You notice Aditya (Farhan Akhtar) eating breakfast. He sips on orange juice and we learn he’s a smoker. Usually singers avoid the two; he was lead singer with Magik. Ten years hence and sobered up, he walks out of his affluent home into his pretty office and wishes clients with a “Jai Shri Krishna” while updating them on financial advice. But something’s off about him—and his devoted wife Sakshi (Prachi Desai), despite her best efforts, is not invited into his personal space and thoughts.
The band’s guitarist Joe (Arjun Rampal) has settled for domesticity, marrying fashion stylist Debbie (Shabana Goswami). A decade down the line, they’re unhappy as he’s practically jobless and useless around the house. Debbie, having forsaken her ambition of becoming a fashion designer, takes over his family’s fishing business, runs the house, cooks, and takes care of their kid. In doing this 24x7 job, she, despite herself, turns into an over-wrought controller. One feels for her character as, among other things, she complains about the fish smell that never leaving her hands.
Keyboardist Rob (Luke Kenny), who was called “Mr D-Major”, is now composing music for ads and commercial projects. The fourth is super-sunny KD (Purab Kohli) who’s doing well for himself in his dad’s jewellery business.
Through flashbacks we learn of their journey. Like the time when a music company honcho asked them to record a remix song for the upcoming shaadi season. The idea of a remix appalled them and they found themselves in a dilemma. Much like all of us have been at some point. Idealism versus realistic survival; life taking over dreams; ageing; domestic issues…. On one level, you do feel for these talented guys who must deal with all this. But on another level, you feel the film is asking for way too much sympathy for problems that, rocks-star or not, everyone inevitably encounters.
Still, the film is super fun until the interval—after which it dives into familiar territory that you feared it would. The story goes sappy and results in an ending so happy, you’d mistake the avalanche of smiles for a toothpaste ad.
Writer-director Abhishek Kapoor (he directed Aryan two years back—a half-decent film that bombed) infuses humour throughout. There’s one where the band plays during a festival celebration, with dead-pan faces, and give old songs like Saanson ki zaroorat hai jaise their personal touch. The scenes where the band performs “live” are outstanding, and the director feels no hurry to cut these performances short to fit them into film format. At times, in the middle of a song, you feel such a connect, you’re almost there among the audience, sharing their throb and enthusiasm. Kapoor adds special touches in several scenes—like the flickering worn-out tube-light in the adda that added a visual quirk. Another moment that comes to mind is where the four get emotional and someone breaks the tension with the Jyaada senti ho gaye line.
The characterisation of the four central protagonists is well-developed and you take a gradual like to each. Their graph may not follow logic at all times, but you root for them all the same. However, like in Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai, here too the female characters are less thought-about—the wives are either devotee-like or a caricaturish nag. If the bonding reminds you of Dil Chahta Hai, you’ll also find yourself going back to the film Jhankaar Beats and tracing similarities in the story—from the friendship, to the band, to sharing lives, etcetera.
Performance wise it’s a strong film, but Rock On!! really belongs to producer-actor Farhan Akhtar, Shabana Goswami and Arjun Rampal in that order. While the film is a decidedly guy one, the women, apart from enjoying the story, can rest assured that the Arjun Rampal-Farhan Akhtar combo makes for a complete drool-worthy paisa vasool entertainer.
The film is a technical masterstroke. The camerawork (Jason West) is fab—notice how it goes wild in the stage performance scenes and becomes sedate soon after, quite like the characters themselves. Excellent sound design by Baylon Fonseca. Music by Ehsaan-Loy-Shankar is superb. Lyrics by Javed Akhtar are great fun.
Rock On!! is most likely to become a cult hit—one that achieves cult status and mainstream success as well. And I say this with a double exclamation point, like in the film’s title. Don’t miss it!!
Rating: Three and a half stars