Sunday, July 30, 2023

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani

 Karan Johar uses Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani (RaRKPK, do we still do this thing?) to send a few OS updates equivalent of the messages he propagated through KKHH, K3G et al. Loving your family is still key, but there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Love above all else, but don’t forget yourself as an individual, your identity & your core values. Mutual respect in love is cool (SRK locket reference). We like it or not his movies played a role in establishing some of adulting crutches for the Indian millennials. And now as that generation is firmly in charge of the country and culture, he polishes a few rough, rusty edges. 

It’s not just OK to be different, it’s important that we accept and value differences among each other. It’s OK to not be born with or even grow up knowing all that’s right and wrong, in fact it’s OK to have mental models based on our conditioning, upbringing, and environment that may not feel quite all right as we learn new facts and think for ourselves. It’s OK to be wrong, as long as we are open to being wrong and making amends. As SRK says in Pardes, agar yeh woke hai, toh hai, toh hai, toh hai.

It’s a message movie without ever forgetting it’s an entertainer first. And if there ever was a Bollywood character written for a person, not just their body of work, it is Rocky and Ranveer. Karan Johar just let him be and Ranveer delivered a performance of a lifetime. That’s saying a lot for someone who has ‘83, Bajirao Mastani, Gully Boy, Ramleela among others on his CV already, before he’s 40. We have all seen Rocky and we have all judged him from the other side of the street, from a distance, from Facebook photo albums. And yes, Rocky is not very different from the Rocky we have judged, but Rocky is a human who may just be able to be a bit more than we give him credit for. Ranveer is so clearly having a ball with the role that he takes us along for the ride in every scene from the first meeting with Alia in her office, the impish but not malicious interactions with Somen, bra shopping with Mrs. Chatterjee, or of course the Dola re Dola performance that will be remembered as a key moment in modern Bollywood story telling and risk taken by an A-list hero. Ranveer getting the accents and mannerisms right don’t surprise anyone anymore as we take him for granted, but here he gets Ranveer and Rocky right.

Alia’s Rani couldn’t be more perfect, and unfortunately that’s a drawback that’s impossible for Alia to overcome. She’s incredibly smart, successful, beautiful, pragmatic, fair, thoughtful, and all round unattainable. She delivered what was asked of her to a T, and she did a thorough job.

That Dharmendra -- Shabana Azmi scene had blockbuster written all over it, but like in many parts of the movie things were one step away from becoming melodramatic, and the actors and the makers, helped immensely by Bollywood nostalgia and music kept it at dramatic and endearing.

The rest of the cast - Jaya Bachchan having a party playing the Big B of Mohabbatein, K3G and other angry patriarchy man; Aamir Bashir as the manipulated Tijori with the alpha male complex; Tota Roy Chowdhury as the clear headed liberal kathak dancer dad, and Churni Ganguly as the caricature of the Bengali English teacher - provided the support necessary to keep this big, lavish, familiar-yet-fresh story from getting repetitive.

The music was the one surprising let down for a Karan Johar mega starrer. It’s been less than a few hours since I have come back from the theater and can only recollect the music from the older Bollywood movies that were used beautifully throughout. This is a proper planet now in Karan’s universe (where the laws are very different from ours) and we’re here for it.