Rock On 2: No music, no magic

Director: Shujaat Saudagar

Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Shraddha Kapoor, Shashank Arora, Kumud Mishra, Shahana Goswami

Run time: 142 mins

Forget good, there is hardly any music in most of Rock On!! 2. Save in the many flashbacks and in the needlessly protracted climax. The songs and melodies, instead of being well knit in the narrative, seem to stand jarringly outside of it. There is a wisp of a story, narrated in large chunks through that easy, lazy device — a run-of-the-mill voiceover. It’s the tale of the members of the iconic rock group, Magik, going their own separate ways; but of their friendship standing the test of time. Eight years on Jo (Arjun Rampal) runs a club and is the judge of a reality show, KD (Purab Kohli) is composing music for the ad world and Adi (Farhan Akhtar), is on a major guilt trip to a remote village in Meghalaya where he runs a school and a farmers’ cooperative. There is hint of grey in their hair and in the stubble, a pronounced tan and faint love handles to underline that they have aged, but not necessarily come of age.

Unknown to the band is young Jia (Shraddha Kapoor), the singer-daughter of the purist classical musician Pandit Vibhuti (Kumud Mishra) with whom Adi’s destiny is entwined in ways that audience can fathom right from the minute she makes her entrance on the screen but the hero himself can’t. Like him, she is also trying to cope with the demons from the past.

Then there are a couple of music CDs that beg for a hear. The plot moves ahead precisely because they don’t get listened to. If they were taken note of there wouldn’t be any sequel. And no, this ain’t about giving away a vital spoiler; the film itself is so predictable and packed with easy coincidences that it can’t have any surprises waiting to be unearthed by the viewer.

Various musical ideas jostle around, begging for a better exploration — the music market, the purist versus the experimental/fusion music debate, for instance. But the filmmaker prefers to just skim the surface than pausing to dwell on the troubled relationship between Jiya and her father. One scene of emotional showdown is enough because there are better things to do, like peddling innumerable brands — from Amul to the state of Meghalaya itself.

The attempt to get Meghalaya on to a mainstream film might seem laudatory on paper but means little more than offering a picturesque “tea-estates-hills-lakes” backdrop for the film to get planted in. In fact, it reduces the local-ites to typically filmi, clichéd good and bad guys. The endless climax, portraying their misery, is cringingly bad and melodramatic and it is amply evident that the local actors share hardly any connect, communication or chemistry with the lead stars. Shillong’s much celebrated musical culture also hardly gets showcased save in a token song — ‘Hoi Kiw/Chalo Chalo’ by Usha Uthup and the Summersalt Band.

The film would seem like a vehicle for Akhtar to make his presence felt but it’s Rampal, and more Kohli, who seem to walk away with the film. Kapoor is self-consciously meek and submissive. Mishra’s Pandit remains a half-baked character, as does Shashank Arora’s Uday, thereby reducing the fine young actor to a prop in the group, the one who wields the sarod like the guitar.

There is a hint of the old camaraderie and banter in the interactions of the old band members but not enough to bring back the nostalgia for the original in any big way for the fans. Nor does the sequel update itself enough to appeal to the millenials. No wonder Rock On!! 2 feels totally lost in an echo chamber of its predecessor’s popularity.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 2:52:16 AM |

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