Sunday, August 31, 2008

Capsule Review: Rock On

Right away, let me say Rock On was a pleasant surprise. I went in mentally prepared for the bad GIR concert which a friend of mine was convinced this movie would be. Instead, what I saw was something in the Chak De India way - stay within Bollywood’s confines, but do it convincingly. If the girls in Chak De wielded a mean stick, the Rock On boys have you convinced that their air-guitaring and drumming is nothing as airy as one would expect from a genre whose previous cultural reference point in this regard was the soul-scarring image of Rajesh Khanna playing a guitar (in a discotheque!) only to throw it over to that other rock ‘n roll icon Mithun.

The ensemble cast turn in performances ranging from good to surprisingly good. The rhythm section is a great study in contrasts - Kenny, low-key and moving, Kohli, providing a vital comic kick whenever the pace threatens to flag. As leader of the band, Akhtar mostly glares a lot but lights up on stage, and Rampal, who is the real surprise of this movie, inhabits the role of the quiet, moody guitarist as if he had been waiting for it all his life. Its also refreshing to see the role of the free-loving minx go to Koel Puri instead of some bimbette, she takes the bit role and fills it with a knowing sex appeal and dancing eyes and a slow drawl. Only Prachi, pretty but woefully unhip as Akhtar’s wife, can’t quite shake off the soap star inside.

Despite the movie’s premise, its pace is reflective and the director gives his characters time to sort their heads out. In such a situation, had the onstage scenes fallen flat its likely the movie would have too. That doesn’t happen - the band is believable on stage, if slightly pansy by actual rock band standards (but perfect as a sort of English language Euphoria). The build-up to the final concert may be a shower of clich├ęs, but that doesn’t alter its poignance a bit. Another thought struck me later – both this movie as well as Chak De were about chances wasted in youth and grabbed in desperation later. If, as these filmmakers seem to be saying, there are to be second acts in Indian lives, surely the time is due for a second wave, a new wave of movies made in India, with a scything originality and sureness of vision atoning for the sins of the past, and painting a visionary map for the future.

8 comments:

Mister Crowley said...

but perfect as a sort of English language Euphoria

That was my problem with the movie. It's not right to hype a movie as a rock n roll movie, and then dish out this.

a fan apart said...

i know what you mean. i felt like that when i heard the soundtrack and saw the promos. but i still think you ought to give the movie a try if you haven't already. as a rock movie, its a bit lame; as a movie, it has quite a lot going for it.

Surly Girl In The Corner said...

What is a 'rock movie'? I saw a poster for this in the window of my local Injun shop and it looked really lame.

a fan apart said...

a rock movue? dunno really. a movie intrinsic rock 'n roll qualities, like rebellion, danger, rythm, maybe. which this movie is not. but its got something substantial if you look beneath the surface, which is the best thing to do with hindi movies nowdays because on a technical level they're consistently 5 years behind the rest of the world so one may as well honour the intention.

Prashast said...

i was pleasantly surprised as well, probably because most of us go for hindi movies with low expectations.

as a movie, rock on is entertaining no doubt. but as a 'rock movie' it doesn't quite cut it.

javed akhtar really needs to get his act together. having rock songs with lyrics such as these is BLASPHEMOUS!

Surly Girl In The Corner said...

It's the ones with earnest intentions that are the worst. My favourite Hindi movie from last year is Welcome. I'll have to watch this Rock On before I pass scathing judgement though.

a fan apart said...

we're waiting with bated breath

Angad said...

I think we're focussing only on the 'Rock' part of the 'Rock on'. Sure, the movie is about a Hindi rock band in India.. But more importantly, it's about people who couldn't bear to do anything else but play music, and how they coped with that emptiness in contrasting ways. I thing it was very well made - and the dialogues were well thought out.