Nargis Fakhri has a Katrina Kaif (of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan) hangover as she zooms off on Rockstar Ranbir's bike to 'machaofy some gandh' before she settles down in matrimony with someone else (the 'gandh machaofy' fetish continues post her marriage too). The bonding between the lead pair is fun but the heights of passion that director Imtiaz Ali must have aspired to project to his audience is missing. Moreover, at 2 hrs 45 minutes, Rockstar is a tedious watch specially when the proceedings become too dark.
Imtiaz Ali is one of the finest writer-directors in the Hindi film industry in the present era. There were a lot of expectations from Rockstar. He sketches some wonderful characters but the love story lacks the depth, intensity and reasoning. Also, the narrative goes for a toss in the second half. Janardhan Jakhad aka Jordan(Ranbir) is a simpleton who loves music. His family doesn't support this passion and throws him out of the house. The remnants of love that he felt for Heer (Nargis) and the hardships of life while living on his own in the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah brings out the spiritual side to his personality. Khatana Bhai (Kumud Mishra, restrained and believable) makes him understand the importance of heartbreak to make lasting music and how to keep the sanity under check at various points of the rockstar's life. Ustaad Jameel Khan (Shammi Kapoor, incredible charmer), a renowned Shahnai player (based on Ustaad Bismillah Khan sahab's persona), is an Indian classical musician who recognises the immense potential in Jordan. Dhingra (Piyush Mishra, superb) owns a successful music company that values profit and subservience.
While Imtiaz constructs impressive characters of Jordan, Khatana bhai, Dhingra and Ustaad Jameel Khan, he fails to underline the reasons for the lack-of-depth in Heer's (Nargis, looks great, is fun but falters as an actress several times) character. At one moment, she can't stand Janardhan Jakhad and after a convenient change-of-heart, goes to watch a sleazy film with him, washed up by desi daroo and long bike rides in hills on the eve of her marriage to someone else. When they meet up again in Prague post her marriage, they go to strip clubs, red light district, dance on roads, long bike rides and then they kiss. After, all the salacious stuff that they had been sharing, she suddenly turns moralistic and tells Jordan to stay within limits. At the dinner, Heer's husband suggests that she should join Jordan's troupe in Prague as a volunteer as he seems to be having a good impact on her (Husband ho toh aisa). During a performance, Jordan goes backstage and plants a kiss on Heer's lips. Since she is suffering from a serious ailment, Heer's parents allow Jordan (known for mood swings, having spent time in jail) to spend time with her. Jordan gets Heer pregnant leading to hazardous complications. Kya mohabbat hai!
Ranbir's journey as a rockstar is not filmi at all. He is shown to be portraying a free spirited musician who is summed up by Ustaad Jameel Khan when he tells Dhingra that Jordan is a free bird who won't remain confined to his cage since he is meant to fly high. Ranbir is one big reason to watch a film that has several flaws. Just watch him transform from a geek to a Greek God. Effortlessly. There are several scenes where he stuns you with the growth in him as an actor. Here are a few such examples:
* When he tears the music contract and throws at Dhingra
* Unabashedly laughs when Dhingra is being fixed by his maalishwala
* Tells Nargis, "tu marni waali hai..." and suddenly changes the context of what he wanted to say
* Interactions with Khatana bhai as he was the only one whom Jordan really trusted or respected.
* Sexual dalliance with journo Sheena (Aditi Rao) and the way he withdraws from performing the act.
* Very convincing as a singer-musician. You could feel that he is actually singing from his gut and when he played the upper strings of the guitar, you know that a lot of research has gone in observing what a rocker does on stage.
Jordan's constant altercations with media is blown out of proportion. The repeated parts where journo-cameramen pounce and jump on Jordan is far from the reality (a nice way to hit back at the media eh!). The first half of the film is fun but the second half gets convoluted, dark and stretches needlessly. How many permutation combinations of Jordan's artistic madness can you suffer? It becomes too much after a point of time. Why was a word like 'Chutiya' beeped while 'Haraami' goes scot free. Jordan tells Heer that he has kissed and has had sex before too, but the word 'sex' is beeped out. Why? What's the big deal? The 'Free Tibet' banner finds 'Tibet' being blurred. It's a shame both for the Censor Board as well as the makers.
'Sadda Haq' is brilliantly picturised. But during the film, one doesn't get to see Jordan expressing his thoughts on environment or other social issues. Hence, in the context of the film, 'Sadda Haq' is out of place. Rahman's music is fantastic but there are way too many songs in the film that derails the narrative further. Mohit Chauhan as Jordan's voice is very effective. A voice that defies anything that is obvious. Anil Mehta's camerawork is exceptional. The scenic Kashmir, Himachal in India and Prague in Europe have been captured beautifully. Imtiaz' dialogues, as expected, are good. Jordan's brother tells him, "ab kya daantne ke liye bhi appointment len..." (should we take appointment for scolding you?). Quirky and different. Aarti Bajaj's editing has two sides to it. The back-n-forth flow of narrative is charming but the slow pace and a sudden, thanda finale spoils the story flow.
In the final analysis, Rockstar is a film that has a lot of heart but the soul is missing. It will test your patience, but it's watchable.
Star Rating: *** stars