Imtiaz Ali, Rockstar!

जो भी मैं, कहना चाहूँ;
बर्बाद करें, अलफ़ाज़ मेरे
अलफ़ाज़ मेरे

This post will have plenty of spoilers, I want to talk about the movie. Have been itching to think about it aloud.

That happiness & art cannot co-exist - Poster brilliance!

Also, before you read any further, you should know that I had a positive predisposition towards the movie even before I had seen it. I have been watching over it like an eager fan (weird since I am not quite a Imtiaz Ali or a Ranbir Kapoor fanboy) since production began.

I had read an article which mentioned Piyush Mishra (I think, or Anurag Kashyap, don’t remember who actually, someone I respect) talking about Rockstar as a challenge that Imtiaz Ali has accepted. A challenge saying, “Why can’t there be intelligent films in commercial bollywood?” As in, great that an indie culture is being established, highly individualistic film-makers are making some brilliant films, but these are small budget, targeted at an elite niche.

When will a commercial film with big bucks be smart?

Imtiaz Ali & team has put their heart, soul and belief into the film.

Some of the reactions to the film however, have been proof incarnate why the above challenge is not taken up by worthy film-makers.

Perhaps my fellow discerning movie watchers who did not like the film would have liked it better if Imtiaz had called it Pyaar Kaise Hota Hai. The fact that the movie does not closely follow the meteoric rise of Jordan’s musical career (and instead just delves in as a sort of a background to his life, which Jordan runs from, periodically) is being peppered as a lack of narrative, and “unbelievable how he became rockstar just like that”.

The film maker has chosen to NOT focus on that part of the story. The hero is not heroic in what the film-maker has chosen to focus on. He need not be. That is poetic license!

I don’t even think, that apart from the songs Sheher Mein and Sadda Haq, which were songs FOR the crowd, any of the other brilliant compositions was even meant as songs that took Jordan to his Rockstar heights. These songs are his thoughts, his forays, his insomnia, what he does when he doesn’t know what he is doing. There are umpteen moments in the movie where right in the middle of singing something, Jordan has woken up from a reverie, a frozen moment where he does not know what just happened!

ये जोर्डन है कौन?
कुछ ऐसे लोग होते हैं ना,  जिनका दिमाग हमेशा कहीं और होता है

Jordan, the movie’s hero is a very ordinary person, with human desires and failings. He doesn’t comprehend where his art and talent comes from, he is surprised by people’s reactions to it (Jim Morrison, उसने स्टेज पर सबको ये बीच वाली ऊँगली दिखा दी, ये, और चारों तरफ तालियाँ, कि भाई क्या काम कर दिया वाह, और मैं बस स्टॉप पर खड़े होके बजा कर लोगों का मनोरंजन कर रहा था तो मुझे चमेट पड़ी?). His moments are just when he is playing without thinking, and usually he is thinking about himself, and love’s reactions.

When Katarra pulls him out of the brothel where he is singing, it leads up to one of the most brilliant scenes of the film. Katarra, disappointed in JJ is scolding him "तू जलने से पहले ही बुझ जायेगा " and that his popularity is going down, when people on the street start recognizing Jordan, one by one getting into a bigger crowd. A nervous Kattara had been asking "क्यों करता है ये सब?" and Jordan, ignoring the increasing rabble of voices all around screeching his name has eyes only for Kattara and says "आप बिलकुल सही बोल रहे हैं. मुझे नहीं पता मैं ये सब क्यों करता हूँ. मुझे खुद से शर्म आती है. पर मैं रोक नहीं पाता"

Jordan, the Rockstar stands for nothing, he is marketing. He is empty.

Naming the movie Rockstar is a sleight of hand

He does not feel for God (sits around all day in the dargah, joins in the singing, because it is there!), there’s no inherent rebellion against authority until they make it difficult for him to meet the girl (Sadda Haq! The unveiling of this song in the movie had about the same effect on me as the title song of Love, Sex aur Dhokha. I had been a big fan of both the songs before I went into the respective movies, and watching the usage of the songs in the film stunned and shamed me. Not that I like the songs any lesser, yet). Free Tibet is incidental, all of it is background.

The music does not originate from spirituality (sufism), rebellion (Dylan, Morrison), and representing communities, or an attitude.

The music just bubbles out of him. None of the other things matter.

Jordan realizes that he can do ANYTHING and that will make people like Jordan all the bit more. The realization is bile worthy.

The only thing that matters however, is the girl.

Incredibly real love story. Not pretty, not suave, not smooth, but soul stirring nevertheless.

He seeks development of his talent at the beginning of the film through a falsehood of heart-ache, and is exasperated while he bites into a samosa in trying to get his grips onto real love.

The film reverses the situation by the end, when at the cusp of his fame and popularity, with cops waiting to take him from the hospital, he begs his manager that he doesn’t want any of it, just let him have the love. That the film and Ranbir Kapoor manage to make both credible is what makes this movie exquisite.

This song, and the scene that immediately follows this, the kiss, and back to the clapping, a palm raised in embarrassed "uh well, you liked that? I was singing for myself" moment! Goosebumps!

The way the love story progresses, the way each touch is established, how tender Hina (Nargis Fakhri) looks (one can readily understand the heartache from having that taken away from you) is done in a way that cannot quite be summed up in words. Not at least in mine.

I’m still overwhelmed by the  smouldering gentleness of it all.

Masterclass in real, now India.

Anurag Kashyap tried here, here, here and here, all on twitter.

Such an unexpected film.. does not take any easy route.. does not become a clap trap or a crowd pleaser.. It’s just so heartfelt..

Rockstar is unlike most films.. no cacophony of sounds.. quiet.. no unnecessary background to propel it forward..Ranbir is just awesome.

I cannot write much more tonight apart from thanking everyone who has worked on the film. Thank you for working on it with such conviction. Overwhelmed. Must watch it again, as soon as possible.

Thank you!

P.S. Raja Sen, and Sukanya Verma have said it much better than I do.

Update : Another brilliant write-up by Reema Moudgil at Unboxed Writers. She captures the essence of love in Imtiaz Ali’s cinema beautifully.

3 thoughts on “Imtiaz Ali, Rockstar!

    • Well, all I can say is that it definitely is not a stupid movie, or a whimsical fancy. That maybe it didn’t work for you is penned down beautifully by Sukanya in her review,


      “Rockstar, like Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se.. or Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Swades, is a heart-felt, inflexible vision of an insightful filmmaker. It is bound to generate polarizing responses. Either you will be able to hear the unsaid, draw your own subtext, understand Jordan’s disdain for the system, disregard for his fans, sense the reason for the lingering rejection of his family and girl , read his eyes, see the pain and feel his need to be treated normally again.

      Or you will nitpick where he took his guitar lessons, why don’t we ever see him talk to his mother, why did he not reveal his true feelings to Heer earlier on, why doesn’t he care for idolisation, why are Heer’s folks so benign and inconsequential, why does the film end without any drama or dhan-te-nan?

      Make your own answers.”

      And more than anything, despite anything else, it is a very gentle film. I am surprised by the gentleness, and the fact that Ranbir pulled it off this spectacularly!

      It’s great to have a perspective on art which you didn’t much like yourself.

      Builds character, as life says 🙂

  1. Pingback: It didn’t quite come together « Gonzo – Using an unconventional, exaggerated and highly subjective style, often when the reporter is part of the story

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