Friday, 29 August, 2008

Rock On!! - Reviewed.

Caution : Spoilers Below. Read only after watching the movie. Unless you don't plan to watch it. Or don't care about the spoilers.


To X,

Guess who's back? :)))))))

I've just read all the things you've written to me and you've written so much :))) So sweet of you. Thank you... I love reading your mails as you obviously well know.... And the best part about your mails are that they recreate you and your voice in words... And that is just amazing... unlike my mails which I guess are carefully worded, boring at times and mostly introspective...

Anyway, now that I am back, I guess i'll make the most of this opportunity to bore you...

I just returned from Rock On!!

Aaaah.... I am sure you're awaiting my take on the movie with bated breath...

But you will have to wait.

Yes, Rock On!! was a keenly anticipated movie. Promos do these things to you. Also brands. Rock On!! has Farhan Akhtar debuting in the movie. I have savoured his cinema for the kind of sensitivity he brings to all aspects of film-making. From the script to the screenplay - from the use of music and background score to the nuanced performances he is able to extract from his actors - all are a hallmark of a man who knows his stuff. And when you come to know that very Farhan Akhtar is acting in a movie centered around a rock band - at 22, as an avid movie and music buff - the adrenaline certainly starts pumping :))(happens to me atleast!). To add to it, he lends his voice to 5 of the 8 songs in the movie. And then if I said, "I wasn't expecting this movie to meet a certain intangible benchmark" - it'd be an absolute lie. Did the movie meet this benchmark is the big question?

The answer to be absolutely honest is Yes and No.

Rock On!! is the story of 4 friends (Aditya - lead vocalist and lyricist, Rob - keyboard/ programmer, KD - drummer and Joe - lead guitarist) who between the age of 20 and 22 (no exact mention) form a rock band named Magik. For them, music is life. They eat, sleep, breathe, drink music. And each of them passionately believe in Magik - the band. The movie is about these 4 friends/ band members who under certain circumstances and misunderstandings split and lead their individual lives. Lives which are a far cry from the magic of Magic. And that is where the movie begins...

The narrative of Rock On!! is almost rhytmic : present-flashback-present-flashback and so on... and as much as it is about the story of a band with 4 members - it primarily revolves around the lives of Aditya (Farhan Akhtar) and Joe (Arjun Rampal) ... and for me, that was a big let down. Why create a 4 member band when your movie will so obviously tend towards two of them. Instead of being a rollicking story of the life and times of these 4 friends/band members - their chemistry, their joys, their sorrows : the movie focusses on the 2 'lead' characters for most of the screen time.

I may lose the flow of my review so instead let me compartmentalize it into Story & Analysis, & Performances to bring some order...

The Story : The story is quite straight-forward. Successful band. Splits because of ideological differences amongst 2 band members. Music brings them together after 10 years. For their final performance.

Of course, it isn't as vanilla as it was made to seem above. Despite the fact that KD and Rob's characters are thrown in the background - the two tracks centered around Aditya (Farhan Akhtar) and Joe (Arjun Rampal) are fantastically scripted. There are some well directed scenes in the movie which bring about Aditya's (Farhan Akhtar's) dissatisfaction with the material world. He is a fabulously successful (monetarily) Investment Banker who seeks solace in his work by burying his zest for music and poetry and life in one little box in the attic. His wife played by Prachi Desai as Saakshi is the ideal wife whose only pursuit is to help her disillusioned husband find himself. There are some poignant moments in the first half between the couple.

At the same time, Joe Mascarenhas played by Arjun Rampal is the idealist, dreamer ... whose only aspiration was Magic. And after his dream came crashing down, so did he. Unwilling to sell his talent for money's sake - Joe is the perfect example of the idealistic, impractical rebel who you might just run into in one of the bylanes near Mount Mary. His wife (don't know her name) Debbie run his family's fishing business, giving up her own dreams in order to feed her son and husband. For Joe, he knows nothing but to play the guitar. He doesn't understand the dynamics of the consumerist world. He lives in a world of his own. Again, the scenes revolving around Joe's struggles and his languishing family are sensitively handled.

The other 3 tracks are

1. KD's (Purab Kohli) who joins his father's business after the split
2. Rob's (Luke Kenny) who is a programmer/keyboardist with Anu Malik and is obviously dissatisfied with it
3. The 3rd track is the flashback which comes at regular intervals.

Even if Purab and Luke's tracks were mellowed to squeeze in the authenticity of the 'lead' tracks (pardon the sarcasm) - the flashbacks were quite dissappointing. I expected them to be entertaining and memorable - full of camraderie and fun moments akin to what Akash, Sameer and Sid share in DCH just after their college days... And that, for me was the most disappointing part of the movie. There was scope for so much humour (like the Dandia scene - an absolute killer scene) in the movie but alas, in order to keep the realistic tone to the movie, Abhishek Kapoor almost treads the rockumentary path. Who told you rockers don't have a sense of humour? You could have added so many quirky incidents. No dope, no tributes to the greats, no covers, no beer - Why? Beyond a few scenes, the movie never picks up.

The end is also average. Did not make me want to sing with the band at all. Especially the choice of songs : 'Sinbad the Sailor' according to me was the worst choice of song for the finale. 'Tum ho Toh' was excellent and I wish they'd have put 'Saat Dino Mein' at the end instead. The 'Don't Download. Buy CD.' note at the end was damn neat though.

Now to the Performances :

Farhan Akhtar (Aditya - lead vocalist) : Farhan Akhtar makes a smashing debut. Being a non-actor, I may not be able to point out some miniscule flaw in his performance but I was thoroughly impressed by the authenticity with which he plays the suave rockstar as well as the disillusioned Investment Banker who finds his calling again. Watch him in the scene with Prachi Desai after his birthday party. And when Debbie requests him to let Joe off the band in the pre-climax ... and you'll know what I am talking about. He is bloody good. And that unique voice only adds to the flavour of his character.

Arjun Rampal (Joe - lead guitarist) : As the moustached world-weary father, Arjun Rampal does a fabulous job. The fact that his range of expressions are countable on your fingers allows his to flourish in a part where no expressions were asked of him. But as the lead guitarist of Magik, I thought he was pretty weird. Wind blowing through his hair whilst he plays his solos killed it. And that he was expressionless here too, with his solos not matching the actual sound did only more harm. For the last, the director is more to blame for the lack of attention to detail.

Purab Kohli (KD - the drummer) : Alas, he had only that many scenes! The guy is a scene-stealer!!! Abhishek Kapoor may have been threatened by Farhan Akhtar to limit his scenes lest he steal the limelight ... because his character simply begged more screen time. And it is not just the funny scenes. Purab handles the sensitive scenes with aplomb too. Especially the one in the climax where he stands up for himself. From My Brother Nikhil to Rock On!! - he has only grown as an actor. I am your fan man!

Luke Kenny (Rob - the programmer/ keyboard) : Luke Kenny delivers a sincere performance. No histrionics but does what he is asked to with utmost sincerity. I wonder though if he will act in any other film. But if he chooses to, I think he'll do okay.

Debbie (Arjum Rampal's wife) : Debbie (Please help me with her real name, too lazy to google) delivers a power-packed performance. Playing the harrowed wife to an adamant, idealisitic (give me another word) husabnd - Debbie's love and concern for Joe and more importantly the stability of her home is conveyed effectively in some of the scenes where she compells Joe to take up different odds and ends to keep the house running. Her character is also neatly sketched.

Prachi Desai as Saakshi is the absolute find of Rock On!! - I was amazed to see her perform. Not only is she fabulously petite and pretty, she is also a stunning performer. She adds so much depth to the role of a disillusioned(new word here too) husband's wife that my heart went out to her. There are too many wonderful scenes to highlight but special mention must be made of the post birthday-party scene when she discloses her pregnancy. Also when she hums 'Ajeeb Dastaan' at the Channel V party - What a scene! She is clearly the winner for me in this movie. An actor to look out for.

Finally, Rock On!! is a bold effort (not in the way Taran Adarsh means it when he writes it - as a prelude to bad ratings), it genuinely is. There are some very obvious flaws which, if you let your objectivity come to the forefront, will jump at you. My pre-conceived idea (why do I have pre-conceived ideas?) of the movie was that it would be a fabulous celebration of music, life and your most cherished dreams. I was hoping to come out of the movie in a way I came out after watching 'The Pursuit of Happyness' (that same feeling) : but the feeling was quite different. In my head, I appreciated that it was a quality film with good performances and nice music. But in my heart, it didn't move me. It didn't do any Magik for me. Movies which really up the ante are the ones which move your head and heart (TZP, RDB, DCH, Swades, Lakshya, Pursuit of Happyness, Munnabhai's, Dor etc.) - Rock On!! certainly will not belong to that elite league. But having said that it is enough value for your ticket money. So, unless you are expecting the universe, you will come out reasonably happy with the movie.

In any case, I am looking forward to know what the movie did to you. When are you watching it?


P.S. - For N.M.ites - Catch Sharad and Terry perform as part of their band Radio in the movie.