Nov 12, 2011

'Rockstar': A 'Could-Have-Been' Classic

You will hear every person associated with film making, be it a director, producer or an actor, say 'story is the soul of a film'. Even the often warring reviewers and critics, agree as far as the significance of a good story in a film is concerned. Imtiaz Ali, the young director, who gave us inventive, fresh and memorable love stories like Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and somewhat unnoticed Socha Na Tha, tries to redefine love through a rather unconventional Rockstar, his fourth directorial venture. However, this time it is Imtiaz's trump card (read story) that deserts him. Rockstar works very well in patches, with some memorable moments, but falls short of mark in totality, specially the closing reels. 

Ranbir Kapoor plays Janardan Jakhad/JJ/Jordan, an average Delhi boy who dreams of being a Rockstar, inspired by none other than Jim Morrison. He fails to make much headway after being discouraged by his family and ridiculed by people around him. He gets a friend cum confidant in a canteen owner (Kumud Mishra) who tells him that it is absolutely necessary to experience pain, suffer humiliation and undergo tragedy to become artist of any kind, musician/singer included. Janardan then meets Heer (Nargis Fakhri), the gorgeous college candy, and decides to 'experience' tragedy/pain by proposing to her (he knew the proposal would be duly rejected). Later on Janardan and Heer become very good friends, traveling from Kashmir to Prague. As is the case with most friends of opposite sex, love blossoms, and what follows next is heartbreak, tragedy, pain and self-destruction. And yes, Janardan goes on to become Jordan, gains popularity across the world and develops a peculiar violent streak.

Rockstar suffers from inconclusive and unclear narrative. There are glaring loopholes in film's screenplay. For example, opening scene starts with a few men beating Jordan while he is going for one of his concerts. Then, the film goes into the flashback mode to tell the tale of Jordan, but explanation of that first scene never really comes up. That scene is totally forgotten when the story comes back to present times. The Prague episode looks totally unconvincing. While, Heer and Jordan's adventures in Delhi are fresh and charming, the European part of the story looks forced and made up. This is the reason why film works well in the first half with Ranbir pulling off the simpleton act with aplomb. The second half is stretched and induces a slight headache. Ranbir and Nargis's love track is inconsistent and disjointed. Sometimes, you wonder is this love or lust or none of the two? Also, there is not much insight into Ranbir's peculiar violent streak. This was needed, specially after he was also simultaneously shown as a very mystical and 'tough' guy, who spends two months at a Dargah. There are different ways of justifying a Rockstar's erratic behavior, mostly it is done through showing substance abuse. Imtiaz does not get into that cliched territory, which is good, but he should have put more logic behind it. The film's end is its biggest lacuna, you don't really know what happened to the female protagonist. Mind you, this is not open ending, but clear lack of clarity in the storyteller's head. The end, somehow, justifies the process, with that lingering confusion along with occasional brilliant moments.

But also, everything is not bad about the movie either. Few things are exemplary, some are very good. Ranbir Kapoor's riveting performance stands out, his best so far (You will forget Saawariya and Rajneeti). Hindi Cinema's youngest Superstar gives his heart, soul, sweat and blood to the role of a maverick Rockstar. His shrieks, violent encounters, rendezvous with strings, passion for Heer, comic timing, every damn thing will be etched in your mind forever. His performance is beyond praise and awards. Theatre's cooling (AC) has nothing to do with hair-raising moments that you experience throughout the film. It's Ranbir's show all the way.

Special mention for film's cinematograher Anil Mehta. Frames of Rockstar are very soothing, almost like painting. Shots of Kashmir and Hazrat Nizammudin Dargah deserve standing ovation. If Ranbir's histrionics as a helpless, mystical soul finding shelter at dargah make you feel for him, brilliant camerawork of Mehta inside the Dargah completes your experience. 

And as expected, A. R. Rahman's music weaves magic, hand in glove with the film's narrative. Expect for Sadda Haq, no song has immediate recall value but they grow on you with each passing day. 'Tum Ho' and 'Kun Faya' are honey to ears. Rockstar should go down as Rahman's finest work since his Oscar achievement. Also, background score gives a boost to somewhat sluggish proceedings in the second half.

Film also boasts of very fine editing (cuts and montage wise), but the editor (Aarti Bajaj) could have easily done away with at least 15 minutes in the second half. But again, there is a flip side to it. With such a wafer thin storyline, the editor did not have the liberty to reduce the film's length. Rockstar almost gasps to reach its conclusion in the second half, you know the director is trying hard to say 'The End'. Also, film's dialogues are straight out of heart and situational. (Palangtod takes away the top honors)

Ok, what about the newcomer Nargis? She is gorgeous except for that ever-protruding pout. Her acting skills are ordinary, to say it in the polite terms. Dubbing of her voice looks very odd at places, you sincerely wish to see a Katrina in her place by the time film reaches mid-way. Also, you wonder how Nargis miraculously gets turned on by just 'hugging' and produces semi-moans. Kumud Mishra as Ranbir's friend cum confidant is superb. Piyush Mishra, as the music company owner has been wasted. The massage scene is the only worthwhile scene that he gets in the film, and he makes an impact. The legendary Shammi Kapoor makes a very short appearance. But seeing him on the celluloid for one last time is pacifying enough. Isn't it?

Rockstar, as a film, would boost Imtiaz Ali's skills and credentials. One can easily see that the director has come out of his comfort zone (Fresh love stories) and tried something more challenging and mystifying. Full marks to him for taking that extra step. But he struggles to match promise with execution. There are way too many loose strings in the film to give the director a clean-chit. The film has everything, a larger than life canvas, a lead actor in form of his life, a compelling premise but it is the basic story and screenplay that seem to be awry. 

There are many moments in the film that you will take home. This is not an ordinary affair that you will see and forget. It will compel you to think. However, at the end of the movie you will wonder, "agar ye aisa hota to film classic hoti."

Rockstar is the quintessential 'could-have-been' classic. Ranbir Kapoor is the reason enough to watch it. And there are many more as well. Worth a Watch!

Rating- *** (Good)

P.S.- Mohit Chauhan deserves applaud for being the 'Unsung Rockstar' of the film.


  1. I have my reservations...some points here and there but agree with you on the lots..Ranbir Kapoor acted like a magic in the movie..i wish and pray for its good run at the box-office, i really want this movie to work.. :)

  2. Well .. about the first scene about men beating jordan and never coming back to it... u missed it my friend.. there are clear montage shots of him playing cards with those guys and then getting into fight... just before we see him on the stage singing naadan parindey....

    about what happened to the protagonist in the end she died. The ending if u feel is unfinished .. then refer to the lines of rumi... sahi aur galat ke paar .. ek maidan hai ..main tujhe wahan milunga..

    about their love story being disjointed then .. the film is more about janardhan becoming jordan and how his relationship with heer and how it is affecting him..

    well another reason for being disjointed could be lot of flashbacks ..which might have created confusion...

    well its sad to know and because u wrote it but Indian audience in general is so used to spoon feeding .. that when some information is not given to them, they don't like to use their own brains and imagination and on the other hand film schools in India teach that audiences are intelligent and giving them all the information is not necessary ... i guess this is the reason why no-brainers like ready and bodyguard work...

    though i do agree they could have used a more expressive face than Nargis ...

  3. Thanks Ram for reading. I too hope that the film does well at B.O. :)

  4. @Anubha: I can only review a film on the basis of my interpretation. Glad that u could extract more out of the film than I could. And lets not get into what audience want/spoon feeding and all. The flip point is being in a film school does not give you the right to flaunt your 'superior' understanding. Good to know that you liked the film :) I did not dislike it either.

  5. Ashish i was never trying to flaunt any 'superior' understanding as i have none. I was just trying to put across my perception of things neither i was trying to impose anything. And if a person cannot put forward a point or perception in your blog then i bid farewell to your blog ! Happy Writing !

  6. @Anubha- I was just giving my opinion on your perception. Never said they were wrong or right. And you should be tolerant to other's views. My superior understanding comment was in response to spoon-feeding statement. I wish you stay on this blog. We all have a viewpoint, no point getting outraged. :)

  7. With this movie Ranbir Kapoor has cemented his position as the “most-bankable-actor” and a promising contender to the bollywood’s NUMERO UNO throne. His acting (comprising of dialogue delivery and expression) is distinctive and brings in novelty. His growing prominence speaks volumes of his stupendous acting skills. The USP of his brand of acting is willingness to experiment with roles and endeavors for uninterrupted improvement in his acting repertoire in pursuit of excellence. He has proved his mettle.
    Bollywood, a bastion dominated for long by Khans, seems ready to embrace Randhir Kapoor as the deserving contender for biggest star of bollywood.

  8. Well Said Abhishek. Thank You for reading. Hope to see u around more often :)

  9. I agree to most of your points. Yes, there was a scene in the end which showed Ranbir playing cards with those foreigners and getting beaten up. But there are a lot of scenes in the movie which are not justified. They just happen, illogically and without any reason.

    You always terrify me with your writing skills. I feel like a novice! :P

    And yes, Ranbir is a versatile actor and a complete Hero. Hope doesn't get distracted with all the praises and applauds!

  10. Applaud getting into Ranbir's head! naah, agar yeh hona hota toh saawariya ke baad hi ho jaate..Thank u for reading Lebnox! :)

  11. I do agree with your point “Sometimes, you wonder is this love or lust or none of the two?” lol, other than this I find the movie ok... Well, I love the music over the movie anyway Good one AA!

  12. Thank You So much Kasturi! :) Pleasantly surprised to see you here! Hope to find you more often :)