ROCK ON 2
Direction: Shujaat Saudagar
Actors: Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Shraddha Kapoor, Prachi Desai
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Eight years ago, I fell in love with a band called Magik. Their lyrics were simplistic — you probably remember ‘Aasman hai neela kyun, pani geela geela kyun?’ But their music was infectious and enduring, especially the anthem ‘Rock on’.
These boys — Adi (Farhan Akhtar), Joe (Arjun Rampal), Kedar (Purab Kohli, also known as KD for ‘Killer Drummer’) and Rob (Luke Kenny) — weren’t heroes. They were confused and vulnerable, ambitious and hopeful. KD cracked bad jokes. Joe had anger management issues. Adi was a bundle of angst. But when they reunited for that one last gig before Rob’s death, it really was magic. And then they grew up.
In Rock On 2, directed by debutante Shujaat Saudagar, the band has scattered. KD still makes music. But Joe, who used to give guitar lessons to neighborhood kids to make money, is now a successful reality show host and club owner. And Adi has moved to a village in Meghalaya, where he runs a farmers’ cooperative and a school. That for me was the first alarm bell.
This move — from Mumbai rocker to Meghalaya social worker — is so random and far-fetched that the film is instantly weakened. It becomes difficult to take any of what follows seriously. In fact, the story by Abhishek Kapoor and Pubali Chaudhuri is so convoluted that we have KD’s running voiceover to explain what’s going on and why characters are doing what they’re doing.
He even explains emotions. Shujaat is clearly not a big believer in the classic writing rule: Show, don’t tell.
The Meghalayan landscapes are stunning and the performances are strong. The standout is Shraddha Kapoor, who plays Jia, the daughter of a famous classical musician. In a moving scene, Jia rails against her censorious father, her face a defiant mix of anger and pain.
Listen to Tere Mere Dil, by Farhan Akhtar & Shraddha Kapoor
Arjun Rampal also reminds us that when he chooses to, he can deliver. His good looks have frayed and he invests Joe with a bruised, bristling dignity. Purab Kohli and Prachi Desai ooze warmth. And I really enjoyed the character of Manjot, a reality show contestant who saves the day.
Of course, the centrepiece of Rock On 2 is Adi, which is inherently problematic. Farhan Akhtar is both sincere and effortlessly cool, but the narrative insists on positioning Adi as heroic. It’s not enough that he’s a rockstar. He must also be a saviour. When a fire ravages the village, he leaps in to save a trapped mother and child. He brings food to hungry children. We are treated to shots of his ripped body. Eventually, he puts together a Woodstock-like concert and helps Jia to discover her voice — both literally and metaphorically. Come on!
Like the first film, Rock On 2 moves to a rousing musical climax. The lead up to it isn’t very convincing, but it will give you goosebumps to see the fabulous Usha Uthup on a stage singing the hybrid Khasi-Hindi song ‘Hoi kiw / Chalo chalo’. Shankar-Ehsan-Loy’s music in this film doesn’t match the brilliance of the original score, but the adrenaline is palpable. They create several high notes.
Listen to Jaago, from Rock On 2
So there are elements that you will enjoy, but the film is felled by the undercooked writing. The dialogue by Farhan Akthar doesn’t help to disguise the flaws. At one point, Jia turns to Adi and asks about the starving villagers — “Listen, gaonwale theek hain?” — as though she’s casually inquiring about an ill relative. The Meghalaya angle is, of course, entirely superficial. The local characters are paper-thin and we get little sense of their world.
There’s just not enough to invest in.
Watch the trailer for Rock On 2