December 12, 2009

Rocket Singh: Attempt of the Year

As I came out of the theatre, a lady was telling to her husband, in one of the most innocent tones possible in Mumbaiyya Hindi, which roughly meant: "I did not get what they were talking throughout the film". It did not surprise me at all. During the interval, my brother had called me. He was in the interval too, coincidentally. We talked for 10-15 seconds. And in that short period, we mutually agreed: it is a difficult film.

What do you expect from the director of 'Ab Tak Chhappan' and the writer of 'Company' and 'Khosla Ka Ghosla'? What do you expect from the next project by this duo, after the hugely successful 'Chak De India'? The problem is, whatever you expect gets hugely affected by the promotion of the current film, and the filmography of these talented people remains nothing more than factual details in the minds of people who care.

This problem, promotion, or selling itself, is the biggest error committed by a film that, ironically, comes with a tagline: "Salesman of the Year." And this could be fatal for the film. It has been promoted as the story of a protagonist who appears to be funny enough to entertain. Sadly, the film is not a comedy. So, if you want a laugh-riot that can make your weekend, it is not the correct film for you. It is a difficult film. And not all difficult films are masterpieces! Rocket Singh is far from that. It is not even the story of this young Sardar. The protagonist of the movie is 'Rocket Singh' which does not exist in person, but as an idea. That idea is the theme, the story and the protagonist of the film. That idea is the message.

But this film manages to achieve something that is rare in this industry madly following a 'formula' that does not exist. This film takes some daring steps. It tries to bridge the gap between the actual chages Indian society has been going through and the stagnancy that has plagued the commercial cinema of this country. The traditional villain has been replaced by the corporate set-up. The point of confrontation is not modesty of a woman or the love-interest of the hero. Here the humiliation is not physical. It is verbal and mental. And it hurts you as much as it has always done. And you want revenge. But even the revenge is not relying on adrenaline, but on planning and making smart moves, and taking calculated riskes. There is no comedian. The life itself is a big, dark comedy. And the hero is not a tough guy protecting the poor, but a middle-class man who is running as a salesman in spite of having a place to live, food to eat, and friends to party with. But this is what the life of today has become. And this film tries to explore that reality. The reality that does not have strong, emotional points of conflict, but which is a continuous, never-ending struggle.

In its attempt, it has become a difficult film. During the interval I was thinking: is this subject powerful enough to be made into a feature film? The second half picks up and there are some genuinely funny moments. And a convincing Ranbir Kapoor tries his best to keep you emotionally connected, as does most of the support cast. But in the end, Rocket Singh remains an honest and gutsy 'salesman' that did many things right, but failed while trying to sell itself. If you can ignore this mistake and appreciate the attempt, you might like it. An actor who makes her debut with this film has said that it does not belong to any genre, and this is what will work for the film. I almost agree with the first part of the statement. But will it work? If it is successful, I would be pleasantly surprised, but it is unlikely. As for me, well, I liked it, almost.


  1. Before reading this blog I read 4 or 5 reviews of this film. And yours is by far the best. All these buggers say the same thing in all their reviews. You come from the backstage so you understand the films at the idea level. Very good. I am greatly impressed!
    And which d├ębut are you talking about? There is one IITD guy (Amol) making his debut.. I was wondering if he is the same guy.

  2. no, this is a female. just read carefully.
    I have used a 'her'. It is Shazahn Padamee.

    And thanks a lot for the encouragement. I really want to try something called film criticism. I think there is hardly any 'critic' in popular Indian media who actually knows how to criticise cinema. Just read Roger Ebert's reviews. You'll see the difference.

    Thanks again.

  3. had heard about it positively earlier from you. the fact that i didnt fare well was occupying a dull negative space in my mind (although this fact shouldnt have affected it). hadnt read this post either (i try to avoid reading about a movie i want to see)

    was waiting for a 'good print'. got it in HD in college last month. watching in HD/DVD is always an added incentive for me to watch a movie that otherwise i might have given a miss.

    k. like rab ne.., udaan, the social network, i didnt know what to make of it immediately.. i mean the instant reactions one has after watching films about liking it or not, i dont have after watching some.. like the films mentioned earlier, it grew on me at its own pace taking its own time..

    yes, it did took time to sink in. actually that ramayan scene grew on me way too profoundly. so yes, i can say i liked it.. :)