Ranbir’s Iconic Triumph – 2.5/5.0
“I know I am a great artist,” said Paul Gaugin. “The reason I am great is because of all the suffering I have done,” he theorised. In Imtiaz Ali‘s Rockstar, the lead character Jordan’s man Friday and mentor, one Mr.Khatana, paraphrases Gaugin by asking the wannabe Jim Morrison, “kabhi dil toota hai?”
That’s pretty much the essence of Rockstar, whose core lies with Janardan Jakhar AKA Jordan, and his journey into fame, love and longing.
A Pitampura Jat, Janardan has no aim in life other than to become a rockstar like Jim Morisson. However, with no sense of ‘cool’ or image, nor life-changing experiences enough to create true art with his music, he finds himself floundering. That is when his man Khatana advices him to find pain in his life, to turn him into a true artiste, and Janardan finds Heer Kaul, the hottest girl in college, who, while being an archetypal Stephenian elite, also has a desi wild side. Though their romance starts off on an odd footing, it quickly turns into something of a friendship. Things take a darker turn just when Janardan, now Jordan, is on the cusp of fame, and Heer leaves Delhi to marry in Prague, even as the two realise that there’s something deeper than friendship between them. The realisation sends Jordan into a spiral, where he is neither satisfied with his music, nor his life. And even as he tries to chase Heer across Delhi, Prague and more, he finds that the harder he tries to be with her, the further she goes from him.
With Rockstar, director Imtiaz Ali tries to tell a tale that’s truly captivating. The operative word there is ‘tries’, for he manages to do so only in halves. Ali, for whom Rockstar is truly a labour of love, is a talented filmmaker, but perhaps, finds himself too close to the subject this time. He carves out a fine first half, with the chemistry between Jordan and Heer sparkling the screen every second. Ali also uses A.R. Rahman‘s brilliant soundtrack to the film to great effect, joining the narrative together in the most unexpected ways.
However, it is in the second half that he loses his way, as the disjointed chronology of his narrative becomes too much to follow for the average viewer. Perhaps it is the simple relationship between Jordan and Heer that keeps the first half so charming. When it goes missing post-interval, things quickly get muddled, especially with Imtiaz’s intercut-laden narrative structure. There are also quite a few inexplicable elements in there, especially the parts where Jordan reconnects with Heer towards the end, that seem a bit over-the-top. While one expects all the various threads of the story to come together towards the end, unfortunately, that never happens, as Imtiaz chooses to exit the film in the most open-ended of ways, one that leaves the audience truly unsure of everything that happened through the film.
If the film’s chronological structure is a weakness, then it’s strength truly comes from the character it is built around. In Jordan, Imtiaz Ali creates a ‘rockstar’ of epic proportions, one who is the very definition of an enigma. And it is to his full credit that Ranbir Kapoor truly throws himself into the role, living the idea of Jordan. Though fictional, Jordan’s travails are effective and believable simply because of the total sincerity and emotion that Ranbir plays it with. Indeed, if there’s one reason that one needs to watch the film, it is to watch the actor play a man truly possessed by his craft and his love.
In case you’re looking for another reason, though, perhaps A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack should suffice. Indeed, more than a soundtrack, the music of this film, perhaps, narrates the whole story it tries to tell. In a sense, Rockstar seems like a musical, one where the scenes exist simply to link the brilliant sounds together. Though there are a few missteps in the visual choices; in tracks like nadaan parinde and katiyan karoon, Rahman has created an album that’ll stand the test of time.
The film’s other big name, apart from Ranbir and Rahman, is Nargis Fakhri, who charms in her debut role. As Heer, the Czech-Pakistani beauty shows great promise, though there’s more than a little scope for improvement. She shares a great chemistry with Ranbir, and connects beautifully with her role, especially in the first half, where she’s still in college.
Kumud Mishra, as Ghatana, is virtually unidentifiable, especially if you know him from his old roles in That Girl In Yellow Boots‘ and more. Still, the man is an unexpected charmer in his role and plays his character with complete sincerity. Piyush Mishra is a bit over-the-top, but does a fairly good job as the crooked music label owner.
Rockstar made quite a bit of news for being the late Shammi Kapoor‘s final film, and the original ‘rockstar’ of Bollywood is a looming presence here. The film’s opening credits feature a beautiful painting of the legend in his ‘Yahoo’ avatar, and the film sees Heer and Jordan even recreate his famous tareef karun kya uski number in their own way. However, when one sees the sort of passable characterisation that Shammiji gets here, one surmises that a lot of the tributes might be afterthoughts. Still, while one may have hoped to see the legend in a better, more impactful role in his final appearance, it is a sheer pleasure to watch him in action again, anyway.
The film’s cinematography is top-notch across the board, whether it’s in Delhi, Kashmir or Prague, and DOP Anil Mehta earns full marks for it.
Though it sees more than its share of stellar efforts put in from all quarters, Rockstar ultimately flounders because Imtiaz Ali can’t quite translate his vision into visuals. Perhaps he’s just trying to be different, in which case, he’s succeeded. But it’s clear that Rockstar doesn’t achieve the heights of what it could have been. Though it makes for a good one-time watch, even at one glance, it’s clear that Rockstar, and Jordan, could have been something iconic…