Rockstar: A Review
Rockstar – Dir: Imtiaz Ali; *ing: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Shammi Kapoor, Kumud Mishra
Sex, love, and rock n’ scowl
What makes an artist great? Is it talent alone? Or is it also the ability to channel one’s life experiences into one’s creations? Are the two one and the same? Imtiaz Ali’s fourth venture as writer and director sets up a promising premise that purports to frame these ruminations on the nature of art, artist and artistry within the story of a musician who must go through the ‘Passion’ in order to find the muse within. It’s another matter altogether that the film veers off into somewhat clichéd tragic romance territory post-interval, never to return to its far more intriguing initial set-up.
Jordan (Kapoor), a rocker from India, is poised to conquer the international arena; he is on stage at the Roman Coliseum, looking on as the teeming throngs of his fans roar and cheer on their idol. Flashback to years before when Jordan was still Janardhan, a nerdy college student with dreams of being a successful musician, but who, according to his mentor/canteen proprietor Khatana (K. Mishra), is too regular and happy a guy to achieve his dream. Pain, he is told, is what makes an artist. So the boy gauchely sets about trying to acquire some pain by attempting to have his heart broken by the campus beauty Heer (Fakhri). Instead they end up as friends, their relationship continuing through the years and getting more and more complicated as she struggles in an unhappy marriage and he finds success in the music biz. When they are forced to part by circumstances, Janardhan finally begins to understand the torment that can drive his talent – and also, perhaps, destroy him in the process.
It’s at this point that Ali decides that all that agonising over the nature of the artist can just get stuffed, he’s going to turn the story into a weepie about a pretty girl struck down by disease and how that’s so, like, sad for the boy who fancies her. It’s a near-fatal mistake, this ill-considered foray into Akhiyon Ke Jharokon Se territory, and almost undoes all the good stuff that preceded it. For pre-interval, Rockstar is a truly strong piece of cinema, both in terms of writing and visual style. Ali uses montage in a fresh and inventive manner and the cinematography by Anil Mehta is startlingly good. A.R. Rahman’s music, meanwhile, blends beautifully and seamlessly into the film, making one finally realize why it didn’t have much of an impact in the TV promos; it’s well and truly ‘of’ the film, making this a musical in the real sense of the term. While newcomer Fakhri’s bland fish-lipped performance is a letdown (and also serves to rob her narrative of the weight that it’s supposed to bring to the film), Kapoor proves yet again that he’s the one to beat in the Next-Bollywood-Superstar stakes. He quite effortlessly carried off an atrocious film like Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani, but with a well-written and directed film like this, he works wonders, making Jordan/Janardhan flesh and blood, real, believable and sympathetic, even when the character is living up to the image of the troubled, self-destructive rock star.
So tis’ a pity that the director chooses to go for the hackneyed halfway through the film, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that, for the most part, Rockstar is a brilliantly executed piece of work with a wonderful central performance. And for those with a nostalgia habit, Rockstar also contains the last onscreen appearance of the late Shammi Kapoor – the original rock n’ roll rebel of Bollywood.