Film Reviews | Rockstar & The adventures of Tintin
In an opera coliseum in Prague, an audience, mostly of white men and women, watches entranced as Janardan (Ranbir Kapoor) from Pitampura, Delhi, now Jordan the rock star in harem pants and a modified Gandhi topi, sings a Punjabi Sufi rock song. As an event, there’s absolutely nothing amiss here. Everybody listens to anything. Except that in the film Rockstar, it is a moment of perfect unease.
Jordan is the highest selling artiste of an Indian record company named Platinum Records, which is manned by a Punjabi who also sells pop versions of Hindu mata ki chowki chants. He is a boy from Pitampura who made it big. He is embittered in love. And he sings beautiful Punjabi Sufi blues. How does he become the musical prodigy the world listens to? Largely by being forced to keep away from the woman he loves—Heer (Nargis Fakhri), a Kashmiri woman who is now married and lives in a castle in Prague. His music has soulful venom; it’s beautiful music. But he is certainly not a rock star who can swing a gig at Prague and have millions throng it.
Leading role: Ranbir Kapoor is the only real propeller of the film, which has a shallow storyline.
Creative licence is a wonderful thing. But in a film like Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, which just about sketches the journey of a musician, and focuses on his emotional derailment, this is a strikingly awkward and convenient point in the story.
There are many such contrivances in the film. The story is simplistic and shallow. Janardan, a college student in Delhi, is a misfit in his family of petty businessmen. He dreams of fame, the Jim Morrison kind of fame, and the only man who is his patron (who later becomes his agent) tells him he can’t transcend to great artistry because he has never experienced real pain. Hence he has no keeda.
In search of heartbreak, he goes up to Heer, the college beauty, and asks her to be his girlfriend. At first, heartbreak is hard to come by. They have a jolly good time drinking country liquor and watching Junglee Jawaani in an old Delhi theatre. Finally, Jordan finds his pain and soul—not close to the classic rock star (no addictions to any kind of substances, of course), he is a vile, whimsical and angry lover who is also a musician.
The film’s structure in the first half is non-linear. There is even a flashback within a flashback. Ali might have intended it, but the to-and-fro narrative is not seamless. Some of the transitions and jumps are jarring. Ali is an intuitive and witty cinema writer, as is evident in his first two films, Socha Na Tha and Jab We Met. Here, his writing is haphazard—a great, potent scene often follows a dodgy, formulaic one.
Kapoor is the film’s strength and its only real propeller. He makes the transition from innocence to anger and cynicism with ease. He brings a tension to an otherwise unrealized role. Long after you’ve watched Rockstar, this character will stay with you. Fakhri, a debutante cast opposite Kapoor, is a pout. Completely bereft of acting abilities and without a powerful screen presence, it is a pointless debut. The supporting cast is quite insignificant too.
The only other achievement of this film is the eclectic, breathtakingly orchestrated background score by A.R. Rahman, enhanced by Dileep Subramaniam’s accomplished sound design. Anil Mehta’s cinematography has the usual pretty flourishes.
Rockstar is worth a watch— despite the story’s inherent shallowness, and worse, the shocking randomness of its execution—because of the leading man. It’s a character soaked in self-loathing, and even in its half-hearted form, it is endearing because of the way Kapoor has worked around it. It’s just a song, but I was floored by the gorgeous picturization of Kun Faya Kun inside the majestic Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah.
The adventures of Tintin
It’s a strange thing, to watch a comic you’ve imagined coming to life many times in your head since childhood, acquire thrilling digital life. The life inside your head remains, but now there’s a barrier—a glazed, “motion-captured”, live animation barrier.
The Hollywoodized Tintin, in the good hands of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, is far away from Hergé’s. Tintin can now somersault in mid-air and leap from wall to wall—a European boy-hero and intrepid reporter turns edgy superhero.
Not for the uninitiated: The film only partly captures Hergé’s busy frames.
Spielberg, who directs it, and Peter Jackson, who co-produces it with Spielberg, are masters of the grand cinematic scale—ingenuous cons, who can trick the eye with sweeping visuals. Spielberg combines three books, The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, into one breathless spectacle. Purists are bound to cringe.
In 3D, some of the details, including Tintin’s inherent ordinariness, are lost. The humour in some of the characters, such as the bumbling detective duo Thomson and Thompson, and the other big leading man Captain Haddock, is exaggerated. Much of the comics’ appeal is in the intricacies of Hergé’s colour illustrations. There are subtextual meanings which emerge on repeated viewing. It is impossible to weave those subtexts into a film that drives entirely on technology. The writing is crisp, but without minute changes in expressions—which this format does not unfortunately allow— the subtexts of a scene or situation are lost.
The film only partly captures the busy frames of Hergé and the pace at which Tintin’s journeys usually unfold. Almost every frame of the comic books has movement, and live animation makes that pace come fully alive.
The Adventures of Tintin is a thrilling ride, not suited for those uninitiated to the comics. This is not the best introduction to one of the world’s most widely read comic books. If you know Tintin well, go satisfy your curiosity.
Rockstar and The Adventures of Tintin released in theatres on Friday.