Cinema

Bollywood learns to rock

MP: Ranbir from Rockstar

MP: Ranbir from Rockstar

For ages, our mainstream commercial cinema has had us believe that Aal Izz Well with the world. Or at least, that it will all be well in the end. And that the entire universe conspires to bring you what you want if you want it bad.

It probably does but not always the way we want it to happen, as we have learned. As the saying goes: Beware of what you wish for, because it might come true.

Our films taught us to believe. That there is a system or a God or a hero that makes everything all right or at least delivers poetic justice even in the darkest of tragedies. If we do the right thing. They made us feel good.

The more developed our societies got, the more civilised we became, conforming and learning to live orderly in groups. It's fascinating how issues in our cinema reflected issues in our society as they trickled down from as big as land (Fifties), nation (Sixties), society (Seventies) to family (Eighties) and to identity (Nineties when the hero at least temporarily became a non-resident Indian).

But in love stories over decades, there was always a faux morality, a set of societal rules that kept lovers away — from Devdas to Mughal E Azam to Pyaasa to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak .

Real life lovers went to the movies to see their fantasies played out and wept when they didn't work out.

Soon, three young second generation filmmakers Sooraj Barjatya, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar started negotiating the family structure. Romance in films started becoming about manufacturing consent from the family system or the head of it — the patriarch who slowly changed from a villain (Dalip Tahil, Amrish Puri) to a father figure (Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher).

Following the heart

By the end of the Nineties, our youth had a mind of their own. It was no longer about land, nation, society, family or even their identity. It was about the self. About what the heart wanted. Dil Chahta Hai .

In spite of all these changes, one thing didn't quite change. The girl always had to be pure and virginal unless she was playing the other woman, usually a prostitute with a heart of gold pining for a lost hero.

If Anurag Kashyap's Dev D for a first time in ages finally exposed all the pent up repressed sexuality, Imtiaz Ali does one better — he makes his hero romance a “neat and clean, hi-fi” married woman, one who is certainly not a virgin. Of course, a boy and a girl can be friends. Till they kiss. And it's never the same after that.

Rockstar is about being in that place — where you are not supposed to be, doing what you are not supposed to do. The forbidden.

This was the domain of porn films that slowly crept into the adult films over the last decade as Mallika Sherawat kissed away to fame. And the forbidden has finally found its way into a mainstream film for all audiences.

Indian cinema through Imtiaz Ali's film has finally found an outlet for all that has been repressed. Romance, sex but most of all, choice. And freedom to do what is best for the self, not family, not society, not nation.

Rock music is not just about drugs or sex. It's always been about the freedom to express. It's about the rage against the machine. The system.

Raj in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge went from Europe to the bride's home in India to seek sanction from the family and get his girl. Here, Jordan goes from India to Europe to another man's wife's home to get her for himself.

Aditya Chopra was manufacturing parental consent. Imtiaz Ali is violating moral codes.

This is that halfway point where our hero and heroine stop being the typical hero and heroine because they “cross the line”.

The beauty of it is that Jordan has no idea why he does things he does. He is not doing it to be a bad boy. He just finds himself at home jamming “Dum Maaro Dum” with commercial sex workers than an evening with his old friends.

It takes two-thirds of the film and about four and a half years for him to understand the connection he shares with his girlfriend. “Main Sirf Tere Saath Hi Set Hoon, Yaar.” That one line sums up Imtiaz Ali's brand of romance perfectly. A late realisation of true love with an old friend.

The angst here is the driving force, the engine and the heartbeat of Rockstar and is something you will appreciate more if you've been an artiste yourself. If you've experienced unrelenting pain, prolonged frustration and pounding heartaches, and channeled that choking feeling into a creative process as a cathartic outlet for your emotions.

Rockstar is the journey of every artiste who has refused to conform to a system, to a structure, to a society, to a set-path or process not because he thought it was cool but because that's who he is. It's a journey of a never-ending search of that elusive peace, truth, happiness and freedom. There is nothing more tragic than a man still in search of what is long gone.

And once you've seen life through his eyes, you will just laugh at the next person who tells you: Aal izz Well.

Yes, the world sucks. So does this business of art, music and entertainment manufacturing feel good, faux morality and happy endings.

Good to see someone showed it the finger.

Imtiaz Ali, A.R. Rahman and Ranbir Kapoor have given us that rare film that's true to everything rock music once stood for. The angst. The pain. The rage.

Rock is not dead. And all's not well with the world.


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Printable version | Sep 28, 2022 5:20:19 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/bollywood-learns-to-rock/article2662671.ece