When I started to look at Bollywood films more seriously, it was at the time when Saarwariya was released, starring the rookie Ranbir Kapoor in the lead role as a man pining, and scheming to get the girl of his dreams. Then came films like Bachna Ae Haseeno in 2008, and the acclaimed and successful Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani this year, propelling him to become one of the promising young actors who could take over the reins from the reigning, ageing Khans of Bollywood. And his latest film Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, just cements his position as a front runner of emerging stars.
One cannot talk about the movie without first raving about his delivery of the role, where he disappears behind the heavy beard and turban, and plays not a romantic superhero, or an unbelievable all singing all dancing lead, but an everyday, average joe in Harpreet Singh Bedi whose mediocre grades (pass with grace marks, as the trailer puts it) spells out his destiny of hard work, supported only by an old, doting grandfather who has no qualms that his grandson can become a somebody in the world.
As with any graduate, Harpreet enters the work force full of idealism, if only to see that being shattered early on, together with his wide-eyed amazement of how the world actually works, with the greasing of palms to get appointments, insider information, and even the closing of deals. His foray into Sales, which once he would have thought was his calling with his slick ways of persuasion and negotiation, was to turn into a nightmare given his uncompromising stance on integrity and principles.
I suppose in the world of business, you can either make your millions through corrupt means, or with solid work ethics. In some ways the film, written by Jaideep Sahni, serves as a critique that old and corrupt ways of current (Indian) society can be changed, and everyone will likely be in a better position through fair competition and an even playing field. Business ethics based on sound values of customer service, and non-exploitative profits could be working business models, as opposed to one with deeply seeped corruption across all levels.
There's also the focus on the ethics of the workforce, where rookies are belittled, and those who make mistakes ostracized without remorse. The first half of the film, with Harpreet Singh joining the firm "At Your Service", a computer assembly company, sees a myriad of caricatures in a typical office environment which piles on the laughter. Rocket Singh is not a one man show, and the ensemble here, though at times cardboard, do present enough avenues for laughs, with the emphasis on teaming and the leverage of one another's strengths to achieve results. After all, there is unity and diversity in strength, where people count and shouldn't be just treated as digits.
And on Harpreet's side are carefully recruited partners from within the AYS firm to form a renegade competitor Rocket Sales Corporation from right under the nose of AYS Managing Director, Mr Puri. Rounding up the supporting cast are Mukest Bhatt as the tea-man Chotelal Mishra, Gauhar Khan as the multi-tasking and under-appreciated receptionist, Naveen Kaushik as the slimy sales manager Nithin, and D. Santosh as Giri the computer genius with a penchant for scantily-clad pictures of women on the internet, and almost steals every scene with some of the most hilarious lines and antics.
The film has an effective, delicate balance between comedy, drama and being a social critique from within the confines of the office eco-system, and there's always that sense of immense danger once Harpreet's plans kick starts itself into action, given that there's an angle of fraud and the abuse of company resources in going about doing his own thing, and not to mention being in direct competition with the company and the director he loathes. You know two wrongs don't make one right, and each slip up they make comes with it the threat of being found out, especially when business for RSC starts to boom.
Rocket Singh also departs from the usual Bollywood masala formula, and there's no musical song-and-dance interludes to detract you from its very pacey narrative that makes this quite the definitive film for those in the sales line. One will probably chuckle at how sales folks tend to over-promise and under-deliver (or at least it's left to the service folks to fulfill), and contains many real world elements and treatment that you'll come to expect from the profession. Definitely one of the best I've seen this year, and it's no doubt highly recommended!