After making his directorial debut with the underappreciated ‘Aryan: The Unbreakable’, Abhishek Kapoor rose to prominence with his second feature ‘Rock On!!’ which went on to garner a tremendous amount of appreciation from critics and audiences alike. While Kapoor is not associated with the second instalment of the series (he did receive credit as co-writer after a legal battle that ensued between him and the producers), one has several reasons to look forward to the second instalment of the musical. The film brings back the original cast of ‘Rock On!!’ along with some new additions (Shraddha Kapoor, Shashank Arora et al) who are expected to add a new chapter to the journey of Magik, the band.
Eight years after the band reunited, Aditya (Farhan Akhtar) is living a semi-reclusive life in a small village in Meghalaya. Aditya, who is haunted by an incident that happened five years back, works for the welfare of the villagers by running a farmers’ cooperative centre and a school for their children. Joe (Arjun Rampal) is the co-owner of a nightclub and judges a music reality show on television. KD (Purab Kohli) has managed to continue his association with music by composing jingles for ad films. Jiah (Shraddha Kapoor) is deeply passionate about music but does not think about pursuing it as a profession as her father (Kumud Mishra) would not approve of it. Things change for when Uday (Shashank Arora), a budding sarod player visits her father to make him listen to his music. Jiah and Uday put together a track which gets all of these musicians together.
‘Rock On!!’ in all honesty, had an over simplistic and awfully predictable plot that was elevated several notches higher by Abhishek Kapoor’s dexterous direction. His command over the narrative as a director made the film much more interesting than the script would have allowed it to be. While Rock On!!’s biggest strength was the fact that it characters that one could relate to in a real-life setting, the sequel implores you to put down your thinking caps and overlook some major loopholes in the screenplay. Call me insensitive if you may, but Aditya’s motivation for leaving everything behind and moving to a village to do social work does not seem to be convincing. There is no doubt that it was a tragic incident but one is not sure whether it was something that would compel a man to take such a drastic step. It is understandable for a struggling musician to approach a record label that gives an opportunity to new musicians to showcase their talent but why was Rahul hell bent on making Aditya listen to his songs? Weren’t there any other music companies whose doors he could have knocked at?
Jiah’s father, a musician who believes in the sanctity of Indian classical music and has a contempt for western music, appears to be a very stern man. Yet, his daughter travels to different places across the North-East to record local artises, ventures to Mumbai to record a track and he remains oblivious to all of this. The hurdles that the band faces and the way it overcomes them in the climax remind of you Bollywood potboilers of the 90s. Though realism, which was the core strength of Rock On!!, has been heavily compromised with, director Shujaat Saudagar puts together a film, which despite its shortcomings, is consistently engaging. If you can look past the several liberties writers Pubali Chaudhari and Abhishek Kapoor have taken, you can sit through the film for 143 minutes. The screenplay springs up a surprise sporadically which keeps you guessing what happens next. Like its predecessor, this one too ends on a high musical note with the song “Woh Jahaan” giving you goosebumps.
While almost every member of the cast pulls off a convincing performance, it is Shraddha Kapoor whose performance gives her an edge over the old war horses. She is endearing as Jiah and her act is one of the highlights of the film. Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal and Purab Kohli do well but their characters are not as well defined as they were in the first part. Shashank Arora suffers from a half-baked character but he shines in a few scenes in the first half. Prachi Desai registers an impact despite being given only a handful of scenes to perform to.
Shujaat Saudagar does a fine job as a first time director but he ought to have worked on the several ambiguities in the script. The first part did not have a novel plot to boast of but you could relate to the characters and the situations they found themselves in. This time around, the writers (Pubali Chaudhari and Abhishek Kapoor) have taken a lot of creative liberties which do not reflect too well on the film. The songs (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) have, unfortunately not clicked, despite being of very high quality. The intimate camera movements (Marc Conincx) work fabulously for the film.
As the sequel of a modern-cult film, ‘Rock On 2’ does not quite match up. However, as a standalone film it has good entertainment value to offer to the audience. The film does not strike the high notes that Rock On!! did but is far from being a film that can be given a miss.