Rock On: Noteworthy. Refreshing. Brilliant!

To friends and friendship! The unsung hero of Dil Chahta Hai (2001) was then debut director Farhan Akhtar (he's the son of the legendary lyricist Javed Akhtar, who's married to Shabana Azmi). If you enjoyed Dil Chahta Hai, you must see Akhtar's latest offering, Rock On. It is one of the finest products of film this year! In so being, it is also one of those contemporary films that can (proudly) be shown to those not familiar with Hindi cinema, for its appeal is universal.

At a very foundational level, the film is about a rock group. But more importantly, it is about friendship and its role in defining the purpose of and priorities in life. I think it has more on the emotional depths of friendship than any film in a long time. As I try to stay away from spoilers, here are some notes on the actors.

1. Farhan Akhtar played Aditya Shroff, the lead vocalist for the group.

He was an investment banker (whose workstation reminded me a lot of mine) who had a passion for poetry and music.

Farhan was brilliant. When the best newcomer awards are handed out next year, I would not be surprised if he were picked ahead of Imran Khan for this. We knew he is a classy director. With the music release, we learned he could sing rather well. And after seeing the movie, we know he can act very well too. Well done!

2. Arjun Rampal as Joe Mascarenhas, lead guitarist, was fantastic. His was one of the more fiery characters. I've always held that he is a better actor than his peer John Abraham, and I maintain that after this. He was perfect for the task, very well cast. It would be fair to say this was one of the best performances of Arjun's career.

3. Purab Kohli as Kedar, a.k.a. Killer Drummer for his role in the group, was excellent. At times, he seemed to try to act like a cross between Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan (if that's even possible), but that was forgivable, because he only added more to the film.

4. Luke Kenny as Rob the keyboard player, was very good too. Liked how he often played mediator to maintain order.

5. Together, the four formed 'Magik'.

6. Aditya's wife Sakshi, played remarkably well by Prachi Desai (added her to my list of Bollywood crushes, seriously), had a crucial role. In a film about male friendship (like Dil Chahta Hai), she served as a guiding force for how the plot unraveled for the four guys, which was fitting. Ms. Desai delivered with flying colors.

7. Devika, one of Sakshi's best friends, was played by an effervescent Koel Puri, whose life took a turn for the better given their friendship. She had a limited role, but did well with it, especially in the first 10 minutes of the film.

8. Nicholette Bird played Tanya, and did very well while at it. There were at least two sequences with her that were memorable. Really liked the maturity with which these ladies dealt with their issues, almost separating the people from the problem, willing to understand others, and accepting the good that resulted from it, rather than dwelling on the bad. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to exploit their differences and go off on a tangent, but they used this to complement the film, while staying the course and 'rocking on' :o)

9. Joe's wife Debbie (Shahana Goswami), served a pivotal role too. She did well.

10. In my music review, I'd said this was one of the more unique soundtracks Bollywood had to offer this year, given its genre. I've upgraded the music rating below, because this is (by far) the best integrated soundtrack of the year. No second thoughts about it.

The songs stayed true to the film, and did not once deviate from their primary purpose. Be on the lookout for a few major surprises, including a rock version of a very popular track from Aashiqui (1990), and a beautiful rock tribute to the classic Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Yeh from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayee (1960). Besides, there is a certain joy in a movie that starts off with a rock group jamming by Flora Fountain in Bombay! :)

11. In addition to the excellent plot, top-notch acting, and amazingly well integrated music, the other big strengths of the film were the cinematography and dialogue, which were superb. Combine these elements with classy art direction, and the results were well worth appreciating, especially on the big screen. Sample these sets:

12. There were many messages to take away, none less important than 'live your dream' and 'better late than never'. At its core, the film is about friendship and the importance of vesting trust and respect therein. Comparisons to Dil Chahta Hai are therefore inevitable. Rock On, at least after one viewing, is good enough to holds its own in that comparison. The three biggest reasons for that are Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, and Prachi Desai.

What made Rock On such a fun viewing experience was that the characters were very easy to relate to. The plot is universal (although slightly predictable), and the new actors displayed a rare maturity for their inexperience. The result is easily among the best films of the year, one I very highly recommend. If you have a chance to see this in theaters, do not hesitate -- you will not regret it.

Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)

My classification: PG (mostly clean)

Music rating: 3.5/5 (Good soundtrack, excellent integration!)

Official website (and picture source):


memsaab said...

I'm glad to see Arjun in another (looks like it will be anyway) hit film. He was fabulous in OSO, and he looks perfect here. Someone that pretty should not be able to act, but he can!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Memsaab: Yes, Arjun will hopefully get the credit he's long deserved after this. He had the most pivotal role alongside Farhan, and made it look easy. And although he was the most experienced of the four actors, he was able to effectively share screen space.

It's well worth watching on the big screen. Speaking of which, I was on a binge of sorts at the theater yesterday :)

Anonymous said...

wow.. what a fantastic movie.. just finished watching it..!!

Hey, you said Koel Purie was the character who was Sakshi's best friend. But wasn't she (at least the picture you have of her) Farhan Akhtar's ex-flame? Will you please check on that?

And yes, Arjun was at his career best in this movie. Fabulous.. as was rest of the cast. And you know, now I'm torn between whom to vote for the best newcomer-- Imran Khan or Farhan Akhtar!

(Never thought the joke of Rob losing his hair would turn out like this. But loved that there was no "melodrama" associated with it. Very Touching!!)

A great movie.. and you know, as I was watching the film, I was think of some of my rock-band friends. They're now in their late teens/early 20's, with dreams in their eyes.. and I do hope will hold on to their dreams. This movie made me have a newfound respect towards them.. That was a great aftereffect! ;-D

Ah.. must assemble my thoughts on the movie later on.. For now, Alvida! ~Ranya

Sudhir said...

I was really sad when Prachi Desai left her lead role on the TV serial 'Kasamh Se'. Though I was a huge fan of the 19-yr-old, I have to admit I had doubts whether or not Prachi could make the jump from small screen to Bollywood with just the single acting credit.

Really liked reading your assessment...Prachi is indeed very talented. And damn cute too! I am looking forward to seeing the movie. Way to go, Prachi...Rock On!

Nicki said...

Wow, glad to hear positive reviews on this movie. I'll probably have to wait for it on dvd. I'm looking forward to it. Have to see all of Arjun's movies. It's funny how he ALWAYS gets compared to John but both are different. I like both for different reasons. I compared them before (I may do it again cause I blogged about it a looong time ago when I had Xanga). I only compared them because I was showing why my love for John grew stronger than Arjun.

I remember someone commented on Rock On being a movie about a rock band. I've watched a low budger film like this before too. It's called Tere Liye and I really liked it.

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Ranya: Really glad you enjoyed it! And that aftereffect is what Farhan was aiming for...good luck to your rock band friends! Each of us who's seen it probably had at least one, which is why this effort is worth lauding and appreciating.

Let's vote for the best newcomer award for a tie between Imran and Farhan! Can't wait to see what Farhan comes up with next. Sure hope he keeps at it, because the dude can act very well, and Bollywood could use someone like him! I think with Farhan, Imran, and Ranbir, the new generation of actors is promising!

Sorry for the confusion with the pictures. Purie did indeed play Devika, and I've added the note on Nicholette Bird and Tanya (who was Farhan's ex-flame, yes), whose efforts were praiseworthy too.

Sudhir: Thanks for the note on Prachi -- it's good to know that TV shows can still be the incubator for acting talent. Sometimes, I worry with all these models making it with little or no acting experience. Might as well go to 'acting school' at the gym, LOL...

Prachi is both super-cute, and a rather good actress who'll only get better with time. I'm sure you'll enjoy her performance in Rock On, especially since she's playing one of the most important characters, which gives her a chance to showcase her abilities. Besides, you have a better understanding of her work, so it should be even better to see her in this. Kind of how I enjoyed following Gracy Singh and Simone Singh from TV shows to movies!

Nicki: Rock On is easily one of the best this year. You're very right about Arjun and John being compared often, which as you know, is likely because they worked their way into the industry in similar ways and in a similar time range. You know where I stand on the comparison scale :P

Sure, they might have saved some financial resources given the cast of Rock On isn't as star-studded, but if anything, they go to prove that the plot is equally important. And the camera-work and music didn't spare anything, so its crew probably did a heck of a job. Also thought they did well researching the instruments, etc. There's a scene with a guitar pick that was just very well's the details that worked. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!


Anonymous said...

I am dying to see this movieeeeee!
I am in love with the soundtrack!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous: I think you'll like the soundtrack even more after having seen the film! Cheers!

Deepa Dev said...

janaab.. just watched Rock On... totally loved it.. right up there with DCH & RDB ... aur kya kahoon - college ke din yaad aa gaye - esp culturals ke liye music competition-wale rehearsals... miss those days badly...

Like you said, farhan is quite good, so is arjun... definite thumbs up for this one! (p.s. you already know i love the soundtrack so I'm not gonna gush abt it all over again :D) ... ciao for now!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Deepa: Really glad you enjoyed it! Agree completely that it very easily reminds us of our own experiences from school/college.

The soundtrack fit in like hand in glove! Here is an interesting article on Javed Akhtar's thoughts on Indian rock.


Deepa Dev said...

Good article... but Indian Rock music is still not widespread enough for it to draw talent that adds to the movement instead of just becoming a part of it...

Rock On's lyrics were good - yes, but not as "different" as the article portrays it I think...

the music was definitely rock, but the lyrics, not so much...

just my 2 cents...

theBollywoodFan said...

Agree completely about Indian rock just not being widespread enough...some day! The lyrics will get there, eventually. A good start, nevertheless.

Thanks for stopping by!