Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani
Director: Karan Johar
Writer: Shashank Khaitan, Sumit Roy, Ishita Moitra
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Jaya Bachchan, Dharmendra, Shabana Azmi, Namit Das, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Churni Ganguly.
Released in theatres.
While watching Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, I realized that there are no two ways about what is essential to make an enjoyable Hindi family entertainer – it’s dialogue and music. These are the only two things that we cinegoers at large remember about our beloved movies. You might not recollect the exact plot or the locations at which it was shot and certainly not its Box Office collection. What you continue to trip on is dialogue and songs. Karan Johar gets these two elements absolutely spot on in his 7th feature as a director.
The film is helmed by Johar but is written by Shashank Khaitan, Sumit Roy and Ishita Moitra. What Johar and writers succeed in doing is that they invite you to a familiar Karan Johar world and then drive the whole narrative with modern, rebellious schooling by the younger generation of the old-school traditions and the older generation. They’re also mindful about not going north with the schooling for it must have been a complete put off for a large part of the movie’s target audience. If you want to criticize someone, make them laugh first.
It’s all laugh and fun in the first half, courtesy of the sizzling chemistry between Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh. Rocky is a scion of a business empire Dhanalaxmi Sweets headed by the matriarch of the Randhawa family Dhanalaxmi (Jaya Bachchan). This matriarch is not different from the patriarch played by Amitabh Bachchan in Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum. There’s also the touch of “Keh diya na, Bas!” from K3G. It’s high time we realize that it’s not about gender. It’s about who has power in an equation. The powerful tend to exploit the powerless. It’s as simple as that.
Rani Chatterjee comes from a cultivated Bengali family. She was born to an English professor mother and a Kathak teacher father. Incidentally, Rani’s grandmother (Shabana Azmi, always a pleasure) had a brief love affair with Rocky’s grandfather (Dharmendra) in the late 1970s. Rocky and Rani meet because of their grandparents and soon fall in love. Rani resists that this is just a sexual fling but after a song in chiffon saree in Kashmir, realizes that it is indeed love. Barring the Tum Kya Mile song, Alia and Ranveer share an infectious chemistry.
The sequences where the old love rekindles with the young couple making out passionately are innovative. For that matter, the chemistry between Dharmendra and Shabana Azmi is quite warm. Despite quite a few new songs, the songs that send you on a trip are the old melodies, retrieved from Saregama, with Abhi Naa Jaao Chhodkar playing often.
Also read: Sara Ali Khan reminisces about the Simmba pairing with Ranveer Singh in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani
The performances make up for the errors in the screenplay. When you know that it’s a larger-than-life and over-the-top world you’re willing to ignore those errors. The dialogue too in the second half becomes like a feminist manifesto but Alia Bhatt, the talented actor that she is, doesn’t make it sound like a drill to your ears, unlike dialogue writer Ishita Moitra’s otherwise preachy works Four More Shots Please and Shakuntala Devi. The screenplay surely has a bigger influence from Shashank Khaitan. But director Johar still manages to make everything his own. This film also becomes preachy in parts, especially in the second half, but that’s okay.
Must talk about Ranveer Singh – what an actor! While Alia is all-fire, Ranveer is all-heart. You just feel for the guy. I have always found an inherent truth in his performances ever since he made his debut with YRF’s Band Baaja Baarat. It is endearing to watch him in Rocky Aur Rani… You know that he’s going to get schooled, but you also know and must know the trap he and most ‘willing to be progressive’ men in Indian society find themselves in. Johar and his writers try to find the humans in all characters. As I wrote earlier, you can’t risk demonizing someone completely in a ‘family entertainer’.
The film also comes across as Johar challenging his filmography just like Sooraj R. Barjatya did in Uunchai. In their latest films, it’s not only about younger ones respecting the elder ones. It’s also about the new generation schooling the older one whenever required. The narrative of Rocky Aur Rani… is a conveniently told story. But it makes for fun viewing. In times of crisis, we turn to our family. The Hindi film industry is returning to ‘family entertainers’ to revive itself from the creative bankruptcy.