I enjoyed Abhishek Kapoor’s Rock On, its ‘Let’s do this, guys’ zeal enriched by an untried combination of actors.
I also enjoyed Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s energetic sound and a wholehearted commitment to battling monotony after four estranged friends grab the chance to pursue abandoned dreams and revive their band and relationships.
It had something sympathetic to say about our obligation to adult life and its pressures through Aditya’s (Farhan Akhtar) denial burdening his worryingly polite marriage, Joe’s (Arjun Rampal) resigned angst around an acrimonious spouse even as KD (Purab Kohli) pitched in the laughs and Rob (Luke Kenny) lent the imagery all its authenticity.
But did I care enough to wonder beyond the postscript in the closing credits? Now that would be indulging. Rock On 2, this time directed by Shujat Saudagar, is just that, a staggeringly dull one.
What’s worse it doesn’t even feel like it’s about the same guys any more in a script marked by contrivances not progression.
Circa who cares, rock band Magik has disbanded yet again — Rob’s resting in peace but shows up for a flashback, Aditya’s left town to set up cooperative farming in a tiny hamlet of Meghalaya, fame and fortune has transformed Joe into a hardboiled Simon Cowell while KD’s still doing his bit as class clown.
There’s also a sarod-playing Uday (Shashank Arora), completely sidelined and reduced to a frame filler to focus on Shraddha Kapoor’s exasperating Jiah, the proverbial bundle of talent running away from her true calling till Rock On 2 collapses into a tedious game of catch me if you can.
It’s distressing to note how much time the film devotes in humouring a boneheaded brat suffering from severe daddy issues. Still not as painful as watching Kumud Mishra’s astonishing talent wasted as a growling purist and preserver of classical sangeet.
Instead of energising the scene, these freshly introduced characters only prolong the drabness of a film that does more for Meghalaya tourism than it does for rock music.
The shoddy manner in which the Jaago track interjects the scenes reveals how music is an afterthought in a script whose mood frantically shifts between art, commerce, philanthropy, politics and personal life. Not surprised it weigh down Rock On 2‘s potential to satisfy on a single front.
Sure, it’s a good-looking film featuring several long shots of people blessed with ridiculously gorgeous balcony views but its deadpan emotionality renders it bland. Soulless.
Every conversation bears a stilted texture, one that can be decoded as word — pause — hesitation — word — pause — hesitation.
Emotions are treated like window-shopping in Rock On 2. Even the messiest situation — a couple on the verge of divorce, a sister learning about her sibling’s source of depression and a village devastated by hunger and dearth — fails to evoke any sentiment because of Saudagar’s distant, unduly tidy portrayal of despair. The actors play along on cue, but never rise above serviceable competence.
Rock On 2‘s need to be profound by addressing North East alienation in the narrative would be laudable if it wasn’t so ill conceived, cursory and pandering to the stereotypes of victim and victimizer.
In its bid to cash on the claim of Shillong as India’s rock capital, what comes through is a brand of righteousness that’s more Bollywood than Magik.
I’d take that in my stride if the ensuing concert had the same electrifying effect as the first, if it could create even one stand out moment independent of nostalgia.
Sadly, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s soundtrack, Khasi touches notwithstanding, just doesn’t pull.