Be what you want to be

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By WHY ROCKET SINGH CROWNS RANBIR KAPOOR THE HAT-TRICK HERO Pratim D. Gupta Did you like/not like Rocket Singh? Tell t2@abpmail.com
  • Published 12.12.09
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Have you ever seen or heard of a theatre full of masala moviegoers clapping at a company sales chart? Naa? Don’t worry, you will have to join the party soon. Because it’s no ordinary sales chart. It’s one where the bars of the bar graph are replaced by rockets. And these small paper rockets have the power to crush the mechanics of big Bollywood.

They did it with Chak De! India and now they have again rocked it with Rocket Singh. Director Shimit Amin, writer Jaideep Sahni and casting director Abhimanyu Ray have proved one more time that with a strong and sensible script, the right faces and talent to back it up and good ol’ storytelling, Hindi cinema can reach beyond the stars (and the spice).

Strange as it may sound, Rocket Singh in its theme and treatment is not very different from Chak De!. Competition between local sales companies may have replaced an international tournament featuring women’s hockey teams, but this film too, and perhaps more so, is about self-empowerment and teamwork.

At a time when companies everywhere got from fat to lean to mean, Rocket Singh is a pocket-sized powerhouse, a film that asks you to stop facing your boss’s music and take the plunge of going independent. “Risk toh Spiderman ko bhi lena padta hai, main toh phir bhi salesman hoon” — Harpreet Singh Bedi’s mantra in life is clearly the message of the movie (and maybe of the moment).

The film starts off a bit like Wake Up Sid where HP (Harpreet, not Harry Potter) has just finished college. But unlike Sid, our Singh knows what he wants to do in life. S-A-L-E-S — kyunki usmein number se zyada akal chahiye! So, along with Harpreet we are dropped into the world of sales where every call counts and every lead is priceless. These initial few scenes of the film, underlining the pressures of a salesman, is a throwback to the David Mamet-scripted brilliant James Foley film Glengarry Glen Ross where everybody from Al Pacino to Jack Lemmon was vying for the Salesman of the Year prize.

But our Harpreet, whose desktop screensaver is a smiling Guru Nanak, is way too honest to play the dirty games of salesmanship. Scooter mein petrol hai but emotion pe control nahin! When Harpreet reports a client for bribery, he is discharged of all his duties and asked to just see off the six-month trainee period. He is not allowed to go out on the field and every time he picks up the telephone receiver, paper planes greet him from various corners of the office. And thus is born Rocket Sales Corporation.

Computer assembling may be a ‘jungle’ but our Rocket Singh continues to be the Mahatma. It is his integrity and commitment to his work that soon makes his company the best in the business and redefines sales secrets. And one by one, very much like a heist film, office colleagues — from the item girl to the chaiwallah, from the grouchy manager to the porn-surfing techie — start joining Rocket’s company, becoming ‘partners’ and not mere ‘employees’.

Shimit, who had also directed the gritty Ab Tak Chhappan, pours a lot of heart and humour into his third film. From “jise kuch nahin aata woh salesman ban jaata hai” to “company ka naam tumhare upar hai ya tumhara naam company ke upar”, Rocket Singh is a fun ride which swings through the world of sales but carries with it a universal thought, one of self-reliance.

The only complaint against Shimit and Jaideep is the time the film takes to wrap things up. At 160 minutes, it is a tad too long, with the second half in genuine need of a little trimming.

But then again can you possibly get tired of watching Ranbir Kapoor? In his best-written role till date, RK is again a knockout. He doesn’t land a punch and this time he doesn’t even get to dance (peculiarly the catchy Pocket mein rocket song is not even played with the end credits) but Ranbir is so good in inhabiting a character that you don’t even realise when he becomes Harpreet ‘Rocket’ Singh.

The film gifts a lot of actors to the industry — some new, some not so new. Like Gauhar Khan, who was always looked upon as the girl from the Bombay Vikings music video and is an absolute revelation here as the hyper Koena. D. Santosh, who’s done good cameos in Khakee and Traffic Signal, is a riot as Giri. You have seen Mukesh Bhatt before but here as ‘Cup Plate’, the tea-guy who becomes a company partner, he is perfect.

But the find of Rocket Singh is Naveen Kaushik (who looks like Abhay Deol and talks like Raghu Ram) as Nitin, Harpreet’s sales manager who finally crosses over. Manish Choudhari as the bad boss becomes a bit repetitive towards the end.

They also throw in a sweet little love story for Rocket. She is his first ever client and they bond over bowls of Maggi. Debutante Shazahn Padamsee (daughter of Alyque and Sharon) has just a couple of scenes but she makes an impact with her natural ease. A word must also go out for Salim-Sulaiman’s original background score — the songs are only used for montage set pieces — which helps in making the scenes that much effective.

By the time Harpreet slides back in his chair and the screen slowly blacks out, you realise it’s time for the film’s title to finally appear. But the title on your mind is not the title they show. Their title — Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year. Your title — Ranbir Kapoor: Man of the Year.