Wednesday 29th May 2024
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Rockstar – A Dark Love Story

There used to be jungles here, but now they have built cities. There were birds that lived in the jungle that flew away when they build the cities… I’m looking for those birds.” The protagonist of ‘Rockstar’ shouts these words in angst and pain to an energetic audience before leading into the final verse of the freedom anthem “Sadda Haq”. It is these words that beautifully sum up the essence of Imtiaz Ali’s dark love story and his leading man’s journey. You could easily be mistaken, and walk into the cinema expecting to see a film about the rise and fall of a Rockstar who’s constantly high on drugs and drowned in whisky. However, Imtiaz Ali avoids these clichés like the plague. In fact, his protagonist doesn’t put a foot wrong as far as his career in music is concerned and only ever grows in popularity and success. The director’s focus here is not on how Janardan Jakhar becomes the internationally-successful Rockstar Jordan, but on his search for truth.  Sounds deep? It surprisingly is, for a mainstream Hindi film from a director who has previously only made feel-good love stories.

Rockstar is an intense – and at times dark – love story that convincingly creates the epic nature of a Shakespearean tale of two star-crossed lovers who are destined to face tragedy. “Bollywood” love stories have come a long way from the melodramatic days of an idealistic happy-go-lucky hero and a virginal “homely” heroine fighting for their parents’ approval, to an uncouth Rockstar who gives the middle-finger to the rest of the world and romances another man’s wife.  Imtiaz Ali explores a love story that is torn by inner turmoil, personal choice and the social norms that define us. With great grasp of the medium, the director brings to life a romance that is subtle and never spends enough time on a moment for it to cross the line into melodrama. The scene where Heer is getting married to another man or the first kiss between the lovers; as seen in numerous predecessors, these scenes could have been dealt with overdramatically and been a excuse to pull out the violins, however Imtiaz Ali shows great conviction in his characters and his time-fractured screenplay with his resistance to underestimating the audience.

The film questions the system we have built, the norms that we live by and the pressures in society to conform, but never does it preach or pretend to know the answers. When Janardan Kakhar becomes Jordan the Rockstar with screaming fans and CDs flying off the shelf – he has it all, he should be happy. This is what the system and the ‘all is well’ world of “Bollywood” dictates, but in one of the best scenes in the film, Jordan stands questioning his unhappiness and emptiness as fans slowly recognize the star and crowd around him. Imtiaz Ali brings out a career-best performance from Ranbir Kapoor, who excels in this author-backed role. His transformation from the untroubled stargazer to the reclusive star is compelling and confident. In the scenes where he rips up the contract or where the paparazzi and police confront him in the hospital, Ranbir Kapoor makes his mark. Imtiaz Ali – true to his repertoire – writes a stand-out female protagonist who is unaware at every step of the way about the choices she makes. Although Nargis Fakhri does a decent job, she does not live up to the potential of Heer’s characterization, and is overshadowed by Ranbir’s performance.

The film is what it is because of the music by the Academy Award-winning AR Rahman. We have seen it before and we see it again, where AR Rahman takes a film to a whole new level with his outstanding background score, and Rockstar is no different. It is astonishing to see AR Rahman surpass in this genre of music and to bring back rock to Indian Cinema. Credit to Imtiaz Ali for creating a narrative that is intertwined with the music using it to take the film forward and it is the music that is without a doubt the soul of the film. AR Rahman takes us on the journey with the protagonist with his music evolving with the character. From “Jo Bhi Main” at the beginning of the film to my personal favorite “Nadaan Parinde”, AR Rahman encapsulates the inner turmoil of this love story and tells a story no visuals could. 
© Maya for 2011