Rocking Your World
The draw for me toward Rockstar is A.R. Rahman, the musical maestro responsible for countless of Hindi film classics, and of late piquing Hollywood's attention as well, being a recent frequent collaborator on Danny Boyle's films. For a film being named Rockstar, and with the promos banging on Rahman's music, one can expect plenty of rock tunes created just for the protagonist with even Rahman himself stating the soundtrack would be heavy on the guitars. But despite Ranbir Kapoor spotting various looks as seen in the trailer, the title served to be a misnomer as to the kind of film this is. Sure it has a rock star element to it, but Imtiaz Ali's film gets pared down toward the inevitable sappy romance genre that somehow didn't manage to blast itself away from formulaic cliches.
Ranbir Kapoor has now become a little bit more selective in the roles he chooses to play, and you can see why his Rockstar Janardan, or Jordan, character appealed to the actor. There's the challenge here in portraying two sides of the same coin, starting off as Janardan the student with aspirations of becoming a musician, lugging his guitar everywhere he goes and sharing the joy of his music to just about anyone he sees, never mind if they reciprocate that love, and especially not the authorities for his busking all over the place. Attempts in talent contests always ended up in ridicule, until a friend provided him some honest advice along the lines of how successful musicians excelled in their craft - experience, and more specifically, pain.
And Janardan can be a little bit dim-witted and misguided too in his attempt to achieve fame and glory - that ultimate recognition would be to have thousands salute you when you raise your middle finger instead of getting thrown in jail - though an added incentive to be successful would be to stand on his own two feet outside of bullying family members and to get himself out of a cushy job in the family business he has no interest in participating. Taking on that advice of experiencing pain, he goes all out to woo the hottest girl in college, Heer Kaul (Nargis Fakhri), the unattainable, serial heart breaker with an attitude as bad as how good she looks. But fortunately for Janardhan his awkward courtship routine tore down the icy cold walls Heer puts up, and in private they share tremendous moments of friendship and bonding through the many shenanigans they find themselves in, culminating in his visiting Kashmir to see her getting married to a rich man (Moufid Aziz) and whisked off and migrated to Prague.
Some may argue that Pain as a catalyst is something quite far-fetched, but trust me I know, it's the emotion enough to want to break down walls and cross boundaries, experimenting without fear. Janaardhan becomes Jordan the rock musician, with his creativity fueled by the breaking of his heart, of loss, longing and just about every negative emotion that comes along, thanks to his new found muse Heer. Music becomes an art through which he can express his feelings, and soon the music production houses come knocking, with Jordan's indiscretion with Heer becomes fuel for gossip and with that comes publicity, turning him into an overnight sensation through his bad rocker demeanour, growing worse day by day each time he cannot attain Heer.
And here's where Imtiaz Ali hit all the right notes in the first half through a rather unconventional presentation of the story traversing timelines and having scenes that do not directly link up, deliberately keeping gaps between scenes. It built upon the tussle between the artist and his muse, one sensible while the other constantly throwing caution to the wind, since we are all well aware of the thin line of adultery the couple is treading upon, with each secret meetup building in intensity, fighting urges and resisting temptation, witnessing the creation of pent up potential. Imtiaz Ali had crafted a wonderful first half before the interval, with comedy, drama, romance, music and even a cliffhanger in the first scene to allow the narrative to come back to later on. But all efforts in setting everything up, seemed to have primed itself for a hard fall, as post-interval the story seemed to have lost direction once it had the two lovers push the boundaries of their emotions, lapsing into the cliches that plague many romantic movies.
Stuck with a narrative that didn't want to go anywhere except focusing on the taboo romance between Jordan and Heer that went on in such great lengths it will rival that seen in Twilight, thank goodness for A.R. Rahman's music that took over since Jordan becomes an established performer (Sadda Haq being the best of the lot by the way), with the narrative given a massive boost from the songs. One cannot fault Ranbir Kapoor as he took on possibly the most challenging role to date playing a meek young man transformed into a hardened rocker hell bent on getting his romantic life the way he envisioned, such that you'll really feel this transformation and the pain, though self-inflicted, he has to endure. As a newcomer, model Nargis Fakhri is extremely believable as the face that men will go to war for, and let's see if Rockstar will open more doors for her in Bollywood. Look out too for the bit role by the late Shammi Kapoor, though one may prefer an extended role, but the scene which he and his grand-nephew Ranbir shared in the passing of advice, is nothing but priceless and what Rockstar would be remembered for.
Rockstar is like a comet, akin to the longevity of many rock acts these days, starting off very brightly, but knowingly and inevitably trailing off as it went along, unable to capture and sustain its initial payload, and faded off with nary a whimper. A rocker this is not, but rather an infatuated puppy in disguise. Such wasted potential, so set expectations low even though the first half of the film careens it stratospherically for you.