Bollywood hasn't produced very many films that peep into the rivalry between students of two educational institutions. A seldom-attempted genre, the one film that stands tall in this category is Mansoor Khan's JO JEETA WOHI SIKANDER.
At the same time, a number of films inspired by comic book characters Archie, Betty and Veronica have been attempted on this side of the Atlantic. J.J.W.S., later KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI, then ISHQ VISHK revolved around these popular characters.
Arindam Chaudhuri's ROK SAKO TO ROK LO brings back memories of J.J.W.S. as well as Archies. The film is a refreshing mix of both, with some wonderful [youth-appealing] moments and an outstanding climax as its trump cards.
Arindam Chaudhuri presents the ingredients of a normal film - hero, heroine, six songs, rivalry, melodrama, family - but treats them realistically and with restraint, and the result is just as believable and entertaining.
An entertainer that forces you to reflect back on your days in school!
Dev [Yash], Suhana [Manjari], Ganguly, Bhajji, Venky and Rati are final year students at the modest Bharti School. The five are tied together in a timeless bond of friendship. They all live in a carefree illusory world where lofty ambitions and preparations for a secure tomorrow have little or no meaning.
Dev and his friends are no match for Ranveer [Carran Kapur], the undisputed champion from the elitist Valley High School. Ranveer has all the luxuries most youngsters his age crave for.
Intimidated by Ranveer's money power, Dev and his friends falter and fail. Their smiles disappear and gloom takes over. Suddenly, from nowhere, Kabir [Sunny Deol] enters their life.
Kabir, whom they refer to as Phantom, is a mysterious and seemingly unapproachable Harley Davidson biker who inspires awe in all. An unexpected turn of events results in Kabir riding into Suhana's life and eventually befriending her gang.
A loner himself, Kabir is drawn towards these youngsters by the sheer magic of their innocent and unconditional friendship. With his unconventional wisdom, Kabir provokes Dev and his friends to stand up and face the challenges thrown at them.
Dev's faith in friendship and his friends are reinforced. He also discovers his first love, his true love.
Debutante director Arindam Chaudhuri, who also shares the credits for screenplay writing, opens the cards at the very outset. The students of two educational institutions, who can't stand each other's presence primarily due to the social status/standing, are introduced to the viewers in the first ten minutes and that sets the ball rolling. And with the arrival of two important characters in the story - Sunny Deol and Aparna Kumar - the plot gets absorbing.
In fact, Chaudhuri is a sharp storyteller; he keeps Sunny's character mum and mysterious right through the first half. His presence doesn't envelope the story of the kids, although his presence can be felt in several crucial moments. In this film, Sunny is treated more as a character that takes the story forward than someone who's got this larger-than-life image, who flexes muscles and mouths inflammatory dialogues. And that's a plus point!
The clash between the 'H.S.' and 'L.S.' at regular intervals and also the game Aparna plays are the high points of ROK SAKO TO ROK LO. Besides, the pacing is so fast, the narrative so taut, the viewer gets no time to think or blink an eyelid.
Of course, the first half has its share of loose ends. The emphasis on the families of every character was not quite required. These sequences are meant to evoke mirth, but they don't. Editing/trimming those portions would only enhance the impact!
The post-interval portions move at a brisk pace at most times. But it loses pace when Sunny's character makes an exit. Even a song at this juncture ['Sapno Ka Woh Jahan' - a melodious track nevertheless] should've been more appropriately placed, not at this crucial juncture. Even the sequences involving the bhabhi-devar relationship [Deepti Bhatnagar-Yash] can easily be trimmed.
The finale - the marathon - is amongst the best parts of the enterprise. Brilliantly executed, with crisp editing, the culmination acts as a delightful topping.
Arindam Chaudhuri makes a confident debut. An efficient storyteller, the debutante exhibits his grasp over the medium in dramatic as well as comic situations with ?n. Cinematography [Santosh Thundiyil] is first-rate. The colors add sheen to the enterprise.
Music composers Jatin-Lalit are in form yet again. The title track [at the start of the film] as also 'Jaane Kise' are two numbers that can easily be singled out. 'Sapno Ka Woh Jahan' is another gem, while 'Nazro Ka Yaarana' is a racy, foot-tapping number that has been filmed exceedingly well. The background score is equally charged.
The film rests on Yash's broad shoulders and the youngster makes the best of the situation. He handles his part with amazing confidence. Manjari is excellent. Despite this being her first attempt, there're no traces of nervousness or being uncomfortable. A powerhouse of talent!
Carran Kapur is another actor to watch. He may not really have a lengthy role, but the efficiency with which he goes about it deserves full marks. He's got tremendous screen presence as well. Amit, Carran's sidekick in the movie, makes his presence felt. Aparna Kumar oozes oomph.
Cast in a mature role, Sunny Deol is likable after a long, long time. Namrata Shirodkar gets no scope. Amongst friends, Ganguly and Bhajji stand out.
On the whole, ROK SAKO TO ROK LO has tremendous youth appeal and with slight trimming, it can carve a niche for itself. At the box-office, the film should be patronized by the youth mainly. The extra-ordinary promotion by its makers needs to be lauded!