In “Rockstar”, there is a clear reference to birds (a bird or a group of birds). Not just in the self-explanatory songs or dialogues and props (the "Wings of fire" concert or the big, black eagle-winged Gibson guitar) but in spirit too. And this is a film that is more about spirit than standard cinematic norms. It is the divisive kind that can polarize opinions and I am a little scared about our audience-intellect and hence worried, that a film like this might not be received the way it should be. But if you are a cinema-romantic who is more moved by intense passion-plays than designed-boxes of entertainment then this is a film for you.
“Rockstar” is a slightly difficult film to critique, because it kind of disobeys the structural parameters, but heck, does it really matter all the time? This heavily layered film is like an untamable beautiful beast with a big heart whose dreamy, haphazard madness keeps you coming back to it from various existential points.
The film revolves around a germ of an idea- an aspiring musician seeks tragedy in life in quest of artistic empowerment, when he learns that only a broken heart can provide him with the outlet that he is looking for. Janardhan Jakhar- a Jatt from Delhi’s Pitampura doesn’t quite wear those uber-cool black Rock-band tees. He idolizes Jim Morrison though. He wears hand knit brown sweaters and tight jeans that aren’t particularly fashionable. As the Delhi winter falls, he also occasionally wears that shabby mustard-colored jumper with “Rockstar” emblazoned on it, and goes to Hindu College.
And it doesn’t become a rags-to-rich or an underdog story from here. There is no competition to win, no proving himself, nothing. His transition to a bonafide Rockstar is almost magic realism (the spiritual transformation at the Nizamuddin dargah and the eventual “miracle”), except that we know that this lad has got musical talent.
The transition and the journey that he set out for, to seek music, suddenly becomes sidetracked, because Janardhan (who by that time has become Jordan), almost unknowingly, has started a journey of his own- a journey that of love. His music starts becoming secondary, and all that jazz is just incidental! Our wannabe Rockstar has been kissed by love and nothing else, now, matter to him. His journey becomes his destination, and we suddenly find that all this while, we were being fooled, because this is some crazy, epic, love story that is going on and not any heart shattered musician’s journey of catharsis. And the greatest trick that the devil here pulls is convincing the world that this “Rockstar” existed. It is as if a silent duel between music and love were being played, and that, music had to bow down. When finally in love, it makes a ridiculous mockery out of his “Rockstar dreams”-the guitar burns in front of his eyes as he lies in the bathtub and he throws up on the concert-red carpet. But the movie is as much about soul, as it is about love. And our Jordan is blessed with an untamed sufi soul that can’t be caged, “Yeh bada Jaanwar hain Dhingra sahab, yeh aapke chhote pinjre mein qaid nahin rahega”, Shammi Kapoor, with godlike wisdom and compassion tells the record label owner.
Rockstar is actually layered with so many shades, that he is too much to be real. In fact he is not real at all! His world is shown to have people who are more caricatures than human beings. That Dhingra Sahab of Platinum Records has all the attributes that we attach a stereotyped Hindi pop-music mogul with. And for that matter, even a musician’s most prized possession-his fans (here they constitute that near-perfect “Rockstar-fan-frenzy”), the media- as if all are card board cut outs. They have no depth, no empathy, nothing. And Ali silently plays with them the way a master puppeteer does with string-marionette. They help build the world around Jordan. He feels disconnected to all this. There are few genuine things in his life and few people who are able to touch him. Heer (Nargis Fakhri), their meeting place beneath the snow-white bed sheet in the hotel room at McLeod Ganj, and maybe Khatana bhai and his sister. And the bird (or the soul) that takes flight in Phir Se Udd chala perhaps talks about the same too.
“Shehar ek se Gaaon ek se, Log ek se Naam ek.”- The bird has taken flight in search of a never land of spiritual peace and as he looks back at the world that he leaves behind he finds it meaningless. They all look and sound the same.
This brings us to the performances, which means now we talk about Ranbir Kapoor. Much has been said about it already. He oozes such infectious presence on screen that you don’t feel to nitpick anyway and here with a damn good acting performance he makes Jordan alive on screen. Nargis Fakhri is less pathetic than I thought she would be, and she has a presence. However all hell breaks loose once she opens her mouth and she, probably is one of the weak links of this film. And Shammi Kapoor (as Ustaad Jamil Khan) warms up the screen, for one last time, with his gentle aura and dignity; almost as if an invisible halo blesses his godly presence.
Perhaps one of the biggest achievements of “Rockstar” is that it consciously creates a kind of anti-thesis of the clichés that we would normally associate it with, and it’s steeped deeply in Sufi-jatt sensibilities that lend the film its unique flavour. He doesn’t take drugs, doesn’t smoke. Not an alcoholic and he refuse sex even when it is offered. His only cure is love- the ironic twist to a Rockstar identity. Several Sufi philosophies bind the force of the film. The mythological references to Heer-Ranjha and the surreal finale make “Rockstar” this crazy, unreal beauty. Those who question the practicality of the final concert scene, which takes place in a European arena amidst earth shattering fanfare, are clearly missing the point here. It’s to show as if, finally, on the night of his most spectacular feat in the cosmos of music, arrives the terrible tragedy. The circle is completed-the circle of the dichotomy of life. And the hapless soul takes refuge in that never-land in the mystic poetry of Rumi, beyond the realms of all wrong doings and right doings.
As I said, all this doesn't happen in real world. Somewhere it represents a part of all of us, who like Jordan, don’t fit into the civilization. We always somehow manage to adjust and constantly try to fit in. We are trained to be civilized in a certain way, and thus trapped in ourselves. The miracle that happens at the dargah that night in the surrounding of fakirs is after his plea to the almighty- kar de mujhe mujh se hi riha-that’s the juncture of magic realism. From there, the film becomes a fantasy, a protest. And a middle finger to that civilization. He is a symbol of Rumi, Kabir, Khusrao, Hazrat Nizamuddin- a free spirited Nadaan Parindey who once had to leave home because civilization was being built and who never quite returned after that. He is that voice. That spirit. It is a frame of mind that never gets an outlet in real life. Only once in a while, they find catharsis in a film like "Rockstar".