Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani
Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the big weekend release, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani in a theatre near me. And the Hindi film fan in me was bubbling with excitement given that the quintessential style of filmmaking is a rarity these days. And who better than Karan Johar at the helm of things who does have a sensibility of producing a larger than life cinema which has been his forte over the years. And the film also marks 25 years of Karan Johar as a director. Yet, all didn’t quite seem to be hunky dory in the lead up to the release of the film.
Right from the time the first song of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was out, there was criticism related to the look of Ranveer Singh and how a crop cut and a clean shaven Ranveer would have suited the bill better. There was also criticism on the lack of chemistry between Alia and Ranveer which was represented by a still from the song wherein Ranveer just shies away from Alia whose hair was about to flick him. Such was the intrinsic level of criticism that I did feel that people have now been accustomed to, that it made me fear the worse for the film.
The buzz around the film was perhaps the lowest for a Karan Johar film that it made me believe that the film will tank at the Box Office which would further be detrimental to the stardom of Ranveer Singh who was returning on the back of three consecutive flops. The releases of Oppenheimer and Barbie did not help the film either, two films that attracted the maximum buzz for the month of July. Yet, I was willing to place my bets on the film simply for its quintessential nature, in a hope that the film will eventually sail through. So then does Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani follows the story of Rocky and Rani, belonging to different backgrounds, who fall in love while bringing their grandparents together, who were once deeply in love. The story here has all the sensibilities for the quintessential cinema that we have grown up watching. This, while also possessing a shift in the thinking of the makers in terms of balancing the stereotypes while keeping the core values intact. The story here ain’t novel from its skeletal structure that did borrow ideas from other Dharma movies like K3G and Two States. Yet, it is the shift in the thinking which is prevalent throughout the narrative. The screenplay standing at nearly 3 hours did seem daunting and far fetched for a Rom-Com but the writers were successful in creating moments which did balance the humour and melodrama perfectly while breaking the stereotypes.
There are only a handful filmmakers that give their lead characters charming introductory sequences, and it is Karan Johar who would possibly top the list. Both the characters of Rani and especially Rocky are provided with desirable introductions that did restore my faith in Bollywood. This is what you expect from the Hindi film industry who has recently been reeling under the shadows of other industry.
Elsewhere, you are given a quick flashback that highlights the character of Jaya Bachchan who is a tough nut to crack like Yashwardhan from K3G. She even goes to an extent to distance her own son from his father who is tender and soothing towards the idea of love until he meets with an accident. Cut to current times and after the desirable introductory sequences of the two protagonists, the drama does kick start the romance between the two that begins on a frivolous note but slowly deepens in impact. But along the way, several stereotypes are either broken or ironed out.
The proceedings are engaging particularly with the manner in which the writers keep the events frothy with dollops of humour that stems from the fact that the principal characters belong to diabolically opposite backgrounds. The fusion of culture is infectious and vibrant and this combination of fire and ice is what drives the narrative wonderfully well. But in its heart, the emotions do land amidst the retro world that is created through some of the most beautiful yesteryear’s songs. Even the friction between the characters that threatens to derail the love story is sprinkled with sugar that does make for a warm watch. But the true test for the film was in its second half, and that is where the film does strike a lingering chord with the viewers.
I was quite skeptical of the film falling in the familiar tropes of a family drama that is often treated with a heavy handed degree of preachiness. And while there are moments of melodrama, the film balances the moments beautifully by managing both Bengali and Punjabi cultures incredibly well. Along the way, the issues related to masculinity and patriarchy are squashed while keeping the core values of respecting elders intact. This was a fine line that was tread by the film and it managed to succeed in a very pleasant manner. On the slight downside, the film did get a little too melodramatic in the final half hour leading to simplistic solutions and transformations(not that I did mind it) but taking nothing away from the overall product and the quality of the writing which was excellent. And the good old vibes of quintessential cinema did hit home!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are extremely well written and laced with humour that will put a smile on your face. The humour often streams from the different backgrounds of the two characters, and the lines hit home. Elsewhere, a couple of monologues hit the right notes as well. The music is excellent, an amalgamation of a modern day soundtrack along with lovely renditions of the yesteryear’s songs that made me fall in love with cinema all over again. The BGM also is an extension of the soundtrack, often seen retaining the melodious notes of the songs while placing them pitch perfectly in the varied situations of the film.
The cinematography adds grandeur to the proceedings with some beautiful colour coordinated frames that is a fine representation of larger than life cinema(in a good way). The editing is crisp and I didn’t quite feel any lags in the film. The costumes are perfectly colour coordinated with the sets while retaining the traits of the individual characters. Kudos to the art department for putting up a great show! Karan Johar returning to the director’s chair after 7 years, puts up a wonderful show here. He tactfully creates moments which were met with a thunderous applause by the capacity crowd. He had to manage love stories across different age demographics while balancing the cultural backgrounds and breaking stereotypes. Clearly, a lot was on stake and he comes out with flying colours. Honestly, this is his best work since My Name Is Khan!
The performances are excellent by the ensemble cast(and do not miss the beginning for some starry cameos). It was an absolute pleasure to watch Dharmendra who still oozes of charm as Kanwar. And the idea to give him yesteryear’s songs to lip sync was indeed genius! Jayati Bhatia, Kashish Rizwan as young Dhanalakshmi and Harman Singha as young Kanwar have their moments to shine. Abhinav Sharma as Vicky has his humour on point. Namit Das as Soumen is understated and scores well with his comic timing.
Churni Ganguly as Anjali is incredibly good with her diction and she definitely does make her presence felt. Anjali Anand as Gayatri has a wonderful character arc of a person suffering from body shaming, and she delivers a knockout performance. Tota Roy Chowdhury as Chandon represents the lesser talked about grace in a man and he was wonderfully restrained in his performance. And his dance set pieces are absolutely splendid! Shabana Azmi as Jamini looked beautiful and was so affable in her character that would strike a chord with the viewers. Jaya Bachchan as Dhanalakshmi is outstanding in an intimidating character with a hint of humour. Her poise was simply immaculate to witness.
Kshitee Jog as Poonam is excellent and puts forth a commendable act with a lovely little character arc as well. The oppressed nature of her character on a late path of self discovery deserves a spin-off story of her own. Aamir Bashir is such a gifted actor and as Tijori, he is dignified in his performance. His character may not be entirely likable but his ability to add some remorse at the end just hits home!
Alia Bhatt as Rani looks pretty as ever and she totally hits it out of the park with her Bengali dialect(credit to Husne Shabnam and others for this feat). She is firm, assertive and independent while known to speak her mind. And she pulls off her character beautifully thus reminding the viewers on why she is regarded as a top actor. There is an inherent grace in her act that is so well handled and controlled by her.
The film though belongs to Ranveer Singh who is back with a bang after a poor 2022. He is in top form hitting all the straps as far as the humour of his character is concerned but also beautifully emotes through his eyes. The inherent charmer in him was on extra duty and absolutely having a ball. And yes, the Dola Re Dola rendition just brought the house down! You cannot keep a good actor down for too long, and this is another timely reminder on his excellent acting chops on Ranveer who is in full bloom here.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is a quintessential Hindi film that balances stereotypes beautifully. In other words it is, ‘Soch Nayi, Swad Wahi’. And yes, this ain’t a paid review, as my buoy Rocky would say, ‘Iss Review De Vaaste Ek Footi Kaudi Ni Di Dharma Ne Iss Sexy Munde Nu’. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended!