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Rockstar review: Ranbir raises the bar

Imtiiaz Ali
Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Shammi Kapoor, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shernaz Patel
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It's been a drought of good films at the cinemas. So when Rockstar came along - with its buzz and the Ranbir Kapoor-Nargis Fakhri pairing - you felt like opening the bubbly, not bursting the happy bubble. Let's just say, this review will be a bit of both.

Superbly executed and performed with passion, Rockstar sweeps you off your feet. Almost!

For one, it's not the film you were expecting. When you have the promos showing off a stylishly dishevelled Ranbir Kapoor singing Sadda haq, you're wondering if it'll be a rebellious artist's tale who weaves burning issues into his music. So it's underwhelming to discover that he's actually just a modern-day Devdas.

The love story is not overtly smashing, but not one you can ignore either. It develops over time - years - before the characters even realise they're in love.

JJ (Ranbir) is a Delhi college bloke - talented, but grappling with his music that doesn't have the depth of, say, Jim Morrison. His mentor says that's because there's no pain in his life.

In one of the film's funniest scenes, we see JJ dejectedly recounting how perfect his life is.

So he decides to get his heart broken. He approaches and flirts with a girl he saw dancing on stage (Nargis), and she asks him to bugger off (which he misunderstands as burger off).

Much goofiness later, his life indeed changes.

JJ becomes rockstar Jordan - a highly dramatic transformation. The over-ambitious sweep from an inhibited goof (he is asked point blank if he's stupid), to the intense 'bad boy of music' is not justified by the film.

Why, for example, is JJ homeless? There is no story development strong enough to justify his family disowning him.

Ignoring such niggling questions, you must be content watching super-stylish scenes like that of Ranbir throwing up (in slow-mo) and some basic symbolism. Then, of course, there are the electrifying moments with Ranbir on stage, strumming the guitar with all the pain, passion, and madness that defines his character.

You can't help being taken in by the energy of the performance. Truly, Ranbir Kapoor raises the bar with this film. Other actors have a lot of catching up to do!

Nargis Fakhri's laboured dialogue delivery is balanced by her strong screen presence. While one is impressed that Imtiaz Ali gives the heroine a substantial role instead of the love-interest plus item song combo, we're disappointed with the character.

We don't know why the spunky girl gets married with a heavy heart? What's the pressing reason? If she's sick because "she has nothing to do", is there something stopping her from pursuing a profession or hobby? There are other things, which I cannot reveal because they are spoilers.

A cameo by the late Shammi Kapoor is an unexpected treat. And his twinkling eyes outshine everyone else's.

The humour is fun, but you often notice it's written for the laughs (a character wrongly calling Prague 'Parag'). A R Rahman's music (though not his best), is crucial in giving the film its irreverent, raw texture.

Director Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal) befittingly adopts the non-linear narrative. He scores in the tender nuances of the love story, the performances, and bites of humour. But he falters in the characterisation (small details like JJ, a wannabe musician, not knowing what a shehnai is), the soppy second half, and random developments.

Still, Ali creates magic intermittently. The tenacious love relationship encompasses friendship, passion, and an indescribable connection. The dichotomy in JJ's life as he soars professionally while simultaneously plunging into despair, is masterfully expressed.

Rockstar aspires to be a modern-day epic. While not an entirely wholesome experience, Rockstar does have plenty of moments worth savouring.

You might want to sample this, minus expectations, and especially for Ranbir's performance.

Rating: 3 stars


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