Fatally flawed, Janardan Jakhard, AKA Jordan (he gets the cool name from the love of his life) looks at life success fame and mortality as things that are not to be taken seriously…Until love strikes, he knows not when. Jordan only knows he needs to go with that elevating exhilarating bracing feeling of falling (and falling…) in love.
Fall, he does. In love, and in his allotted berth in the haul of fame. Most of the playing-time of this long deep profound and liberating exploration of love, operates on compelling life-defining cliches. Like the small-town boy who makes it big but looks at success with a contempt that he often spews in his physically offensive behaviour, barking and biting at the press, sniping at the people who try to love him, creating the drama of the damned in a circle of frenzied self-annihilation, not always succeeding in making his point behind the contours of incoherence that Jordan has chosen to adopt as his habitat.
But here is the thing. Jordan works as a fatally-flawed creature of darkness and desperation because director Imtiaz Ali and his lead Ranbir Kapoor seem to have probed the protagonist without losing out on that vital quality that underlines every search for the a character’s core: the turmoil.
Ranbir plays Jordan by first accepting him as a flawed character and then taking him gently out of his comfort zone of cliches to play him with a rare blend of humour and passion. Once again Rockstar proves beyond doubt that Ranbir understands the craft of acting better than any actor of his generation.
Competition? Ha, what’s that! Ranbir takes Jordan through the perils and pitfalls of success with clichÃ©d characters like the small-town benevolent manager (Kumud Mishra), the slimy music magnate (Piyush Mishra) and the sneaky television journalist (Aditi Rao Hyder) popping out of the woodwork (certifiable gleaming classy teak, of course) with a kind of peripheral assuredness that comes when you know the centre is sturdy and hundred percent reliable.
Ranbir finds his character’s centre, pulling it out of Jordan’s soul like a baby being brought into the world kicking screaming and protesting. It’s a performance that screams for attention and yet doesn’t really follow any formula of flamboyance to get attention.
Beyond the central performance Rockstar gives us desperately profound insight into the pitfalls of success and stardom. Jordan gets it all, shuns it and makes that final desperate lunge for love. He is Guru Dutt on cocaine. Devdas in a rock stadium.
Jordan’s love story with the beautiful free-spirited quixotic and quite gorgeous Heer (Nargis Fakhri) is the stuff legendary romances are made of. Lamentably Nargis misses the bus by a several miles, leaving her character with that anxious far-away look of a half-etched creation. Nargis is unable to merge into Heer’s liberated soul. Where Heer is destined to smoulder Nargis simply simpers. She tries, though. Hers is a good effort. But when you have the furiously fluent Ranbir as a co-star effort is not enough.
Nargis’ over-dubbed dialogues by the female voice which believes in driving in the point with several extra punctuation marks, doesn’t really help Nargis Fakhri get to the centre of her character. At the most, she stands at the edge looking in wondrously at Heer’s astounding graph from Delhi University’s “hottest” to a smothered wife and a dying lover-girl.
Rockstar is a multi-layered luminous look at a life that Jim Morrison, Guru Dutt and M F Hussain would have recognized. The passionate but pained pilgrimage of a musician from a small-town joke to global phenomenon is charted with delicacy and meticulous care. Time becomes an irrelevant and disembodied concept while defining Jordan’s troubled role as social misfit and an uncouth lover.
Anil Mehta’s camera moves through Delhi, Prague and Kashmir in search of a voice to the visual. We can almost hear the soul of these landscapes stretching their compelling drama into the souls of the characters.
Editor Arti Bajaj has cut the footage like a precious diamond. The sparkle never dazzles for display, though. No way! The feelings underlining the outstanding mise en scene are scattered across the valleys and streams of the film’s emotional landscape, lending to the work a rare and indeterminate beauty.
That most of the most outstanding sequences in Rockstar feature Ranbir is no coincidence. He is to this film what Rajesh Khanna was to Hrishikesh Mukherjee was to Anand .And what Jim Morrison was and is to Rock music.
You carry away images of self-annihilating stardom, of a love so deep long and strong that it makes Devdas’s passion for Paro seem like a cruised chapter.You carry away A R Rahman’s resonant rock-stadia sounds and Mohit Chauhan’s evocative pain-lashed vocals for Jordan.
Most of all you carry away that exhilarating feeling of having witnessed cinema that takes itself and its leading man to a new level of expressiveness. Rockstar is a spellbinding courageous coming-of-rage saga woven into a tantalizing tapestry of memory and angst and driven forward with demoniacal fury by Ranbir Kapoor’s centrally-heated performance. This is probably Imtiaz Ali’s best work so far.