Granted this movie has been out for 4 weeks but I just had the opportunity of catching up with what all this hype was about. I went in expecting a “bored urban Indian youth rebel against society” kind of movie but was pleasantly surprised. **some spoilers**
Rock On: Don’t judge a movie by its poster
img: via Wikipedia
“Rock On” starts with a bang with a rock group “raising the roof” at a rock concert in downtown Mumbai. The band seems to be GNR inspired with mercurial lead man Aditya (Farhan Akhtar, yes that Farhan Akhtar) sporting an Axle Rose look, a lead guitarist Joe (Arjun Rampal) who also looks like Axle Rose, killer drummer K.D. (Purab Kohli) and Rob (Luke Kenny) on the keyboard. Abruptly, the story cuts to the individual lives of 4 men in their early to mid 30s. Aditya (Farhan Akhtar, yes that Farhan Akhtar) is a workaholic investment banker who’s marriage to Sakshi (Prachi Desai) is starting to unravel. Joe (Arjun Rampal) is an out of work musician who’s married to his college-days sweetheart and the two have a son. K.D. (Purab Kohli) works in his multi-millionaire father’s jewelry business. Rob (Luke Kenny) is an ad jingle writer.
The movie switches between the present and the past (in flashbacks), somewhat disconcerting at the beginning. As the story line starts to unwrap your learn that these 4 guys were part of a popular rock band named Magik about 10 years ago. The reason for the break-up of the band and the animosity between these former buddies becomes clearer as the movie progresses. Aditya’s wife Sakshi runs into K.D. while buying a birthday gift and that meeting kick starts a chain of events that ultimately forces the band members to confront their pasts and each other. Ultimately, the band members are forced with a choice, forgive each other and reunite for one last hurrah, or to proceed with their lives and leave their differences unresolved and their dreams unconquered.
One thing I noted was that the marketing and promos do little justice to this movie. You are lead to believe that the lead actors will sport their rock star looks throughout the movie and the movie is actually about a rock band from start to end. But far from it, this movie is about 4 regular guys who used to be a rock band. The movie has some Dil Chahta Hai elements to it, namely the male-bonding and, the deep rooted animosity between a couple of the guys. Think of Rock On as Dil Chahta Hai on heavy metal steroids. Ever wonder what happened to those crazy kids in your college that formed a rock band? Rock On is the story of a broken up 90s Indian rock band that played music reminiscent of the 80s hair metal bands. Rock On is about wanting to live your dream, think 8 Mile. Rock On is about about reigniting your passion for something you loved and believed in. Faced with the choice, can you in your 30s accomplish what you wanted to do in your 20s?
The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy is truly a delight to your auditory senses tortured by an over-abundance of crappy techno-pop remixes and Himmesh Reshamiya. Old school lyricist Javed Akhtar, abandons his fancy Urdu-based lyrics for simple rock lyrics which blend in well with the catchy rock music and even the occasional metal ballad, all 100% desi ishtyle. There are no abrupt song-dance sequences in exotic far-off locales and no chalk-on-board lyrics like “Oh baby baby, you wanna make me dance”. Even the songs are placed well as part of the storyline and even with zero exposure to the music before the movie, you could be forgiven for getting some of these numbers stuck in your head. Also, don’t be surprised if you find rock bands doing the dandiya circuit this Navratri *** wink wink hint ***.
The cast consists of a bunch of relative unknowns with Arjun Rampal being the most recognizable Bollywood face. The surprise package is definitely Farhan Akhtar, yes that Farhan Akhtar. Besides doing a great job acting, he also sung most of the songs in the movie himself. As for Arjun Rampal, he looks uncomfortable as the brooding out of work guitarist stuck in a rut, but his character grows on you as the movie progresses and by the end you could find yourself rooting for him. Purab Kohli, lends comic relief but not in the Bollywood slapstick style that we’ve come to abhor. Kohli’s drunken karaoke rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” had the audience in splits. Luke Kenny, the band’s conscience, who we come to associate with rock music on Channel V, also holds his own as an aging ad jingles composer sans his trademark long locks.
As for the leading ladies, Prachi Desai, Shahana Goswami and Koel Purie are hardly household names when it comes to Bollywood movies, but they give tight-knit performances relevant to the story line and play significant parts, especially Desai. Shahana Goswami plays a wife who gives up her ambition of being a designer to run her husband’s family business of selling fish in order to support her washed-out rock musician husband. These women are so real-life you feel yourself feeling their frustrations and ambitions and present a welcome change from the voluptuous Daisy Dukes-clad brigade of mainstream Bollywood.
Would I recommend Rock On to our readers? Absolutely. At 2 hours 40 minutes, the movie is perhaps a tad long but makes up for it with its well treated storyline sans the typical Bollywood melodrama. The plot line is taut without too many loose ends, for example, even something as minor as Aditya’s love interest before Sakshi gets some closure somewhere down the line. Without revealing the end of the movie, I’ll just say it’s bitter sweet.
As for the lingering question in your mind, will a person in their late 20, 30s or even 40s or upwards like this movie which is based on a rock band? Let me just put it this way, I had the same question going into the movie. Not only did I love this movie, but so did my mother. It’s a different movie and it’s for people of all ages. Go watch it in a theater and as the closing credits say “Don’t download the music, buy the CD”.