Rock based movies are revered and admired in Hollywood, but Bollywood hasn't been too kind to this genre. Vipul Shah's LONDON DREAMS failed to cut ice, despite the presence of top notch names, but ROCK ON! was a moderate success, with the urban audiences giving the film a second and third dekho. The film couldn't penetrate into the heartland, though.
Imtiaz Ali has always managed to strike the right balance between the hoi polloi and the gentry. Movies like JAB WE MET and LOVE AAJKAL are proof that the enormously talented raconteur won't attempt a film if he's not fully convinced about it. Known for his imaginative and inventive take on love stories, Imtiaz takes up yet another challenge with ROCKSTAR. The story of a rebellious singer/musician, it traces his journey of love, anguish, ego, trouble, sorrow and devastation. A difficult path to tread, no doubt, but Imtiaz could be a game changer, if the film strikes a chord. Alas! ROCKSTAR is a sumptuously shot movie that is disjointed on script level.
Let's get to the root of the problem. We are used to watching films that have a beginning, middle and end. The problem with ROCKSTAR is that it starts off most impressively, has some terrific moments in between, but the writing gets so erratic and incoherent as it heads towards the conclusion that you wonder, am I really watching an Imtiaz Ali film? I mean, even the naysayers would agree that Imtiaz Ali is a super storyteller and his movies have been talked about [and also remain etched in our memory] due to varied factors, the written material being one of the paramount reasons.
What you take back from ROCKSTAR are some terrific moments, a bravura performance [Ranbir Kapoor is a class apart!] and of course, A.R. Rahman's musical score. Wish one could carry the entire film back in our hearts!
Janardan [Ranbir Kapoor], born and brought up in the very middle class locality of Delhi, has a larger than life dream -- of being a rockstar like Jim Morrison! But all he gets from his reluctant audience is ridicule and humiliation. He's at his wit's end, when he realizes that all musical stars, all artists in fact, have one thing in common. And that is tragedy. They all have tragic lives. They have all suffered painful heartbreaks to become what they are. Alas, there is no pain in Janardan's life. Unless he does something drastic, he will never become a rockstar.
Heer [Nargis Fakhri] is the undisputed diva of the college campus -- beautiful, talented, arrogant, rich and unavailable. She has broken many hearts. Janardan hopes she will break his heart too. He sets out to woo Heer with the sole object of getting his heart broken.
ROCKSTAR traces the journey of a boy who leaves behind Janardan to become Jordan, who traverses the highs and lows of life -- from simple naiveté to tortured soul, from the campus in Delhi to the international stage… He ultimately gets all that his heart has ever desired, but in the process shatters/loses his heart forever.
It's evident that ROCKSTAR seeks inspiration for the story from the iconic, charismatic and popular Jim Morrison. With a capable director like Imtiaz Ali at the helm, one expects ROCKSTAR to be a cult movie in this genre. But the film falters after an impressive start, after you are introduced to the four pivotal characters in the story -- Ranbir, Nargis, Kumud Mishra [Ranbir's confidante] and Piyush Mishra [owner of a music company].
Narrated in flashback, the writing gets erratic as you delve deeper and deeper. The film begins with a few people bashing up Ranbir and one expects the reasons for this fight to come to the fore as the reels unfold. But the sequence remains unexplained even after the movie concludes. Sequences that depict Ranbir's unpredictable and inconsistent behavior are inexplicable as well. The major mood swings -- he's cool as a cucumber at times, but turns irritable and furious immediately -- is also baffling. His relationship with Heer is inconsistent as well. He comes across as an extremely mystified individual. Ranbir's portions in Prague [including meeting Nargis on arrival there] look unreal. The end to the tale is most worrisome. It's an open end, with the audience not really knowing what actually happened to one of the central characters. In fact, the second hour is stretched without valid reason and that makes it a tedious watch.
One expects Imtiaz Ali to outshine his previous works, but he doesn't. Sure, he explores the emotional depths with immense compassion and also draws bravura performances from the central characters, especially Ranbir Kapoor. But let's not disregard the fact that every film depends on a watertight screenplay and ROCKSTAR stumbles and fumbles in this department. At the same time, there are moments that are spectacular and brilliantly executed. The sequence between Shammi Kapoor and Ranbir [when introduced in the music company office] is super. Ditto for a particular sequence featuring Piyush Mishra; he's taking a massage and talking to Ranbir concurrently. Even the sequence when Ranbir tears apart the agreement and throws it at Piyush Mishra is fantastic. A few more individualistic scenes reiterate the fact that Imtiaz Ali is a genius!
Music maestro A.R. Rahman's music is scintillating. ROCKSTAR is about the progression of a musician from India and the songs not only tell his story, but also track his journey from a nobody to a somebody. It must've been a challenge for Rahman to depict the emotional catharsis a rockstar undergoes and the tracks, I wish to add, aren't the typical Rahman numbers either. While some of the songs ['Sadda Haq'] will be loved instantly, a few others will take time to grow on you.
Anil Mehta's cinematography is top notch. Every frame is picture perfect, a painting on celluloid. Dialogue deserve special mention. They are straight out of life.
The secret behind Ranbir's triumph is that he puts his heart and mind into every project he chooses to perform in. Love, resentment, pain, hurt... Ranbir brings a multitude of feelings to his character. It's a role of a lifetime and Ranbir is sure to be immortalized in this story of a rockstar. He glides into the character effortlessly, so much so that you see very little of Ranbir, the actor and more of Janardan/Jordan, the character he represents. His performance is beyond extraordinary.
Nargis is a stunner as far as looks are concerned, but isn't persuasive in poignant moments. However, the chemistry between Ranbir and Nargis is exhilarating. Shammi Kapoor is superb in a small but significant role. Aditi Rao Hydari suffers due to an undeveloped characterization. Kumud Mishra is splendid. What a fine actor! Piyush Mishra is, as always, exceptional. Shernaz Patel enacts her part well.
On the whole, ROCKSTAR does not live up to the confidence and expectations from the otherwise very skilled and accomplished film-maker Imtiaz Ali. The film suffers immensely due to a disorderly screenplay, especially in its post-interval portions. However, the silver lining or the comforting prospect is the virtuoso performance by Ranbir Kapoor and the captivating score by A.R. Rahman, which justify that one extra star.