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): http://rockon.bigadda.com/