Film: Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani
Director: Karan Johar
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Churni Ganguly
When Karan Johar post Covid pandemic had announced Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (RARKPK) as his silver jubilee year film as director, many had anticipated it to be a film going back to his typical romantic film. But it is not so. Having watched all his directorial as a school kid since his debut Kuch Kuch Kuch Hota in 1998 to this latest offering, now as a film journalist I can vouch that this presentation is not his style. His trademark is only visible through grand palatial homes, uber-rich families, spoonfuls of melodrama, an ensemble cast and Manish Malhotra designed dresses on good-looking actors onscreen. And not to forget the quintessential romantic song on the snow capped mountains which the YRF and Dharma have done mastery since ages. The larger essence of a Karan Johar film is missing might be because the film is written by Ishita Moitra, Shashank Khaitan, Sumit Ray for todays day and age.
The Film sets to break stereotypes and but eventually creates more stereotypes. Alia’s character a Bengali girl of today’s day and age wears nothing other than Saree 24/7. It seemed bengali family has to be too much modern and sophisticated from oxford london while the Punjabis as always are supposed to be extremely loud with no respect for women. A politician as always is supposed to make fun of rapes and candidly defends on live show and the anchor has guts to question him and dismiss him live. As a news anchor Alia’s potrayal could make wonder the real media persons. When did newscasters start appearing in designer Saree with strapped blouse on a daily basis? Alas it is a dharma film.
Rocky Randhawa, the flamboyant scion of Punjabi Business Family is introduced as the energetic delhi ka munda waking up in his briefs just like how karan Johar did with varun dhawan in Student of the year or the sizzling kareena kapoors poo introduction scene. While dancing in a punjabi of the year ceremony which turns into comedy of errors Ranveer discovers his grandfather’s (Dharmendra) lost love which if ignited could be an attempt to rekindle his spirit and overall health. Rani Chatterjee the 24/7 Saree clad media women, is the granddaughter of Jamini (Shabana Azmi) who meets Rocky and gets attracted to his well chiseled physique and a strong attraction between the two brews instant. The sparks between the duo becomes intense and they end up having a casual affair. While Rocky proposes, Rani sees it as a fling, the clear segregation among their ways of life and their families, cultural backgrounds glares at them. To understand each other’s traditions and cultural values better, they decide on an social experiment to live with each other’s families for three months.
Jaya Bachchan portrayal of the matriarch of Rocky’s family is a well deserved performance to the extent that people can relate to her real life shenanigans against the paparazzi. Infact her role seems reprised from Amitabh Bachchan’s Narayan Shankar in Mohabbatein and Yash Raichand in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The Randhawas are in her control. The women in the Randhawa household have no voice and dreams. In contrast in the Chatterjee family, women are classy and strong. The Punjabi Vs Bengali matrimonial angle in Vicky Donor is quite reflective of the cultural clash here.
Ranveer outshines Alia here. Alia’s overacting is quite visible at many places. Alia as an artist is more suitable for author backed roles as in Raazi and Gangubai. The over chirpy, the feminist, the crusader all seems to be a hotpotch in her portrayal of Rani. Ranveer’s plays his transition from a cheesy, abs flaunting guy to a woke persona with lots of honesty. Tota Roy Chowdhury and Churni Ganguly as Rani’s parents leave a remarkable impact but again they have been boxed under typical clichéd Bengalis as if every day is dedicated to rabindra sangeet.
The parallel love angle of Dharmendra and Shabana Azmi adds spice to the narrative is a sweet value addition. Both excel in their roles superbly, The best part was the film questioning intrinsic notions of male chauvinism, gender stereotyping where a man is ridiculed for being a Kathak dancer, body shaming, skin colour prejudices, the submissive women and their fight for autonomy and fighting orthodox ideals. The film acts as a first hand manual on becoming a feminist.
In trying to be too preachy during most of 168 minutes, the film at a point doesn’t remain Rocky aur Rani ki Prem Kahani but transform into Rocky and Rani’s family feuds and discords. The chemistry between the leads was not the focus eventually. Rocky’s grandmother, Dhanlakshmi Randhawa (Jaya Bachchan) strangely had no objections vocally on her husband meeting his ex-lover. The overall tone of the film is entertaining with Music being its strong point. But the film is weak for today’s audience parameter for a long run. Delightful cameos by dharma’s nepokids are also the attraction in a song.