I had been wanting to escape to a Bollywood movie for quite a few days. I didn’t get a chance to see ZNMD on the big screen, so when the opportunity came up to watch Rockstar at Pathe Amsterdam Arena, I promptly availed of it though I’d be going alone to a movie show after many many years. We must have been about ten of us in the hall - a couple, two sets of two girls, two boys, an elderly gentleman and myself.
The moment I heard the opening line – the unmistakable magic of Rumi’s poetry – Imtiaz Ali had me - hook, line and sinker. As the story unfolded at a leisurely pace, one could actually hear the crunch of popcorn in the silences punctuating the dialogues. Isn’t there a saying to the effect of silence being the most important part of music. The whole movie after all is a montage of music, each song a ballad taking the story forward.
The naivete of the leading lady is quite different from the pretence of innocence that has often plagued Indian cinema - the demure damsel lowering her gaze even while wearing a midriff revealing outfit (be it a sari or a lehenga). I found her child-like exuberance a lot more spontaneous than Kareena’s antics in Jab We Met. The beginnings of the unwitting romance of the lead pair has neither the “mujhse dosti karoge” handshake nor the “pyar dosti hai” foreword. However, the comfortable camaraderie while indulging in harmless mischief struck the right chord for the relationship to flower.
The non-linear narrative of the awkward youth making a mark in the music world is pretty neat. Like the “Pia Haji Ali” of Fiza, “Khwaja mere khwaja” of Jodha Akbar and “Maula mere maula” of Delhi-6, “Kun fayakun” transports one to the realm of the divine with the prayer “araz tujhe kar de mujhe mujhse hi riha”. The melodrama is kept to a minimal and a lot of the angst-ridden torment of the creative artist is well encapsulated within songs “jo bhi mai kahna chahu barbaad kare alfaz mere”.
Bollywood has always done its bit to lure Indian tourists to Europe – and the Bohemian backdrop was just perfect to showcase the forbidden pleasures of strip-joints and the RLD as well as the old world laid back charm so typical of the continent - street musicians, cobbled streets, cafes and concert halls. Thereafter, the movie intensifies in its portrayal of ardour with playful hugs being replaced by passionate embraces. There is equal focus on the emergence of the rockstar and the blossoming of love and along the way, quite a mockery of media and music moghuls. The inability of a twenty something to be worldly wise after being catapulted into fame is shown through the instinctive knee-jerk reactions to pain. It is the instant reflex to a painful wound, a mature acceptance and understanding of sorrow it is not.
The trampling of sensitivities – the brutal deforestation of human nature manifests itself in two extreme symptoms. There is psychological anguish for the ‘neat and clean’ lady who hides her feelings beneath the sophisticated veneer of socially acceptable behaviour. And then there is the raging outburst of the ‘bad boy of rock music’, a lashing out against the supposed vanguards of society. “Kyu kaate mujhe” is a heart-rending appeal.
All said and done, this is ultimately an utterly romantic movie, the expression of emotion in its rawest form far away from the fence separating right and wrong. An escape into that field in the far beyond where we all yearn to meet our beloved.