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Rahman and Ranbir rock it, but imtiaz disappoints

Rockstar is an oxymoron of a motion picture. It merges two movies which do not melt together. In its title character it mixes two personalities which cannot be the same person.

Ranbir Kapoor’s Jordan is projected and spelt out many times as a Jim Morrisonesque figure who takes great pleasure in showing his middle finger to the world. He is also the same Jordan whose mere presence can revive a dying girl back to the pink of her health.

Now, Morrison was never someone you would really like to be around. He was the man who tried to set his woman on fire, remember? He was only to be enjoyed worshipped, for some on stage from a distance.

And here lies the dichotomy of Rockstar. It’s about a Devdas (Nargis Fakhri’s Heer being the Paro here) who chose to express his romantic pangs and pain through music and lyrics rather than drown himself in sex, drugs and alcohol. But this rebel really has no cause to wage a war against the world.

Perhaps the film’s music composer, A.R. Rahman, understood Rockstar better than its writer-director Imtiaz Ali and so when you hear the songs on your iPod, you realise Jordan is actually more of a seeker. Even in the angriest track that is Sadda haq, it’s almost a complain, rather than a revolt, as Irshad Kamil writes: “Tu kaate mujhe... Kyun baate mujhe iss tarah?

Rockstar takes off on an electrifying note. The first few images of a bruised Jordan almost hurtling onto the stage in front of a sea of people in an old European city is a dream opening riff. And then we flash back to Janardhan Jakhar, almost a dodo from Delhi jis mein “woh baat nahin hai” and whose guitar is almost smashed up like Goopy Gyne’s tanpura.

It is the college canteen man who explains that the only way he can light the musical fire in his heart is by getting it broken. So, J’s initial tryst with college stunner Heer is because she is a “dil todne ka machine”. Thereafter starts a naughty buddy bond between Jordan (she christens him) and Heer, where they watch soft-porn films, drink desi daaru and just act silly. By the time they roll in the Kashmir snows and then in the greens of Prague, they are on the same page of passion.

But then Rockstar’s an Imtiaz Ali film. Where lovers always meet at the wrong time and have to traverse long distances for their romantic yearnings. So, just like Viren and Aditi from Socha Na Tha, Aditya and Geet from Jab We Met, and Jai and Meera from Love Aaj Kal, Jordan and Heer struggle to discover their perfect world.

Cue for the emergence of Jordan the rockstar, who, like The Social Network’s Mark Zuckerberg, feels empty from inside despite all the fame and adulation. And that somewhat vacuous internal conflict never ever translates to that rabble-rousing troublemaker we are shown on stage.

Add to that Imtiaz’s attempt to go for an audio-visual crescendo for the third act and Rockstar is suddenly hurled from a very intimate space into an overblown zone of excess. To put it in the words of music, dhun chhoot jaata hai.

While Imtiaz’s screenplay leaves a lot to be desired he goes for a convoluted non-linear narrative his dialogues continue to sparkle in their realness and conversationality. When both sense that there’s something more than friendship at play here, this is the dream chat they have. J: Ek sawaal poochhna tha. H: Sach bol doongi. J: Bol naa... darta kaun hai? H: Haan.

But while J makes magic out of most of the lines, H does the opposite. For all of Imtiaz’s intuitive casting (remember Brazilian Giselli as a Punjabi girl in LAK?) Nargis Fakhri is quite a mess. Make no mistake, she looks fetching throughout but every time she opens that wide mouth and that long jawline is at work, the moments lose their music.

Ranbir is very good but before every headline (some bought, some believed) claims that the Kapoor boy has arrived, you should know that he is capable of much, much more. He has given two of his very important years to Rockstar and compared to Shahid (Mausam) and Shah Rukh (Ra.One), this is undoubtedly a wiser decision but this is still not that big act, that giant leap.

The Shammi Kapoor cameo those eyes twinkling with so much life is agonisingly beautiful.

And no alfaaz is enough for Rahman. After a couple of disappointing Indian scores (Endhiran and Jhootha Hi Sahi), this is sublime stuff. And perhaps a tad autobiographical. The way Jordan finds soul and solace in the dargah must have been reminiscent of Rahman’s own conversion of faith. How else could Kun faya kun sound the way it sounds?

Anil Mehta, the master cinematographer is the man responsible for making Rockstar look as J describes H both hot and cool. Dileep Subramaniam’s sound design helps you flit in and out of Jordan’s head at will.

Like many of his peers, Imtiaz’s craft is getting better with every film but the ‘palangtod’ aggrandisement is costing his simplicity, from the scripting to the casting. For matters of the heart, there’s really nobody better than him. He should leave it to others to break beds.

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