Sequel of feature films has a long tradition of not meeting expectation. So, before watching Rock On 2, I promised to myself I would watch it as an independent film and not compare it with the first one. But in the very first scene, a recap brings back the narrative of the first film.
What was special about Rock On? Was it a great film? No. Was it a great musical? No. Did it have great cinematic moments, treatment, script? No.
So, why was it successful? It had regular camera work, very average acting, relatively better script and a story, which was just a run of the mill in terms of international cinema but fairly new in Bollywood. Now why was it new in Bollywood? Because until early 2000s, Bollywood had 7-12 basic plotlines told in nearly 1000 films per year, which around 2010 increased from 12 to perhaps 20. One can easily imagine how even a trash story of Rock On (nearly a 1000 films made allover World in this theme) stood out in Bollywood and had great response from people, especially the younger generation.
Question 2: Is “Rock On” a film on rock music, or the word “Rock On” is used just as an expression! An eternal question to me that God knows who can answer! In the middle of all these questions I discovered, people were just happy to have a story of young men chasing their dreams, and for a change not chasing girls. People were happy that it was a story where there was no single villain, single hero, no single protagonist or antagonist. The story itself was about throwing a challenge and being reward; a dependable recipe for a successful film. And it clicked in box office.
But “Rock On 2” didn’t. Farhan Akhtar and gang could be thankful to Indian PM and his minions, since failure of “Rock On 2” can’t be measured independently as it was released in the middle of economic chaos, and like they say, “Errors have been made, someone will be blamed”.
The four friends who reunited and reformed the rock band “Magic”, made it big and now all in deferent jobs. Adi (Farhan) runs charity project in Meghalaya, Joe (Arjun Rampal) is running a successful club and is also a judge in a reality music show, KD (Purab Kohli) is running music label/agency. It was all good until a villain enters in the scene, a typical politician who doesn’t like protagonist helping poor people, in one stroke the story goes back 50 years, 2nd stroke comes when the poor people’s village gets destroyed in a mysterious fire and Adi thinks about ending his life, the heroin enters, and with the heroin enters her stubborn father who is portrayed nearly as a villain against new age fusion music. With these two villains, the story finally finds a reason to proceed. One journey to reclaim the life and right of villagers, another to claim the life and right of oppressed aspiring new age musicians. In the middle of all these, no one knows where rock music is! Old wine in old bottle fails to keep the attention even as a stereotype Bollywood movie. After this, everything starts looking like a business strategy, playing with North East sentiment, local Khasi folk tune, Usha Uthup, everything looks more like a business formula than a film. And they all fail, and the disconnect can be seen in every 2nd shot, the entire bunch of junior artists from North East looking absolutely out of sync with the main cast and both their actions and reactions make them look anything but believable. On top of all, if this is Rock music, then it’s the biggest insult and slap on North East’s “rock n roll” tradition. Once again, this film is a great showcase of how mainstream Pop industry uses the expression of alternative culture and misuse, distort, synthesize and package and sale for their own profit. With due respect to music directorial team (Shankar-Ehshan-Loy, they are my personal favorite), if anyone could produce any style of music then we wouldn’t need Jimmy Hendrix to define “rock n roll” or Philip Glass to refer Neo Classical or Ustad Bade Gulam Ali for Hindustani Patiala Gharana. Himesh Reshammiya could have composed them all! The only development seen in last 50 years of Bollywood musical is, Randhir Kapoor, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna who used to hold a guitar like a Bamboo stick, while in Rock On, Farhaan & Arjun tried holding it like a guitar.
Bollywood has a huge cultural influence on mainstream Indian mass. Hit or flop, this kind of film is a great threat for “rock n roll” music in India, it will drag the community backward and will make it even harder for already existing, struggling bunch of authentic rock musicians.
Kanishka Sarkar (Pinky)
a musician, founder member of Cactus (a Bengali Rock music band) and one of the leading men of Bangla Band (Rock) music take-off