One of the biggest hits of 2011, Rockstar raked in more than 100 cr. at the box-office, got Ranbir Kapoor all the major awards this film crazy nation had to offer and most importantly got recognized as the actor's best performance. In spite of all its glory I can't help but think that Ranbir Kapoor feels cheated by Rockstar. Why? Some years and a few more meaningful roles later Ranbir Kapoor might realize that his best was wasted on a bad film.
Sometimes actors can't help but feel deceived by the film they give their best to. Its success notwithstanding Rockstar is a bad film that was saved by its lead. The lopsided account of Janardhan, a semi talented young lad who ends up becoming Jordan, the biggest musical sensation of India, depends so heavily on Kapoor's acting chops that the film could have done away everything else and yet met the same fate. It seems like the audiences Imtiaz Ali, too, got mesmerized watching Ranbir portray the tormented star that he forgot to worry about anything else. We never really get to know why Janardhan/ Jordan is so peeved with just about everything, why that accent comes and goes whenever it feels like, when does Jordan write these songs, why is obsessed about fighting for our haq all of a sudden, does he love/loathe his band members…you get the drift. You are so swayed by Ranbir that you, like him, get fooled into believing that there's some hidden magic in Rockstar and its senseless screenplay that meanders beyond hope.
One actor who often ended up on the wrong side of things, Manoj Bajpai gave his best to so many bad films that he could have his own Best of Bad Festival. Following on the heels of his Bhikhu Mhatre in Satya (1997), one of the best Hindi films ever, Bajpai's pesky Sameer A. Purnavale in Kaun (1999) finds him at his zany best. But the suspense thriller starts falling flat with each passing minute and with it kills one of Bajpai's better acts. Bajpai's everyman in Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar (2000) and parts of his Raghavan from Aks (2001), where he stood his own in front of Amitabh Bachchan, are two more instances where the films let him down.
Nothing can sum up a good act(or) meeting a bad film like Swades (2004). Often criticized for choosing to be a star over the potentially great actor he could have been, Shah Rukh Khan saw a rare opportunity in Swades where he could act his heart out and not feel sorry for being the superstar for that role demanded someone like him in a similar situation. This's what he set to do and by most standards achieved exactly it by the end of the film's 194 grueling minutes. Now, only if Ashutosh Gowariker hadn't tried that hard to put everything that he believed in and held close to his rather awakened heart, Swades could have been the masterpiece it deserved to be. The film was too long and by the time it trudged to its climax it lost all the honesty that separated it from everything else. What's worse Shah Rukh was robbed of his National Award by a jury that, strangely, found Saif Ali Khan's loony cartoonist Hum Tum (2004) more deserving.
No one ever notices the extras dancing behind the Salman Khans and the Ranbir Kapoors unless they are watching a documentary. Even a film on the life of someone like that features a Vidya Balan. There is too much spotlight on the leads in Hindi cinema for us to really notice anything else and much like their job description these 'heroes' end up saving innumerable bad films from being complete washouts. That is what a good actor brings to bad films. Looking closely at Rockstar you can't help but notice how desperately Ranbir Kapoor tries at certain places but this is not because he's unconvinced; he knows that somewhere a lot's being expected from the audience. Like Kapoor even Priyanka Chopra almost pleads with the audience in all her seven avatars in 7 Khoon Maaf (2011).
She dies trying to make each shade stand out while Vishal Bhardwaj simply treats the film as a date with a cookie cutter. Good actors like Balraj Sahni and Pran bring a certain sense of discipline and belief into everything they do. That's the reason you don't mind Pran don a crazy wig and play a college student in Jangal Mein Mangal (1972)! But sometimes even the good ones are too lazy enough to save a film. That's when you are truly doomed.
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
From HT Brunch, March 18
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