The ApunKaChoice movie review of Rockstar All the rockheads who have been expecting Imtiaz Ali’s film Rockstar to be a follow-up to Rock On here’s the bubble-burst. Rockstar isn’t about rock music. It’s a love story, and not a great one at that. In his bid to move beyond the Bollywood mush, Imtiaz Ali tries to weave a love story with spiritual undertones, but ends up with a cobweb of his own creation: a film that tries to be profound but knows not what point to make. A film that’s made with passion but still lacks the heart of an entranced Sufi or the grace of a whirling dervish. Yes, there are a few epiphanic moments when a glimpse of something from the beyond flashes through, but that’s just about it.
The film is a story of an uncouth Delhi lad Janardhan Jhakhar (Ranbir Kapoor) who idolizes Jim Morrison but doesn’t have in him what it takes to make a cut. Pain, he’s told by a stocky canteen manager (Kumud Mishra), is the grist of creativity. So he seeks pain in the heartbreak by proposing the most beautiful girl in the college, Heer Kaul (Nargis Fakhri). But pain, like joy, is hard to come by. And it takes a long and outstretched relationship -- beginning with hate, turning into friendship and blossoming into love -- before our hero Jordan and his much married Heer are left with a shattered heart and an amputated soul, scarred enough to shuffle off their mortal coil.
You play with fire, you get burnt. And our hero is the one to willingly stick his neck underneath a guillotine suspended by a silken thread. All for musical inspiration. But here’s the catch. Imtiaz Ali never taps into the maturing musical genius of the protagonist, never making music the vehicle to cleanse, so to speak, the doors of perception to a place beyond the right and wrong. Rather, he sticks only to LOVE, as if music and love were one without the other. And what comes through is just the pain of two separated lovers, with no greater calling than to just be united.
So if you are digging for some profundity from this love story extraordinare, you’re digging a dry hole, my friend. For despite all the seething rage our protagonist pumps into his music and performances, Rockstar strictly remains a sexed up version of Devdas. The film could well have been called Devdas Learns To Rock.
Having said that, Rockstar is not a film to be pooh-poohed dismissively. For one, it has an entertaining first half with moments aplenty of light humour. The camaraderie between Ranbir and Nargis makes for a fun watch even though the latter is a non-actor. It’s in the second half that the film goes for a toss, and keeps veering between a drunken and jilted rockstar’s self destructive streak and his guilt-ridden ladylove’s paranoia.
Nargis has been saddled with the most complex character in the film, and given her halting Hindi and lack of experience in acting, you really feel for the girl. She struggles to slip into the skin of her character, her expressions wavering between pretty smiles and exasperation. Ranbir Kapoor comes up with a solid performance that sees the transformation of his character from the crass Jat boy Janardhan to a sullen, snappy, yelling, tortured soul, Jordan.
Kumud Mishra and Aditi Rao Hydari (playing a journalist) lend support from the sidelines, and the late Shammi Kapoor sprinkles his charisma in a few scenes.
A R Rahman’s music remains a formidable backbone of Rockstar, most notably the song “Saada Haq”, the best rock anthem to have come out of Bollywood to date. Anil Mehta’s cinematography is excellent, particularly the shots of the concerts.
Imtiaz Ali had a darn good story on his hands but he makes a hash of it in the second half and concludes on a rather predictable note. There’s no burning out. No fading away. This story of Jordan rotten ends suspended in a Rumi “field” beyond the right-doing and wrong-doing, where the lovers are forever united.
By then you are already looking at The Doors to exit.