bloody Indian Mutiny...


The Rising tells how cost-cutting over gun cartridges brought down the mighty British East India Company and lit the fuse of Indian nationalism. At the heart of events are low-ranking officer William Gordon (Toby Stephens) and Sepoy Mangal Pandey (Aamir Khan), friends since Pandey saved Gordon’s life.

The role this unassuming pair play in such momentous events makes for a thumping yarn. Director Ketan Mehta brings affectionate attention to period detail, and the reflections of current world events found in the self-inflicted collapse of this capitalist, colonial regime sharpen the story’s contemporary edge.

Stephens, playing Gordon with winning conviction, outshines the rest of the Brit contingent. But the jewel in the crown is Khan, who, with waxed moustache, transfixing eyes and bulky, playful gait, exerts a gravitational pull on the picture — even if he’s a little too cuddly for the epic, agent-of-history hero he becomes.

Be warned, though: despite its crossover scope, this is still a Bollywood production. And while comparatively light on musical interludes, the cast still have a habit of launching into the odd song-and-dance number, which to those not familiar with the genre can bring a jarring aura of music hall.

A rousing, if melodramatic, history lesson — although it does require you to bite the Bollywood bullet.