Friday, November 11, 2011


Release date:
November 11, 2011
Imtiaz Ali
Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shernaz Patel, Shammi Kapoor, Piyush Mishra

What do I say?! Rockstar is the story of an aspiring singer in Delhi University who is told by a close associate that great art is born of pain. Janardhan Jakhar (Ranbir Kapoor) has not so far known suffering … does this mean he can never create soul-stirring songs? Taking the advice literally, he sets out to experience heartbreak by convincing himself that he’s smitten by the sophisticated hottie from a neighbouring college, Heer Kaul (Nargis Fakhri). Since she is out of the unrefined Janardhan’s league, he hopes to be rejected, believing that the hurt thus caused will stimulate his creative juices. As expected, she spurns his advances, but the consequence is an unlikely friendship that leads to more pain than either of them could have ever bargained for.
The film begins well … Janardhan is Jordan, a world renowned Indian rockstar who gets out of a bloody brawl on a street in Italy, strides past gigantic cut-outs of himself and into a stadium, shrugs on his performer’s gear on stage, and coolly turns to the crowd to belt out a song as they scream for him. From the bronzed and burnt look of that episode the film cuts to a bright, cheery Delhi of the past, and the clean-shaven Pitampura boy Janardhan’s determination to be a singer.
Smooth! Very smooth! But as Rockstar progressed and I remained in awe of its smoothness, slickness and style, the breathtaking locations, Anil Mehta’s cinematography and the fun choreography, I searched desperately for a soul and failed to find it. Imtiaz Ali’s strength so far has been his ability to tell real stories about real people whose lives he drew us into so effectively, that we laughed and cried with them. I desperately wanted Geet to dump her boyfriend for Aditya in Jab We Met. I could feel the love and longing of two generations in Love Aaj Kal. But in Rockstar, I didn’t weep for anyone.
The problem lies primarily with the film’s weak storyline. A girl faints at the sight of an Indian rockstar, crazed crowds gather when he’s spotted on a street … JordanMania in India requires a suspension of disbelief considering that we are a nation whose urban idols are drawn almost entirely from the cricketing and cinematic pantheons. But even if I were to buy the madness for Jordan in India, Rockstar is on shaky ground. Like Janardhan a.k.a. Jordan, Ali too seems to have been rather literal about the connection between artists and extreme suffering. But is this a film about love against all odds (as the quote from the poet Rumi in the end suggests) or about music against all odds (which was conveyed to us with such tenderness in Farhan Akhtar’s far superior film Rock On)? What was the driving force behind Jordan’s music of rebellion? Perhaps I could have understood his perennial anger if the film had taken us gradually through his journey from an innocent boy to a maverick, but it didn’t, opting instead for a narrative style that switched from the past to the present to what seemed like a flashback within a flashback. Sadder still, despite the sparks between Ranbir and Nargis, I didn’t feel drawn into their love story beyond the blossoming amidst the mountainscapes of Kashmir.
In fact, some episodes in the couple’s relationship are a trifle disturbing. Janardhan’s stalking of Heer in early scenes should have been handled better to avoid reinforcing the conviction held by so many roadside Romeos that when a woman says no, she means yes. Likewise, it’s sweet to hear Jordan matter of factly state his physical yearnings to Heer, but when he demands a kiss as she lies dying, it feels marginally offensive though the film projects him as being well intentioned. Then there’s that unfunny ‘joke’ after Heer and Janardhan watch the sleazy film Junglee Jawani in a sleazy theatre. “If we stayed any longer in the hall, you’d have been raped,” he says. She replies laughingly, “That’s fine, it would have been Junglee Jawani Part 2.”
Of the leads, Ranbir comes off much better. The reasons for Jordan’s rage are unconvincing, but you can see that the actor has invested so much of himself in the role! The basics are in place (his earthy accent is consistent, he’s been wonderfully styled to look alternately boyish and scruffily adult), but best of all, IT FEELS LIKE HE’S REALLY SINGING! Nargis is pretty, but her studied acting style required a firmer directorial hand.
To be fair, Rockstar has many positives that are a reminder of the acutely observant and humorous Imtiaz Ali we’ve grown to love: the contrast between reactions to a busker in Delhi and Prague; the glimpse of Janardhan’s lustful bhabhi; Janardhan’s meeting with a semi-nude music company honcho in the throes of a body massage; an elegant Shammi Kapoor’s appearance as a shehnai veteran; and the entire portion devoted to Heer’s wedding in Kashmir. The talented supporting cast is led by the delightful Kumud Mishra as Jordan’s hapless manager.
Most of all, I liked Irshad Kamil’s lyrics, A.R. Rahman’s background score, Mohit Chauhan’s voice, and the picturisation of each song. Rockstar is not my favourite Rahman album – I’ve enjoyed listening to Katiya Karun and Kun Faya Kun so far; when Saadda Haq enveloped me in that darkened hall, I finally fell for it too; but I’m afraid I don’t find the rest of the songs appealing. Yet, all of them have been filmed so beautifully and with such dramatic grandeur (in a dargah, in a European square, in the midst of frenzied crowds) that it was hard not to be drawn in while watching them. I wish the story had drawn me in too!
Rating (out of five): **1/2
CBFC Rating:                       U/A (The Censors asked for the word “Tibet” to be blurred from a “Free Tibet” banner during the Saadda Haq scene + other changes)
Running time:                        156 Minutes
Language:                              Hindi



  1. Havnet Seen the Movie as yet ; but your review is very pictorial and incisive ! Music ..Aint it mellifluous...Like all AR Rahman Tunes are ..Wont it catch on the audience or will the movie meet the fate of other AR Rahman capers like Dil Se and Dilli 6 ?

  2. U narrtaed the story better than Imtiaz.. Lols..

  3. Hi Anna, I usually like reading your reviews but a request...can we avoid giving out major plot points and punch-lines of jokes while reviewing? I learnt more than I wanted to in your review (had so far not read them in any of the other reviews). Let's allow the audience to discover them in the movie theatre!

  4. It is hard to find a Ranbir Kapoor movie that has too many problems. He seems to only sign movies with good scripts and he really does invest a lot of himself in each role. Rockstar was another such movie. Until intermission it was hard to find any flaws. Ranbir's performance was rock solid, Nargis had good screen presence and interesting chemistry with Ranbir, the supporting cast was doing great especially Janardhan's friend/advisor, the cinematography was beautiful, and there were plenty of funny dialogs and situations. Ranbir's performance as the unrefined, earthy college student almost reminded one of Ranveer Singh's performance in Band Baajaa Baraat, though without any imitation and in his own unique way. I was ready to give the movie a high score at intermission.

    Alas, for me the movie just stopped working soon after intermission. The beautiful cinematography was gone, Nargis wasn't too convincing as the sick, dying person, and the movie suddenly got too melodramatic. I didn't keep track of time, but it felt like the last one hour of the movie was painfully slow and melodramatic and dragged on forever. In the first half I couldn't have guessed how many times I would yawn in the second half, and I wasn't sleepy as I went into the movie after a good 2 hour nap and even had a "kadak" chaai before the movie and during the intermission!

    I would say 3.5 stars (almost 4) in the first half, and not more than 1.5 in the second - with an average overall score of right around 2.5 :)

  5. i haven't wotched the movie as yet..but ur review makes such a pictorial sense abt the film... my fav. soulful song in the film is kun faaya kun. Rest of songs are also Good. ('ok' type) ..

  6. Dear Ms / Mr Sinha,

    Thank you for writing to me. Because I take all constructive criticism very seriously, I re-read my review after I saw your note; I then read the Rockstar reviews by most leading Indian critics in the mainstream media. I am very particular about not giving away major plot points in my reviews, so I’m relieved that I feel I’m on solid ground when I say I disagree with you: I have not given away any major plot points in my review of Rockstar. In fact, I’ve summarised a minuscule portion of the film’s first half alone in my opening paragraph of merely 9 lines, ending with what I felt was a safely vague sentence: “As expected, she spurns his advances, but the consequence is an unlikely friendship that leads to more pain than either of them could have ever bargained for.” I’ve certainly told you less about the story in my review than any other critic I know. I suspect that you are either reacting to the length of my review; or your actual grouse is against the one ‘joke’ from the film that I’ve detailed. If it’s the former, then do keep in mind that blog reviews tend to be longer than reviews in print publications can possibly be (it’s the nature of the medium), but that does not mean crucial twists and turns are being revealed. If it’s the latter, then please note that (as I wrote in the review) I don’t think rape is funny so I don’t think there was a “punch-line” or a “joke” to give away at all there.

    Having said that, I do appreciate the trouble you took to post your feedback on my blog. As I said, I take well-intentioned criticism very seriously … even if I disagree.

    Rgds, Anna

  7. I don't think Anna gave away any plot points here. The movie isn't a murder mystery or other suspenseful drama. It is about Ranbir's performance for the most part and knowing some of the background info doesn't take away from the fun of watching the movie. On the contrary, in my case, it helped build up my appetite for it :)

  8. most of the movies are prdctble....
    this is an epic love story. the way the story unfolds was awsum.but ppl dnt say its a waste of money and time.this is a very good movie.miss it at ur own risk

  9. I had not watched Rockstar when it released and only just saw it on television. I found the film dreary and dull. But I'm not here to comment on the film. But I am extremely surprised that for an intelligent and seemingly feminist reviewer you didn't find that scene in the porn film theater disgusting and anti-women. Also when the Jordan character asks a dying Heer for a kiss you found it only 'mildly offensive'. Is it because the film is Imtiaz Ali's (who you love) and the character is played by Ranbir Kapoor, a star, that you are ready to forgive these anti-feminist portrayals? Surprised at your review!!

  10. I'm disgusted that you found the scene where he asks a dying Heer for a kiss only 'mildly offensive'. Also you have repeatedly claimed that you find rape jokes offensive in other films, but here you only call it 'unfunny'. Is it because you are friends with the director that you let these anti-women dialogues go without being offended by them? I suspect that is the case.

  11. Dear Shalini Raheja,

    I did not know I'm "friends with the director" of this film, as you say I am. I've not met Imtiaz Ali in my life so far, so perhaps you know something I don't?

    Regards, Anna