Rockstar is director Imtiaz Ali’s 4th directorial venture after Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal. His reputation now precedes him; if anyone does romances well, it is this man. Rockstar is also a romance. But unlike the first three which were mired somewhat in the practicalities of day-to-day life, Rockstar is a film about an ethereal love, transcending the boundaries of ordinary logic, reasoning and morality.
Janardhan Jhakar, or JJ (Ranbir) is a student of Hindu College, Delhi. A budding musician, JJ can’t seem to find his niche and get his talent noticed. Advised by a know-it-all well-wisher, Khatana bhai (Kumud Mishra), to experience pain and sorrow, for that is the hallmark of great artistes, JJ sets about trying to get his heart broken – the easy way, he thinks, to angst. When he hears that soon-to-be-married Heer Kaul (Nargis) of St. Stephen’s college (next door to Hindu) is a heart-breaker, he professes undying love to her. Little does he know that he will get more than he bargained for...
Rockstar is JJ’s story. It tells us of how Janardan Jakhar becomes Jordan, the mega rock-star. But at the core of it, this is a true-blue romance. Because wherever Jordan goes, and whatever condition he is in, he is always beset by thoughts of Heer. Imtiaz Ali portrays this love very well, from the nascent attraction that sneaks up on JJ and Heer and takes them unawares, to the irrefutable pull that they both cannot resist, even at the risk of societal condemnation and overstepping the bounds of morality.
The film is told in flashback fashion. Director Ali deftly spins through the story, working backwards, until he comes full circle. The beginning shots are of an eccentric, raggedy-looking rockstar Jordan, in full artist mode, sporting baggy almost salwar like pants and headgear, scuffling, running. Soon, however, we move backwards in time and meet Jordan as JJ. The first-half of the film is build-up; there is Janardhan, in all his middle class glory, resplendent in his high-waisted jeans, garish sleeveless sweaters and dorky haircut in the middle of a Delhi winter, lugging around his guitar. There are sessions in the college canteen with the portly Khatana bhai, who I guess is some kind of clerk at the college. The fabulous attention to detail made me nostalgic for that time and place, and by extension for Delhi itself.
Credit also goes to Ranbir Kapoor who gives it his all. He is dorky as the young student, suffused with angst as the bearded Jordan, and oh-so-broken-hearted in love. He lends his character charm and wit and innocence and carries the film. American model Nargis Fakhri will not win any awards for her weak acting skills (but then this is Bollywood, so she might), but she is a luminous beauty, and well-suited to the role. It is not hard to imagine that she, with her glowing good looks, is the object of such an intense passion. Kumud Mishra brought Khatana’s character to life wonderfully, Aditi Rao Hydari has a small role as Sheena, and Shammi Kapoor looked fragile in his last film appearance as Ustad Jameel Khan.
Finally I must also applaud the soundtrack. Rahman is a true genius, but his brilliance comes through in fits and spurts. In Rockstar fortunately, he delivers. “Jo Bhi Main” is wonderful, and “Kun Faya Kun” is awe-inspiring; it is of the caliber of his earlier “Yeh Jo Des hai” (Swades), “Khwaja Mere Khwaja” (Jodha-Akbar) and “Jaage Hain” (Guru) numbers. With lyrics by Irshad Kamil, and Mohit Chauhan’s voice (among others), this is an outstanding soundtrack.
This was quite a film. I fear that some of you might find the second half a tad “flighty”, but I quite loved it. Go, see it!