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Movie Review: Rock On

By Azeem Banatwalla | September 28, 2008

Split Magazine: Rock OnThe following is a review of the movie Rock On (2008), produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, starring Arjun Rampal, Farhan Akhtar, Koel Purie.

Rock on? Seriously?

Rock On. “The arrival of rock in Bollywood”, apparently.

As a wise man once said, kiss my chuddies.

What is it, I would like to know, about this movie that warrants the four-star ratings that are plastered all over the place? Is it the substandard acting? Is it the predictable storyline? Is it those “punch lines” that fall completely flat? Or is it that fabulous rock music on the soundtrack, composed by those Gods of Rock, Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.

“Pop On” is what this movie should have been called, for it simply oozes Indian pop culture every way you look at it. It appeals to the self-proclaimed cool strata of society who think it sounds great to say, “That’s rocking, dooood“, and “You’re a rock star, man”.

These pathetic excuses for “rock fans” can’t distinguish metal from rock, pop from rock, heck even Himesh from rock. If you like it, and the rest of the ‘cool crowd’ like it, it suddenly becomes “rocking”, otherwise its “sad” or “lame”.

Rock On‘s ridiculous success quite simply embodies the contingent of people, or lack thereof, who understand what rock music stands for.

It’s an incredibly bizarre formula for a hit movie, don’t you think? With actresses from ‘K serials’, a director-cum-actor who delivers whole paragraphs of dialogue in a single breath, a random guy with long hair, and a few nincompoops from MTV who happen to have heard a few rock albums in the course of their lives. And seriously, who didn’t see any of those, ahem, twists (?) coming.

Rock On is simply a case of a half-decent director, yet again, taking a formula that worked beautifully with Dil Chahta Hai, and tossing it into a frying pan of popular youth culture, with a downright boring story, loosely implementing a few stereotypes and fads, and delivering a complete waste of movie tickets, pop corn, and two-and-a-half hours.

Oh, and I haven’t even gotten started on the music. Is that the world’s perception of rock? Spastic-looking drummers and keyboard players, some tall guy standing in the middle playing a few notes on his guitar, and the most God-awful lyrics you’re ever likely to find? What was Javed Akhtar thinking writing those songs? Is there such a lack of inspiration in his life? “Aasman Yeh Neela Kyun? Paani Geela Geela Kyun?” Are you effing serious?

But the masses like it, right? So, why not make a movie that sells and utterly disgraces rock music and all it stands for in the process?

What can I say?

Rock On, boys and girls, Rock On.


13 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. October 1, 2008, 9:03 am satchit

    Well, that’s what I thought when I first walked out of the theater. Cliched dialogs, and a formula that the director knew would work, and a predictable ending. But then there’s also something else about it – the music. I loved the music. The lyrics – yeah they may not be about world peace or or about finding your soul or any of the more serious stuff, but then how many rock songs are? Who would have thought a song Ian Gillian wrote about the band’s experience at a vacation spot would become a classic. Sometimes it’s the music that carries the song, not just the lyrics. And I think the lyrics for the movie were just right for the context.

    I liked the spirit of the movie and now I think I like the movie just the way it is, even with all it’s mushy stuff!

  2. October 3, 2008, 6:09 pm kriti

    hahahahaha! so cool! :D

  3. October 3, 2008, 6:11 pm kriti

    you forgot to mention the name of the band!

    Magik! With a k!

  4. October 12, 2008, 10:44 pm Hangaroo

    I for one, think the movie was well made, and the music and the lyrics quite pertinent. Considering the crap we consume in the name of Death/Black/Norwegian metal and other hyped stereotypes with the same old Sabbath riffs running through them, Rock On was quite acceptable, and palatable.

    I have but one question, when I read this – “Rock On’s ridiculous success quite simply embodies the contingent of people, or lack thereof, who understand what rock music stands for.”

    What does this ‘Rock Music’ that you speak of, stand for?

  5. October 12, 2008, 11:27 pm Azm

    By aforementioned statement, what I mean is thus – Being a Rock fan does not mean having long hair and saying ‘that’s rocking’. A guitar and drumset does not make music ‘rock’. Perhaps, sir, you should delve deeper into the evolution of the music that I proudly defend before letting your preconcieved notions cloud your judgement. Rock, and then Metal was a movement started by those who dared to be different. Who did not think Popular music, and the ongoing ‘Hippie Revolution’ of the time was particularly appealing, and formed their own form of expression, in the form of rebellion. Going against the flow. Now, you tell me, my friend, how this movie is any different, in its essence to Dil Chahta Hai (one of my all time favourite movies). It’s quite simply a case of branding Pop culture under the name of Rock, at a time when ‘Rock’ seems to be the ‘in thing’ or the thing that makes you ‘cool’ in teenage society, and reaping the benefits. Rock was never meant to be cool. It was about being yourself and being different. Not conforming to the tried and tested formula, which unfortunately is the case in much of today’s Rock scene.

  6. October 16, 2008, 12:26 am rohan

    A very miniscule population in India would really know what “rock” music is , or for that matter even appreciate rock culture. Mr Farhan A. was smart enough to realise that fact. Do you think without all the “Indian Masala” the movie would have done well?
    And besides, the movie is not that bad for Indian standards(apart from the horrendous lyrics.)

    Mr. Farhan A. is a smart bugger, he wanted a commercially successful movie, and thats what he got.

    But please donot try to associate “rock” culture with anything in the movie.


  7. October 16, 2008, 5:23 pm sunil bangera

    I respectfully partially disagree! The part I agree is that film is crap and songs were lyrically pathetic! But given a chance, I would sign sharukh Khan to do such movies. My debate is, in a nation with so few genuine rock listeners, we need more of such movies, so that mass explores ROCK as a music. Which in turn will actually help Indian Rock Scene to be excepted by masses..I know it is a business point of view….! but seen many great Indian Bands just fading away….opting for parallel careers…! Lastly, I was introduced to rock music when i was 10/ 11 years old ..by listening to Bryan Adam & Pearl Jam..! it always grew and grew..! No one ever comes out of the Womb Head-Banging…….

  8. October 18, 2008, 10:51 am Azm

    Damn it! I feel like such a hypocrite right now. Went out and got drunk last night, and there was songs of ‘Rock On’ being played at some point. Now they’re stuck in my head, and I can’t stop singing them! I even made an acoustic version of ‘Socha Hai’
    They’re just so effing catchy.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I still hate the movie! But I guess at a subconscious level, we all love some fun music. Turns out I do, at any rate.

  9. October 21, 2008, 12:44 am Hangaroo

    Quite frankly, I don’t see what’s so wrong in making something that’s cool, and in. It’s not like the movie lacks soul, it’s true to what it wants to show.

    As for the defenders of the faith here, “But please donot try to associate “rock” culture with anything in the movie.”, I’m sure the rock gods have got you fooled well enough to believe that.

  10. November 22, 2008, 1:05 am Viraj

    I quite believe, putting in a comment today is kind of a delayed reaction to whatever has been penned earlier (rather, typed), with regards to the movie. Nevertheless every time I come on to the website I am reminded of all the things that have been mentioned about the film and I am compelled to put my thoughts down.

    Before I write, its my duty to put in this disclaimer: I have no special liking towards the makers, actors or anyone closely related to the film and neither does the movie feature in my top 5 movies list. Neither do I have any professional gains by disagreeing with whats written as the ‘review’ of the film.

    Now that I have cleared all the doubts that would arise after reading what I will write, this is what I have to say;

    First and foremost, I believe we are talking about the ‘Rock Culture’, Rock Music, Rock lifestyle etc. and how the movie is nothing about it, it was just a fag which was nowhere close to what “ROCK” should be etc. etc. etc.

    The fact of the matter remains, in INDIA, no matter what, ROCK is nowhere close to what it should be anyways. If you call a 3,000 – 5,000 turnout for a GIR or Independence Rock as the ROCK CULT, or a few headbangers and mosh-pits as the lifestyle; well guys, open your eyes and face reality.

    Not even a single rock band from India has topped retail sales in the country (which the movie managed to do for straight 3 to 4 weeks), how many people apart from a few niche crowd even knew about ROCK as a genre of music? We are a country whose strength is its population, after all we are a 1.4 billion heads. Even if 1% of this population was listening to this ROCK music with all the dedication and gave its due respect to the music and artists, then, every album coming out from the artists would have sold at least half a million copies. Instead what is happening? A renowned band like ‘Zero’ which I believe is one of the best bands to come out the country, has to sell its cds after a gig at peanut price, of Rs. 40/- and still beg the audience to buy the cd’s as something like a ‘Charity for Rock Bands’!! That to me was one of the most shocking sights since I have started following the scene. If anything is shameful, then its not the movie, its the way the rock music scene in the country is growing.

    Today as music sales are dropping internationally, the strength of the music industry is judged by the live music scene, which in India is even more pathetic. If the rock show is free, maybe we would get a full house, if the same show is even priced at Rs. 150/- not even 60% occupancy can be expected.

    What Rock On is doing is, it is educating the ignorant population of the country that this kind of music exists. They are reaching out to the mass, where, torch bearers in the so called rock industry are failing. It was important for a movie to have a bit of pop – rock kind of music, so as to make sure that the masses are not turned off and that’s exactly what happened.

    Today if I go with a proposal to a sponsor talking about a Rock Show, with a similar kind of music and culture that prevailed in ‘Rock On’, the sponsor is interested in listening to the concept.

    The next step that they took was another brilliant one, where they had the Rock On for humanity concert, all of India’s best rock bands performed along with Farhan and the gang. They might be doing it for various reasons, but isn’t it helping the scene in return.

    Instead of taking the movie for a toss, for things that they have shown wrong, why don’t we for a change accept the positives that the movie is doing for the scene.

    It is high time we accept the facts the way they are, Hindi film industry is huge and the Rock scene in India is nothing but a mere spec in front of it. If a movie is helping the spec turn into a blot, then all we should be saying is ‘Rock On’!

  11. January 22, 2009, 8:00 pm jaideep

    @azeem banatwala

    well, dude, u gotta grow up… sure, it wasn’t a brilliant story or movie… but i think u forgot to review the movie and started bashing it because it doesn’t fit ur own image how rock stars should be. I just feel u are too much into the “rockstar” image urself…

    well, an advice from a guy who’s been into rock since d last 14 yrs. from growing out from bon jovi to eagles, to metallica, megadeth, pantera, sabbath and back again to stuff like hendrix, jethro tull and mostly pink floyd, the more u try to count yourself different and not wanting to fall in the “cliched” category of non rock lovers, u r carving a stereotype out of urself too… which is kinda hypocritical…

    and apart from all this, movie isn’t brilliant agreed. but it definitely wasn’t bad. i’ll just save d director’s arse cos it is a good effort. and though the story was predictable, the treatment was good nonetheless. and as for the music, though it doesn’t sound like black metal, they’ve got decent riffs (title track), good bass lines (ye tumhari meri baatein) and good lyrics (phir dekhiye and pichle saat dino)…

  12. January 22, 2009, 8:15 pm jaideep

    @ azm (again)

    dude m sorry bout this… but can’t help it… excerpt from ur comment: It was about being yourself and being different. Not conforming to the tried and tested formula…

    tell me one thing, how come everyone who wants to be “different” ends up being the same, lead the same lifestyle, like the same kind of movies etc etc. Sure i’ve done dat when i was younger. But i’ve grown up out of it which is why m telling u. So, stop throwing ur rock music philosophy cos rock lovers can actually be “different” and not “conform” to the “rockstar stereotype” too…

    P.s.: you could’ve bashed the movie on one ground, screenplay, which u didnt… magik (which btw i think is an awful name) doesn’t have a bassist :P

    sure the keyboards can do d bass line… but the keyboards playing bass doesn’t blend in d screenplay properly…

  13. March 19, 2009, 2:19 pm Abhishek

    My thoughts exactly. Something’s up with the Indian “coolios”. And it isn’t cool.

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