Once upon a time there was a chameleon named Lars (Johnny Depp). He lived in a comfortably urban terrarium (a dry version of aquarium) until one day he got stranded somewhere in the Mojave Desert (an extreme West region of the US of A).
After an indicative tryst with an armadillo named Roadkill and after being chased to almost death by a hawk, the hero, Lars the chameleon finally meets Beans (Isla Fisher). She is a desert iguana, and a rancher’s daughter and yeah, the girl of his destiny.
This girl, Beans takes him to the town of Dirt. Now Lars is free, as he has never been before, to build a new identity, to create his niche in this new world. And gorgeous chameleon form of Depp takes the opportunity to boast and introduces himself as RANGO, the spirit of west! With some animation twists of luck, he manages to kill the predator Hawk, and earns the badge of sheriff of the town of Dirt, from the mayor (Ned Beatty).
So far the story looks normal….perky screenplay, Wild West music, and cowboy hats….with the desert setting….this super animation world looks too real to be animation. The viewer can comfortably chew on popcorn so far.
And now the real story starts. The lead lady, Beans finds out that there are threats more severe than the shadows of killer hawk. The water reserve at the dirt Bank is too low to sustain the town even for a week. The usual weekly supply of water has mysteriously dried out. She demands sheriff Rango to investigate the source of water problem.
One night, Rango comes across few mole robbers and unknowingly provides them the location of the bank and tools to break in. The limited water in the bank vault is stolen and sheriff Rango must arrange a posse to chase the robbers. They find the bank manager, Mr. Merrymack, mysteriously dead on their way. Eventually when the posse confronts the robbers, it is found that the water tank they stole was already emptied.
Rango and Beans figure out that Mayor has been buying all the land around the town of dirt, by will or force. Rango also remembers the mayor telling him how controlling water means controlling everything. It is evident that the mayor is behind this mysterious water crunch. The mayor is building a modern city on his purchased land. (Please try not to remember Mr. Sharad Pawar and his Lavasa Corporation.) As the mayor sees Rango getting closer to expose his political game, he calls for the gunslinger rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) to get rid of Rango.
Jake with his Gatling gun tail fires shots after shots, but worse than that, he paints Rango as a fake and irresponsible sheriff, by exposing his lies about being the spirit of west. Rango, broken and ashamed wanders away from the town of Dirt, and meets the real spirit of west (Timothy Olyphant) in a dreamlike situation. He inspires Rango as “No man can walk out on his own story.”
Rango eventually figures out that the real source of water for the town of Dirt, comes from Las Vegas and has been smartly closed shut by the mayor, to create a pseudo water crunch. The closed lines are opened and Rango returns to Dirt, with water.
A typical climax fight takes place, involving lady Beans being held ransom, Mayor trying to kill the rattlesnake and Rango saving all of them! So now there is no villain, abundant water and a town superhero to celebrate!
And now let’s come to the point. The story is actually about a real issue that we can locally connect with. Forget the frills, but political powers controlling water and hence the social structure, are not new to us. It is ancient reality that the one, who controls water, controls everything else.
In Maharashtra, Mr. Ajit Pawar controls water. Lavasa, the first hill city of Independent India is cuddled by the media as the ‘glorious vision of our honorable Union Agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar’. So obviously, Lavasa Corporation is entitled to be given unrestricted freedom to change every town planning regulation. In case any activist tries to play Rango, the politician-developers lobby has nurtured rattlesnakes of gangsters, ready to crush the resistance.
In a movie, Rango has one great advantage of animation powered luck! In reality we are already sold to the will of politicians. They can buy each one of us if they wish to do so. Lavasa is eating up 7% of Pune’s water supply, in its eight check dams in the catchment area of Varasgaon backwaters. In last 5 years many state level town planning regulations are mysteriously changed to suit the need of Lavasa developers. But we are not Rango of course, we cannot fight. We let Environment minister, Jairam Ramesh fight. We let activist Medha Patkar fight.
All we need to remember is, Rango can rise only if the townsfolk of Dirt come together to fight for their existence. Without the town, there is no Rango…. And we are the town, you and me, together.
For more information about Lavasa case please read, down to earth, April issue.