Ranbir Kapoor is perhaps one of the most versatile actors currently working in mainstream Bollywood; an actor of unusual calibre with the disarming ability to charm you as easily with his smouldering intensity as with that goofy grin of his. Two decades down the lane, Imtiaz Ali’s latest movie, Rockstar, will be remembered more for bringing into limelight the original cinematic rocker than anything else.
To be very honest, it is anything but a film with universal appeal. Of course, everyone is bound to love the leading man, but if you are one to frown over non-linear narratives and characters lacking in moral fibre, skip this movie. For lovers of the Salman Khan brand of ‘entertainment’, this warning is doubly applicable. For the rest, this movie is a devastatingly gorgeous love story that will linger in your head for hours.
Ranbir plays the role of Jannardhan Jhakar (later re-christened Jordan), who goes from being a young Delhi lad, to a confused musician, to a repulsive, romantic rock star. He is just the kind of actor Bollywood is not used to — a star with a commanding screen presence who never tries to overpower the scene and an instinctive actor who gets under the character’s skin to give a performance both nuanced and solid. To be fair, the film owes much to this man who is clearly meant for much greater stuff. Romancing him is the half-Pakistani Nargis Fakhri, whose alabaster skin makes up for her bad dubbing and lack of acting skills.
More than anything else, what works for Rockstar is its love for subtlety, for small moments stolen and put together in a long, lovely montage: a brother-in-law exploding at his bhabhi because of her overtly affectionate consolatory touches, a discussion between two friends in a Czech field about a forbidden first kiss, a stunning, married heroine running back home, after indulging in infidelity, under the morning light, heels in one hand, guilt in the other.
The filmmaker uses wonderful restraint in underscoring the drama and romance. Imtiaz Ali is a master of layered and dialogue-based narratives, while Jab We Met remains a cult movie in its own right, this film has Ali at his riskiest and most mature. While the non-linear editing lacks finesse, the film’s biggest drawback, AR Rahman’s exquisite soundtrack — a heady mix of rock, melody and some fine poetry — more than makes up for it.
With its clunky editing and predictable script, Rockstar isn’t a perfect film by any standards, but it is certainly worth a watch.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 24th, 2011.