Yeah. What he said.
The thing about reactions to and opinions about art and stories and things like that is that they're so personal and tied to individual experiences. So there's no reason for me to try to convince someone who liked Rock On or found it moving that it was, objectively, facile and transparent and shallow, but that's sure how it came across to me. Instead of listing out what didn't work for me - and how none of this rocked me even remotely - and in fact my general philosophy in life is that if you have to put "rock" in the title, your work probably isn't successfully rocking for itself - maybe I should just say that my favorite song (or musical scene) in this movie was the jokingly, drunkenly karaoked version of "I Will Survive."
Purab Kohli, playing the most likable character, the very Ringo-y drummer.
That was the only one that felt genuine to me, true to the character and the moment. The rest of this was obvious and dull - even the flashbacks to the band's early days told me nothing about them that I couldn't have written myself. I've seen this movie a dozen times, though of course not in Hindi. Give me School of Rock any day. Cultural context may have just thrown up a huge wall for me here, and I am happy to accept that this movie has relationships to mainstream Indina cinema and to audiences who grew up primarily in that context that are very different from how it fits in with the western movies and tv I grew up with. There's little in Rock On that didn't happen a few seasons ago in Degrassi: The Next Generation, for example. And that's fine - there's nothing inherently wrong with different groups of people indulging in the same stories for different audiences or contexts - but it means that Rock On is not the movie for me.
I watched this with Memsaab and we made an ongoing checklist of all the standard rock band accessories, behaviors, and plot points we expected to find, and most of them turned up: leather wrist bands, iconic rock hero t-shirts/posters/CDs, pre-conflict frolicking, the lead singer diving into the crowd at a concert, fog machines and colored lasers (Magik [the band's name] [seriously] is Styx, apparently),
ego clashes, pressures to sell out.... I don't at all mind when movies (or novels, or songs, or whatever) dig into the barrel of narrative and emotional chestnuts, but if the story is uncreative, then I need the rest of the project to be imaginative and meaningful in its intent for and use of the chestnuts. Chake De India, for example, was mostly trite on paper but pushed all the right buttons for me and was utterly chock-full of heart. Rock On just didn't. I was so bored. A bunch of man-children upset that they're not able to wield their phallic symbols anymore? No thanks.
Boys, I've called you into my office to discuss how disappointed I am....
The list of various things that don't fit anywhere else:
- What was up with Aditya and Sakshi's rain sculpture thingy? That's the most ludicrously excessive piece of set decor I've ever seen in a Hindi movie, and I'm including the sunken living room wrap-around sofas that seat thirty-seven in that comparison.
I like to think of it as echoing the clouds and tears in Aditya's pre-band-reunion dil. Awww.
- Adi is such a stud that you need to see him from two sides at once! Maybe Farhan and crew were just inspired the split-screen idea from co-star Arjun Rampal's Asambhav!
- Arjun Rampal successfully channeled the look of circa 1972 George Harrison.
Probably not the guitar chops, though. Out of fairness, I should also say that this was the best performance I've ever seen Arjun Rampal give.
- Love the presence of Pepsi in a film that discussing selling out. Subtle and clever (relatively).
- You can't quite see it here, but the famous people in the producer's desk and wall photos are Anu Malik, who appears as himself in the film, and Javed Akhtar, whose presence does not need explanation.
More meta - apparently that's the theme of the month!
- Requisite struggling rock band wear: Doors shirt, camouflage, lots of metal jewelry, soul patch.
- (My screen capturing software did some funny things during this movie, so these shots don't do this scene justice, but let's proceed anyway.) At their first rock competition, Magik is preceded on stage by some sort of metal group,
and Memsaab and I both thought it would have been brilliant to have this shaved-head lead singer be a cameo by someone who is decidedly not a shaved-head lead singer of a metal band, like Shahrukh or Abhishek. Or OMG Preity! Ha!