Rockstar Not So Rocking

Rockstar leaves one perplexed and disappointed. Another Bollywood offering that has failed to come good. Imtiaz Ali had a promising story on hand and he has frittered away the whole potential with wasteful gimmickry. Disparate flashbacks, poor characterisation of the lead characters mar the proceedings completely, making the viewer wonder what the director was actually getting at. After the hype and expectation that Rockstar generated, one would have expected better from Ali.

Janardhan Jakhar (Ranbir Kapoor), scion of a lower middle class business family, and an aspiring singer, pursues pain in order to make his music more ‘meaningful’. Nice thought. But what does he do? Chases the most sought after girl in Stephen’s, Heer Kaul (Nargis Fakhri) and follows her through the lush locales of Prague, where she lives post marriage. Meantime our protagonist rises to fame and stardom as Jordan, the Rockstar – The pain of love works its magic on the music he makes.

To give Ali his due, the first half seems like the movie is heading towards poignance and maybe even towards becoming a modern classic. But, the second half just peters into nothing; nothing at all. Fakhri, will at best, remain a pretty face, a country cousin of Katrina Kaif, unless she is bitten by lady luck, oh yeah, the same one that bit Ms Kaif.

There was this expectation of seeing the making of the star, exploring his psyche, the deconstruction of stardom and the man behind it, but sadly, Ali did not do justice to any of these. Ali missed the point that the movie should have been more about rock and the rock star (so much for vague references to Jim Morrison). Instead, what we are subjected to is a confused crossover between a love story and a musical journey. A R Rehman’s score is good (Naadaan Parindey and Sadda Haq are infectious), but not superlative and does nothing to elevate the movie to a true-blue rock musical extravaganza. So, what are we left with? Two and half hours of splendid cinematography and grandeur, more in the Bhansali-esque mode. What’s gotten into you, Ali? After Jab We Met, we really thought we saw a great maestro in you. You need to buck up to make us forget this unimpressive fare, and yes, young Kapoor’s brave performance, notwithstanding.

Written By Shantheri Mallaya.

Do you agree with Shantheri that Imtiaz Ali has failed this time? Is Ranbir the only shining star in the film? Or do you agree with our other reviewer who liked Rockstar? Let us know in the comments.

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Rockstar: A Review

I turned to rock music only recently; and I am still discovering the magic of Zeppelin, Morrison and the Woodstock generation; and of course, School Of Rock has been a major anchor in my tryst with rock ‘n roll. So, when I first heard of Rockstar, I confess, I was curious to know what a mainstream Bollywood movie’s take on the genre would be like. I also found it appealing for another reason: A R Rahman’s soundtrack and score. I had high hopes. And I did not wish to be disappointed. I wasn’t.

Before I go any further, let me tell you one thing: Rockstar is not going to do well at the box-office. It is going to be slammed by puritans and public; the former because they would not consider this worthy of the genre, and the latter because they are too used to a conventional Hindi movie. Rockstar is none. It’s doesn’t pay homage to the genre, but to the philosophy; as Jack Black put it: “sticking it out to the man!”

And that’s why Rockstar is a damn good movie. There are other reasons as well, which I shall discuss further on.

One of them is Ranbir Kapoor. In plain words, the movie would’ve been impossible without him (and Ali and Rahman, of course). Janardan Jankar’s character is simplistic: he has been learning the guitar since he was a child; his wall is adorned with posters of Morrison, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the likes — as opposed to Bollywood biggies. And he is desperate to find inspiration. His transformation into Jordan — the rebellious music icon/bad-boy is a combination of cinematic progress, as well as a growth captured by narrative. Yes, many would sense a disjuncture in this; and Imtiaz Ali could’ve employed more conventional techniques. But that would severely impede the beauty of the film and of the character.

Obviously, though very loosely, Janardan’s story is inspired by Jim Morrison — he even is in awe of his idol showing the middle-finger to the public — but Ranbir’s performance does not go into manic depravity. His journey is reflective and painful; creative and self-destructive. Not because he’s a rebel without a cause; it’s because, talent can afford arrogance.

Rockstar, also, is a commentary on society and the media who hail him a ‘kalakaar’ and then a criminal. Icons in the past have been dissected by the media before: Michael Jackson, Keith Allen, and Morrison himself are a few examples. Celebrities are expected to have decorum, even if they lack talent. Jordan refuses to make this compromise.

He’s not the hero, clearly. Anti-hero? Maybe. But most of all, he is that iconic music figure India has never been able to produce. There has been talent in the country, but the film industries have absorbed them and rendered them only as background artistes or as musical geniuses from the margins of high art.

Ustad Jameel Khan (Shammi Kapoor, magical performance truly!) is representative of that old school. Jordan is the new school. There is no discord between the two, because above all, they respect their art. There has never been a Jim Morrison, or Bob Dylan in India. Rockstar laments that fact. And it also celebrates it, had it been so.

Nargis Fakhri, Imtiaz Ali’s newest newbie, evokes mixed feelings. Her screen presence is brilliant. But it’s when she opens her mouth that you get an awkward feeling that casting could’ve been much better. However, she does manage to fit in the film as a whole — janglee jawani and “gandh machana”, truly innovative! She displays Heer’s vulnerable side well, but the subsequent scenes feel strangely out of place and leave one to wonder that the 2 hour 40 minute run time could’ve been managed better. But these are only the minor glitches in an otherwise cohesive movie.

The supporting cast is what gives the movie a whole new dimension; because Jordan would not have been the man he is had it not been for these people – from the canteen owner cum manager (Kumud Mishra, subtle yet powerful) to Dhingra (Piyush Mishra, thoroughly convincing!) the dodgy record label manager. Their performances complement Ranbir’s intensity, rage and introspection to the letter T — another evident example of a well-written script. The supporting cast at Fakhri’s end, however, appear as elite snobs, who think themselves, and possibly their theatre backgrounds, to be higher than Bollywood standards. A minor, 20 second let down, that’s all.

Technically, the movie aces the score board. Ali does justice to the stark, snow-covered yet beautiful Kashmir (I wonder if this is actually a reference to the Led Zeppelin number).

Prague was an unconventional choice (I mean, who gets married and settles in Czech Republic of all places), but it pays off nevertheless. And it also brings about a cultural intercourse of sorts, in terms of both the music as well as the aesthetics. Hawaa Hawaa and Aur Ho capture this fusion beautifully. Sadda Haq is an amazing number, and it does justice to this ‘philosophy’ I keep harping about. Jo Bhi Main is another beautifully rendered track. The montages across India add an element of credibility to the movie, supported by production design of the highest degree.

And last, but in no way the least, this brings us to the music. Perhaps, Imtiaz Ali’s decision to approach A R Rahman for the score of Rockstar is the best one in his career. Pritam would’ve, to put it mildly, screwed the movie.

I admit this is not Rahman’s finest composition; there have been better ones, Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6 being some of them. But Rockstar’s score and its script are knit closely and intimately; the music emanates from the movie. The track listing could’ve been better had Rahman taken the liberty to add more singers. But his choice to stick to Mohit Chauhan as Jordan’s voice makes the movie credible. And while doing so, Chauhan explores his versatility as an artiste, and Jordan’s intensity as a performer.

People might say that Rahman’s getting predictable. But his compositions are not standalones to be made into ringtones and caller tunes; they serve a purpose in the movie. Although the movie is loosely inspired by Jim Morrison, Jordan is his own man. And his music in his own. Here, I would like to make a special mention of the lyrics by Irshad Kamil; now this guy is no Javed Akhtar or Gulzar. But he understands the meaning of rock, the philosophy of it, in other words. Rock isn’t about head-banging music; it’s a revolution in the way of thought. And Rockstar does so, staying true to the rock tradition. It rebels against convention, against hypocrisy and one-dimensional thought. It’s creative, it’s introspective, and it’s poignant. Above all things, it’s meaningful.

Final verdict. Rockstar is not a flawless movie. Then again, which movie is? It has its flaws, and some of them are rather evident. It juxtaposes two ideas and philosophies, contrasts very different world views; it is rebellious, arrogant even. It is certainly not meant to appease anyone. If anything else, its purpose is to get you to think. It challenges our perceptions, dogmas, and ideas of morality, aesthetics, good-bad or whatever. It’s a ballad, not a story. It isn’t finite or watertight, or impeded by conventions. It is an intelligent movie, at the end of the day. And an insanely brilliant one, that too.

It’s not going to do well at the box office, critics will slam it, and so will a large part of the public — because they don’t make movies like Rockstar very often. And that’s precisely why you should give it a watch.

Written by Proshant Chakraborty.

What did you feel about this new Imtiaz Ali offering? Has Rockstar captured your minds and hearts? Or do you agree with our other reviewer who felt the film didn’t make the mark? Let us know in the comments.

5 Reasons Why Engeyum Eppodhum Is A Must-Watch!!

Perspective is that eleven letter word that distinguishes an artist from an average person.

I had mentioned in my earlier post that ‘perspective’ is one subject that always fascinates me. I’m a die-hard fan of the word itself. So, when Suresh, one of my best friends, with whom I share a hell lot of similar perspectives, told me that he “couldn’t get the sadistic feel off his mind for a complete day” after watching Engeyum Eppodhum, I was completely shocked. After all, it is the same movie that impressed me on many levels. In fact, I’d say that it’s one of the best Tamil movies ever made. Why do I feel so? Here is my perspective summarised in five different sections.

1.      The Message:

I beg to differ with the many people who feel that Engeyum Eppodhum is basically the story of two couples whose lives converge at a road accident. The reason is simple. The movie’s premise is set in the very first scene. You don’t see the couples. You don’t see the romance between them. You see only the accident. Also, the accident serves as a pivot for the whole movie. So, according to me, the movie is mainly about road safety and not about the transience of life. Whether or not one’s longevity is assured is unknown. That’s a topic better left untouched.

Also, the end credits of the movie shows newspaper reports of accidents that take place on highways. That is more than enough to understand that the movie is mainly about road safety.

2.      The Visual Effects:

What could possibly go wrong when a production house like Fox Star Studios has financed for the movie? The visual effects are too good and very realistic. The accident sequence is almost a minute long and that single minute seems like an hour as it visualizes each and every minute detail associated with such an event. You should see it to believe it.

3.      The Screenplay and Editing:

First and foremost, road safety and highway accidents are some areas that are mostly explored only by documentary makers. Debutante director, M. Saravanan has done a tremendous job. None of the scenes are boring and never does one feel like leaving the theatre. Moreover, the movie, which is just 2 hours and 20 minutes long, is quite “short” by Indian film standards.

4.      The Actors:

The lead actors – Jai, Anjali, Sharvanand and Ananya – have done a very decent job. Anjali, as the straightforward, progressive young girl, makes you smile on several instances. You can’t help supporting her actions in the movie. Jai, as the innocent lover boy, is continuing to mature as an actor. Sharavanand can be happy that Engeyum Eppodhum has done what his debut Tamil movie failed to. He has got the looks, he has got the skill. I guess we can see more of him in the near future. The same can be said of Ananya as well. Sharvanand and Ananya look cute as a couple. The ending scene in the hospital reminded me of Alaipayuthey (Saathiya) though.

Though the majority of the movie shows huge portions of the lead couples’ lives, each and every passenger in the two buses has a story to tell. The love story of the college students, the story of the man returning from Dubai and the story of the newly-married couple are all well-made and everyone has done a good job of essaying their roles to perfection.

5.      Cinematography:

The movie has some unusual, yet wonderful camera angles. The initial scenes in which they show servicing the buses are classy. It was quite surprising that someone could even get such good angles from unbelievable places. The final word is you should see it to believe it. Kudos to the cameraman, Velraj!

Having said all these, I still stick to my opinion that Engeyum Eppothum is one of the best Tamil movies ever made. It’s certainly a must-watch and you must watch it in a theater!

Written by Vinay Kumaar.