Rocking is overrated!
I read some film critic calling Abhishek Kapoor’s Rock On, a worthy successor to Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai. I can’t think of a statement further than the truth. There is not a doubt in my mind that, being ‘a worthy successor’, or in less kind terms, ‘cashing in on DCH’s popularity’ is what this film aimed to do. But that doesn’t mean it manages. What it does manage, is to look like a far less competent, ‘inspired’ film, as Bollywood is prone to calling a number of its endeavors.
Here is why I say this, the basic structure of the two films is: a group of male friends as the centre, their wives or girlfriends lurking as side attractions, one major fight – to be more specific – a punch in the face, a broken friendship, changed personalities, and then the patch-up. Dil ChahtaHai came at a time when films about friendship were more or less non-existent in the Bombay film industry. It created this unique new space, a new relationship that is full of mischief, friendship, and nostalgia which is infectious. Some lousy films like Masti tried to recreate that, but were so low in their humour, their look, their acting and direction that they went down badly. To be fair, compared to a lot of muck being produced in Bollywood today, Rock On is a good film. My main complain about it is its lack of originality.
What it doesn’t learn from Dil Chahta Hai is the art of simple and effective story-telling, without compromising on the complexities of relationships between friends and between lovers (or potential lovers).
The structure of Rock On is one that goes nowhere in spite of a great deal of build up. As the film begins, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that there has been a falling out between friends, and that it has changed their lives. But we don’t get to know till three-quarters of the film is over, what the fight was about. And by then, the build up is so great, that almost anything would’ve been anti-climactic. In Dil Chahta Hai, the comment that leads to the fall-out was below the belt, and unspeakable in Bolly-world. In Rock On, there is no build up to the actual fight. The tension between Aditya (Farhan Akhtar) and Joe (Arjun Rampal) starts and ends when the music director starts giving more screen time to Aditya, who doesn’t mind it, and Joe gets all worked up; a fight follows, and Joe punches Aditya. To sit for an hour and a half before you see this little detail, feels like you’ve been cheated.
Where Rock On loses out a great deal in comparison to Dil Chahta Hai is with reference to secondary characters. ‘The evil woman’ who wants to separate male friends was done away with fairly early in Dil Chahta Hai, because slightly unusual relationships were to take that space. I was particularly moved by the relationship between Akshaye Khanna and Dimple Kapadia. The sad turn that Debbie (Shahana Goswami) takes in Rock On is just reinviting the run-of-the-mill. She gets in the way of his reviving friendship, pushes him to do unexciting jobs etc. There is a hint of a woman who’s facing her changed reality, but she is so constantly unpleasant that it is easy to forget that and resent her.
So, yes, Rock On is like Dil Chahta Hai, but only because it is trying so miserably hard. And the only real commonality between the two is Farhan Akhtar, who was much much better in Dil Chahta Hai, as the director.