Rockstar (Imtiaz Ali, 2011)
So here’s the thing: I know I am coming to this movie a bajillion months late in the game (when do I not?) but you have to understand this one vital piece of information:
From the moment I saw the trailer for Rockstar I had absolutely ZERO interest in it whatsoever.
Forget that it’s an Imtiaz Ali film, and that I am yet to write up Ali’s previous directorial effort Love Aaj Kal because it’s one of those movies I put in the “I love it too much, it’s too hard to write about” basket. Forget that it stars Ranbir Kapoor – one of THOSE (glorious) Kapoors, star of one of my all time favourite feel good films (Wake Up Sid), who, with every single film he does (be it to my personal taste or not) is undeniably proving himself as a talent to be reckoned with. Forget that Imtiaz Ali opted NOT to go with his regular music director Pritam, instead getting A.R. Rahman to compose a supersized 14 track soundtrack – hello, epic?
Zero interest. The trailer seemed to foreground precisely the aspects of Ranbir’s star persona I tend to dislike: the goofy, naïve clowning of a man-child; before turning into a parade of “and then, and then” moments of a glowering, emo musician snarling and acting shitty intercut with shots of the apparent cause of it all – a girl, whom he alternately moons over and screams over.
It just looked simultaneously overblown and kind of boring.
FORGET THAT. Seriously – what do I know? Luckily, I have a bunch of enthusiastic, informed blogging/tweeting friends whose opinions I trust and respect, and who WOULD NOT STOP PRAISING this film from the moment it came out.* Naturally, such enthusiastic praise for something I had completely written off only piqued my interest, so I decided, HELL, WHY NOT? I’ll give Rockstar a shot.
AND THANK GOODNESS I DID, BECAUSE ROCKSTAR IS PHENOMENAL.
Opening with a quote from Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
and partially based on the romantic legend of Heer and Ranhja, Rockstar is the kind of love story that has been celebrated through the ages, but largely missing from the screens of late: cosmic fated love of the truly epic, tragic variety. We’re used to seeing Bollywood (and Hollywood) equate romance with sunshine and laughter, with seperations and hurdles regarded as minor blips on the path to the inevitable happy ending…but what about those other stories? What about when love is bound up with misunderstanding, and pain, tortured souls and ultimate unhappiness?
I’m a sucker for doomed romance, and that’s probably a large part of why I ended up loving Rockstar. Imtiaz Ali shows rather than tells, and allows the audience to ‘fill in the gaps’ of their own experiences – in conveying the pain of loving someone. Also, I watched this film a week after breaking up with my boyfriend. So it hit kind of close to home. **
I’m not really doing a great job of NOT making it sound overblown, am I? And that’s part of it – Rockstar does have a timeless, epic feel, stretching out the scanty story of how ambitious student musician Janardhan Jhakar (Ranbir Kapoor) goes from naïve kid JJ, strumming his guitar for commuters at bus stops, talking about heartbreak in abstract terms because he doesn’t yet know what it is, to jaded, fucked up superstar “Jordan”, whose problem is that he got everything he wanted, except the chance to be with the love of his life. People have taken issue with Nargis Fakhri’s performance as Heer, the object of Jordan’s eternal affection, but to me, what stood out the most in their relationship – portrayed as if some kind of unseen magnetic attraction existed between them, misunderstood by all around them – was the idea that when you are in a relationship, you can’t necessarily explain to anyone else why you love the person you love. You can’t necessarily even explain it to THEM. You just do, like it is meant to be – and again, maybe Rumi explains it best:
The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere,
they're in each other all along.
Maybe you either love this film or you hate it, but to me, it felt like it was a film I had been waiting to see for years. If that's not ridiculously overblown and intense, I don't know what is, but it's that kind of affecting. I cannot wait to see what Imtiaz Ali does next. And I can't believe I very nearly missed this one.
* Actually, I was stunned to learn AFTER I finally watched, and fell head over heels in love with the film, that Rockstar is one of those extraordinarily divisive films that some people just don’t get, or even hate. Actually, I’m not so much stunned about that, because I can understand why people wouldn’t like the film – it’s long, and slow and meandering and even possibly confusing in parts, and it’s actually not what it says it is on the tin: this isn’t a simple Bollywood love story about a rockstar and his girlfriend and the rise and fall and rise of his career. It’s much more epic and challenging than that; and it is immensely painful – or was for me – and depends a lot on what life experience the viewer brings to the story.
** Add into the mix the last film appearance of Shammi Kapoor, which in itself is worth watching the film for – just seeing Ranbir Kapoor clearly in awe of his grand uncle when they are dueting together on The Dichotomy of Fame is enough to start the tears flowing if you are a softie like me.