Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar is a far-from-perfect film, but it has honesty and depth, which is mostly missing in Hindi movies today.
Ranbir Kapoor is Janardan Jakhar, a middle-class kid from Delhi’s Pitampura, who sets himself up to get his heart broken when he’s told he can’t be a great musician until he’s suffered great pain. Janardhan goes from a desperate struggler strumming his guitar at campus hangout spots, to an angsty star, now rechristened Jordan, who’s prone to violent outbursts. Indeed it’s love and pain itself that inspires this journey. His heart beats for the unattainable Heer (Nargis Fakhri), the gorgeous Kashmiri girl he befriended while in college, who is now married in Prague.
Despite several hiccups, especially in the film’s post-intermission portions, Rockstar is an admirable effort if only for how unconventionally director Imtiaz Ali tells this tale of great passion. The romance at the core of this film is a complex one, and the film offers no easy answers. Watch how Heer comes alive each time she’s in Jordan’s presence, whereas when he’s without her his longing prompts his best music out of him.
From the very moment in, it’s evident Imtiaz understands his characters intimately and gives us lovely little moments to know them better. Like that scene in which Janardhan’s sitting in a canteen and complaining that he’s shattered over being shot down by the campus hottie. “If your heart was really broken, you wouldn’t be sitting here eating samosas and arguing over chutney,” his friend tells him, calling his bluff. In a later scene where a bhabhi protects him from his irate brothers, he screams at her for being too touchy-feely. There’s sharp wit on display here, including a scene in which Jordan sits poker faced for the most part, while a music baron chats with him about a contract in the midst of getting a massage. The film’s chief lapses are its meandering script, and its less-than-impressive leading lady, both of which cost the film dearly. Nargis Fakhri is lovely to look at, but offers very little in terms of acting, reducing her character ultimately to a simpering-whimpering victim. Of the supporting cast, only Kumud Mishra makes a big impression as Jordan’s mentor and manager Khatana, who watches helplessly as his friend sinks into a quicksand of despair.
Rockstar is never as surefooted as Imtiaz’s breakout hit Jab We Met, but it’s a braver, riskier film than any he’s previously made. AR Rahman’s score serves as the spine of this enterprise, emerging expectedly as one the film’s biggest strengths. A word also for Anil Mehta’s dramatic camerawork; not merely for the lush Kashmiri landscapes but also for the edgily-shot concert scenes. But Rockstar belongs to Ranbir Kapoor over everyone else. It’s a riveting performance – from Janardan’s rough edges to Jordan’s wildly unpredictable ways – and Ranbir roots it in the real. Watch how he seizes the stage in the Saadda haq number and virtually makes the track his own. For Ranbir alone, this film deserves a watch.
I’m going with three out of five for director Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar. In these times of instant gratification, here’s a film that makes you think. Not a perfect film, but one that stays with you long after the lights have come back on.