There is an umbilical cord between the audience and screen. Essentially, the entire movie experience is based on it. If the director can make sure the cord doesn’t snap, he has won us over. If one deconstructs the movie watching experience, it crudely boils down to buying and selling. The director is like that obnoxious salesman at the frontdoor standing for around two and a half hour trying to sell us his vision of love, lust, life, death, or anything else he holds dear to him.
Imtiaz Ali is an interesting director because he is one of the few people in Bollywood who has a voice. Almost an entire industry has no idea of a voice, because the majority is obsessed with doling out soporific, mass pleasing candies, or a select few who make interesting movies, but their voices are still unbaked because they are fixated on playing the catching up game with world cinema, Ali’s voice is arrogantly confident in its ignorance, bereft of ornateness. He has often been accused of making similar kind of movies, the journey movies, if you will, but I don’t have a grouse with them. Because Ali’s movies are not so much in the macro as they are in the micro. It is the warmth he suffuses his frame with makes his movies a delight. Even Love Aj Kal which suffered from a horrendous first twenty minutes, and reeked for a brief period, of a director screaming “I want to make it to the big league”, compensated its flaws with sweet nothings of a very pleasant journey.
Rockstar’s trailers promised a different Ali. It promised the angst of an artist, unrequited love, dissatisfaction, and all those things which were very unAli. And the verdict is out. More than the protagonist, Rockstar could be labelled as a director’s attempt to come out of age. A desperate clutch to finally grow up. Does he?
Rockstar’s first half is Ali’s zone, and it shows, because what a brilliant first half it is. Ali’s voice is stamped in each and every frame. Again, nothing here is envelope pushing in terms of structure, craft or even theme wise, but it is bathed in Ali’s voice. The lighter moments in Ali’s movies can never go astray because it seems as if he has himself traversed thosegully’s of Delhi. He knows the joke is not in the joke itself, but what transpired before and after. Although an overt sincere Ranbir in the first fifteen minutes was a trifle jarring for me, but Ali soon made sure the character was not uni-dimensional. And I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed so much in a movie’s first half. It is these things Ali does so well that you want him to keep doing the same things, just out of sheer selfishness, because they not only come across as genuine and heartfelt, but in today’s times of critical acceptance, and box office figures, the honesty in his voice is refreshing.
But it did not take long for the umbilical cord to snap after the interval. It seems as if the movie has been made by two Imtiazs. One who has been there, and the other who wants to be there. One who is confidently arrogant in his innocence, and the other who is too eager to impress. There are certain movies which hing on a truth, and it is important the director puts his soul in developing the truth, because if I, as an audience, can’t buy the truth, I would shut the door on salesman. The transition in Ranbir Kapoor’s chaarcter is so sloppily and hurriedly done that it is not believable. There could have been so much pain and longing in thsoe frames without bordering on mawkish, but Ali is too insouciant to notice. He has to hurriedly move on to the other ‘important’ things in the movie. The new Imtiaz has taken over and he is unrelenting. Ali is so obsessed with his new side that he arrogantly brushes aside all threads that could have made it a coherent narrative. And this arrogance is not good. I am not buying it. In one of the scenes, Jordan says he hasn’t been in touch with Heer for two years. The way frames had been slapped prior to the scene, it seemed as if couple of weeks had passed. Ali’s obsession to maintain a pace robs the scene of its significance. The umbilical cord has been snapped and I am already looking for a different mother.
The movie goes off tangent soon after the second half, and I squirm in my seat as I see a new unsure Ali unfolding in front of me. The one who is pointing finger at his protagonist and screaming at me to understand how wronged he is. Sadda Haq, a mighty fine song in isolation, but it sadly doesn’t spring from narrative’s demand. Sometimes this juvenile idealism in directors irks me. The same problem Main Khuda from Paanch grappled with. Again, a mighty fine song, but it’s soul was borne out of somewhere else, not from the movie.
Ali is confused what he wants to concentrate on, the unrequited love or the ironic isolation of a celebrity. The two things don’t compliment here, but stand out sore like two separate strands. Kapoor’s performance is top notch and it is not difficult to see how he could be a potential powerhouse, that is, if he doesn’t sell his soul to the whims of his audience.
Nothing can be more sad when you as an audience are indifferent to a genuine voice, whose only flaw is trying too hard. To Ali’s credit, he wraps the movie well, and makes sure the songs shoulder the narrative effectively throughout the movie. He salvages some much needed pride here. But at the end it is a what could have been movie.
What is a bigger crime? To not create an opportunity? Or to create an opportunity only to mercilessly shred it?