Film Review: Rock On!

Rock On

Directed by Abhishek Kapoor

Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Luke Kenny, Purab Kohli, Prachi Desai, Shahana Goswami, Koel Puri

Every so often, a successful film emerges stealth like at the box office and becomes a sleeper hit. Earlier this year, we had Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na which took everyone by surprise and now Rock On can be added to this list. Ironically, it was when I went to see JTYJN that I came across the trailer for Rock On. To be honest, even though I am open minded when it comes to Hindi cinema, I did have my reservations about this film – rock is an out and out western genre of music, surely a Bollywood film would not be able to do it justice?

My main worry was that rock as a whole would be given the Bollywood makeover, which would make for good entertainment but not necessarily a great film (which we have had quite a lot of this summer!). So on a rainy Saturday evening, I was quite surprised to see the cinema almost half full (though it is a small local cinema) with families, groups of young adults and pleasingly a group of mature adults (who may have had a secret thing for rock – who knows?). Surely a good film should appeal to all generations?

Rock On is the story of a rock band called Magik who dream of making it big but fall out and lose touch with one another. Ten years on, Aditya Shroff (Farhan Akhtar) the lead singer is now an investment banker, unhappily married to Sakshi (Prachi Desai) and his work, Joe (Arjun Rampal) is a failed musician with a ten year old son and a wife Debbie (Shahana Goswami) who has to run the family business to keep a roof over their heads. Then there is KD (Purab Kohli) the drummer who works in his father’s jewellery shop and Rob (Luke Kenny) the only person to have stuck to a music career but produces music he does not care about. The story moves forward as Sakshi tries to save her marriage, which results in the band being given a second chance to make it big. But will they take that chance?

Rock On is a technically accomplished film, boasting impressive cinematography and crisp editing which really raises it a notch above other films. In fact, don’t be surprised if film inspires a genre of its own. The story is nothing new (and there is more than a whiff of Dil Chahta Hai which was directed by Farhan Akhtar) but this not necessarily a bad thing as the film has quite a novel concept with the backdrop of rock music, (an area which has largely been unexplored in Bollywood) and the story is character driven which is a rare treat in this age of entertainers. Furthermore, the music for the film is amazing, keeping rock in essence but also appealing to non-rock fans too. Shankar Ehsaan Loy who scored the music clearly relished the challenge of composing the music and this has to be amongst their best work. Similarly, kudos goes to Javed Akhtar for soulful lyrics and the OST blends in seamlessly with the film.

Also, mention must be made of the gorgeous interior design and uber cool styling in the film. In this era of the credit crunch, Aditya and Sakshi’s house (which is the backdrop for a sizeable part of the film) is pure property porn and at some points, I won’t lie, I was distracted by the water feature and corner unit sofa as well as the staircase which seemed to have no base. Yes, i should have been concentrating on the film but when a house looks that good, its just rude not to appreciate it! Similarly, the clothes styling is done very well, appearing effortless and coordinated at the same time. Each character’s progression can be seen nicely through their wardrobe – note Aditya’s change from lead singer to corporate man to laid back casual or Debbie’s trendy vests to simple dresses or Rob’s hippy garb turned city chic. Little details like this make all the difference and show how when a good concept is executed well, it can be seen in any part of the film.

In terms of the performances, all the cast do well. Perhaps the most recognisable face will be Arjun Rampal, who at first seems uncomfortable, especially in his younger incarnation but then turns in an intense and measured performance which really is amongst his best – certainly showing more of the depth that we first saw in Moksha. Farhan Akhtar (who is better known as director of Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya and Don, as well as a writer and son of lyricist Javed Akhtar) now adds actor and successful debutante to his list of accomplishments with a suitably cocky performance that really brings the character to life and his transformation from arrogance to mellow is well depicted.

Purab Kohli and Luke Kenny are excellent in their supporting roles, both garnering laughs and sympathy without overdoing it, Prachi Desai gives a subtle performance as the Aditya’s wife and though at times she is a little wooden, this can be forgiven as by the end of the film, she too becomes one with her character. Shahana Goswami also turns in a strong performance as Debbie, the stylist who is forced to run her husband’s family fish business. Goswami adds a real human touch to the character and makes the audience appreciate her predicament, helped by the script which prevents the character from becoming two dimensional.

A lovely aspect of this film is the audience really come to care for the characters and want to get to know them better which is what gives the film an edge and garners that all important repeat viewing factor. Indeed, this film certainly looks like it will survive the test of time. Furthermore, the film’s resolution, though a tad predictable, really packs a punch and ties up the film nicely. Abhishek Kapoor, who wrote and directed the film, has certainly marked himself as a director to watch out for, as appealing to a wide audience on an unconventional subject is quite the risk but in this case, pays off handsomely.

Rock On really is a must see film and reminds me of Chak De! India last year, which grew in popularity thanks to word of mouth (and ok, it had Shah Rukh Khan in the film but it was the fact that CDI was a good film that sustained it in the audience’s hearts and at the box office). I didn’t expect to really like the film much but the more I think about it, I really loved it and was totally immersed in the second half, always a good sign. I would also recommend this film to anyone who occasionally watches Bollywood or has never seen a Hindi film before – Rock On is one of the best films this year and has that rare ability to engage the heart and mind of the viewer at the same time. Not be missed, and definitely one to be enjoyed in cinema. Go see and rock on!

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