What the critics didn’t tell you about Rock On 2…

“Aaj kal market mein jo bikta hai na, wohi dil ki aawaaz ban jaati hai,” states a character in Rock On 2, when Joe (Arjun Rampal) asks a reality show participant to sing from his heart instead of playing to the gallery. The line, knowingly or unknowingly, mocks at the ‘zero-brainer 100-crore earner’ brand of films, where one successful genre, say biopic gives way to multiple wannabes. 

“Bade ped ki chaanv mein chote paudhe nahin ugg sakte,” consoles Farhan’s Aadi to Jiah (Shradha Kapoor) towards the film’s climax, which reiterates the fact that the film has distanced itself from its successful antecedent, Rock On. 

Rock On 2, directed by Shujaat Saudagar is a film which is firmly rooted and is set on an unexplored territory or rather the invisible India of our incredible India – the northeast. Meghalaya is indeed mesmerizing and one can’t resist making travelling plans to experience those landscapes. The landscapes distract you quite often. Blame it on Marc Koninckx, the cinematographer with a ‘Magik’ touch. 

Well, not a high price to pay for director Shujaat Saudagar and Excel films, as the nuanced performances by Farhan Akhtar, Purab Kohli (A revelation here), Arjun Rampal, Shradha Kapoor and Shashank Arora (Finally a well-deserved role in a mainstream film) make up for the minor hiccups in the screenplay. Among the actors, Kumud Mishra stands out as a sore thumb, almost sleepwalking through his role of Sholay’s ‘Thakur who is not hands-free’. One wonders what this character does the entire day, apart from wearing a shawl and a constipated expression. 

The film reminds of ‘IL Postino’ (1994), an Italian film which revolves around a fictional incident in the life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and his friendship with a postman, who learns to love poetry. The bitter reality of this ‘aspiring poet’ and ‘established poet’ resonates with the relationship Farhan’s Aadi shares with Rahul Sharma, an aspiring musician. 

Rising above the shadows of Rock On, this film is indeed a brave attempt at narrating a whole new story. Writers Abhishek Kapoor and Pubali Chaudhuri deserve an applause. This film has a story – rare occurrence these days. One wishes the filmmaker had included characters who belong to music bands in Shillong, instead of relying on artists from Mumbai trying to make a difference through their music. Purab Kohli is the film’s narrator and this ‘voiceover telling you everything’ route comes across as archaic. 

Revealing the story would rob you off the pleasure of watching this gem of a film, so let’s talk music. The song, ‘Chal chale hum kahin’ sung by Farhan Akhtar is soothing with its simple lyrics and minimal use of music instruments, rendering it an unplugged feel. 

‘Jaago’ transforms the auditorium into a live rock band performance venue, ‘You know what I mean’ comes across as another version of ‘Socha hai’ from the previous film. Shradha Kapoor is brilliant as an actor as well as singer, rendering songs like ‘Udd jaa re’, ‘Tere mere dil’ and the finale song, ‘Woh jahaan’. The song which steals the show is ‘Hoi Kiw’ sung by Usha Uthup, Kit Shangpliang and Pynsuklin Syiemiong from Summersalt Band from Shillong.

Javed Akhtar’s simple words prove that lyrics can replace dialogues and articulate the character’s thoughts, especially in the song, ‘Woh jahaan’, where one feels Aadi and Jiah are conversing on the stage. Pick up any song from this film and try placing it in any other popular film’s situation and you would have a tough time doing so. 

The songs of Rock On 2 belong only to Rock On 2, and not even in its first installment released 8 years ago. It’s quite an achievement in our times, when almost every song sounds similar and lacks a character of its own. Mirzya might be the only exception, which was also composed by the same trio – Shankar Ehsan Loy. Time to take a bow!

Rock On 2 is a film that wears its heart on its sleeves and doesn’t shy from doing so. Alas, all our ‘intellectual’ critics could notice was Purab Kohli playing drum like a Daffli (Wasn’t it supposed to be a light moment in a wedding song?), Farhan Akhtar’s voice (Doesn’t it lend his character more credibility?), and comparison with Rock On (Both have completely different story approaches). 

One minute silence for all those film critics treasuring their rejected scripts inside ‘My Film’ folders. Folks, critics par na jaao, apni akkal lagaao. 

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