Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year
Rocket Singh was not at all the movie I expected it to be.
So, let me take this opportunity to talk about the way some Hindi films are marketed. It seems to me that occasionally a film comes along that the producers are afraid to market for what it really is for one reason or another. Chance Pe Dance was marketed as a dance movie when it really isn't. It's a movie about a guy who wants to be an actor. Just because they had Shahid Kapoor they thought they had to market it as a dance movie I guess. I suppose, in that movie's case, they had to look for the best thing they had and go with it. Another film that comes to mind is Life in a Metro. I was really excited to see this film when I saw trailers for it. It looked like a nice, gushy film about various couples at different places in life. What I got when I finally watched it was a tawdry, infuriating film about people twisting love and mistaking physical intimacy for what's most important in life. (If you want to see the movie that Life in a Metro could have been see Playing by Heart) And now, Rocket Singh. The ads for this made it look like a high energy comedy of some sort. I was reluctant to see it because it looked like it would be slapstick and quite possibly ridiculous. Instead you have a thoughtful film that moves at a realistic pace. Nothing earth shattering happens and it's just about regular people going about their mundane lives but figuring out how to be as dignified and as happy as possible in the process. Now that is a movie I would have been anxious to see, a movie I really enjoyed once I overcame my misgivings caused by the ads. So what I'm saying is, don't be afraid of your films people! Especially just because they're not the typical BW fare, a good film will stand for itself. You do the films a disservice by marketing them based on what you think the audience wants to see. Market them properly and let them find their audience.
The main reason I decided to watch Rocket Singh, despite being wary of it based on the marketing, was Ranbir Kapoor. I believe he is definitely the best of Bollywood's younger generation of actors. He's that rarest of commodities...a really good actor. Beyond that, he's got the "it" factor. I don't think it's the super mega-star "it" factor of SRK but he's certainly more compelling than any of his peers and many of those who've been at it much longer *cough* Saif Ali Khan*cough* He has a great vulnerability about him and a genuineness that translates to his characters and really makes you care about them. I can't wait to see his future films. I especially want to see him play a grey character which, if the trailer for Rajneeti can be trusted, may be coming very soon.
On with the film review.... At first, Rocket Singh made me uncomfortable and, quite honestly, depressed me. I think it's because I identified with Harpreet so very much. He's a middle class boy being raised by his grandfather who graduates from college with below average grades. He passes the test to go for an MBA course but can't afford to pay for it so he goes out into the work world. He ends up in a shitty job that quickly sucks away any enthusiasm he had about entering the adult world and starts to change his attitude towards his life in general and his loved ones. The movie does a brilliant job of showing you what effect a horrible job can have on every aspect of your life and, as I once said about one of my jobs, can kill a little piece of your soul every day. Harpreet is a good guy and he gets punished mercilessly for doing the right thing. He finally decides to take things into his own hands and show those who have put him down that he is more than they have given him credit for.
Without getting into major spoilers, let me just say that Rocket Singh is a great example of how Bollywood can make movies that will appeal to an international audience without losing what makes them wonderful. It's a good story with a tight plot, good dialogue, believable characters and nothing over the top. There were a few instances in the plot where the characters had a choice to make. Had this been a Hollywood film, the characters would have gone with the cynical, negative choice. In this movie, however, they made the choice to trust, forgive, do the right thing and that is one of the best things about Hindi films. They have a hopefulness that the West has come to view as too uncool or unreal. (I'm really sad for us if hope has really become too "unreal" to even be portrayed in films. This is why I watch more Hindi films than American films these days.)
Overall, I thought Rocket Singh was a good, solid film. I identified with it and was interested in the characters and their journey. Ranbir gave a strong, engaging performance. The supporting cast was solid, especially Prem Chopra as Harpreet's grandfather. Rocket Singh tells you that you can't let other people's expectations of you write your destiny (nicely illustrated in a scene where the formerly slimy supervisor is misjudged by his new parters in Rocket Sales) Ultimately, it's a movie about not letting the world around you make you lose your self-respect, about getting the life you deserve the right way even when everything tells you you can't and about knowing that you're more than what's written in black and white and more than someone else's opinion.