Monday, December 08, 2008

DVD review: Rock On!!

[Did this for the Sunday Business Standard. Note: it’s a DVD review, not a film review. For the record I saw the film on the big screen and loved it – like most people I know, which is a bit depressing on some level!]

Until recently most DVD releases of Hindi films didn’t care about providing value-addition to the home viewer, but this has changed in the hands of the more enterprising and youthful filmmakers, who are now including extra footage on their discs. It’s a welcome step, particularly well-suited to movies that have a limited theatrical life but which subsequently develop cult status – recent examples being Johnny Gaddaar, No Smoking and Manorama Six Feet Under, all of which have had impressive DVD packages.

Rock On!! is more mainstream than the above titles, one of the most popular releases of the year, in fact, and you can argue that it’s a film best experienced in a large hall in the company of a rambunctious audience. But now, just three months after its commercial release, it’s available on DVD, and a very well-packaged and thoughtfully put together two-disc set at that – one that does justice to this solid entertainer.

Disc One has the movie, along with a feature-length audio commentary option. The commentary is by producer-star Farhan Akhtar, writer-director Abhishek Kapoor and director of photography Jason West (a good choice, because one of this film’s most underrated strengths is its superb camerawork). Some DVD commentary tracks are shoddily thrown together afterthoughts that impose isolated sound-bytes on random scenes. Not this one. Kapoor, Akhtar and West watch the film together from beginning to end and share their insights on specific scenes as they unfold. It’s professionally done, yet there’s a lot of camaraderie on display too – listening to them, you get the sense that shooting Rock On!! must have been a lot of fun. Their spontaneous laughter when the popular “dandiya” scene comes on mirrors the viewer’s reaction. (“I love Arjun’s expression in this one!” says Akhtar, referring to co-star Arjun Rampal’s deadpan act in the scene where the four proud rockers are forced to prune themselves down – wear kurtas, comb back their hair – to play a Nadeem-Shravan song.) The commentary is very much a popular-appeal one, focussing more on actors’ performances and the occasional behind-the-scenes anecdote than on technicalities, but West manages to get in a word or two about scene setup and photography.

Disc Two has a goodly selection of extras, including an hour-long “making of” documentary that provides glimpses of Farhan Akhtar’s initial singing audition (he performs U2’s “One”, among other songs) as well as notes on costume and styling, and bytes from Rampal, Javed Akhtar and others. The “deleted scenes” section is barely 10 minutes long – nowhere near as interesting as, say, the 40 minutes of additional footage on the Chak De! India DVD – but the amusing, MTV-style music video for “Pichle saat dinon”, an inventive take on the song’s lyrics, is a good inclusion. There’s also a “Karaoke” section that plays each of the songs with the vocals volume turned down relative to the music, and with the lyrics appearing onscreen, so you can croak along.

The one minor problem I had with this DVD is that when you pick an option from the Scene Selection menu, the disc plays only that single chapter, after which it freezes, makes an unpleasant whirring sound and returns to the menu instead of allowing the film to continue. This sort of thing is understandable when you select from a Song menu (because songs are usually discrete, standalone elements in Hindi films), but it’s unnecessarily complicated when it comes to regular scenes. It means that if you interrupt a viewing midway and then return to the film afterwards, you have to play the disc right from the beginning and then either fast-forward manually (which is a very plebeian thing to do on a DVD) or repeatedly click on the “Next Scene” button to get to the point where you left off. It’s also jarring to have a scene abruptly end in this manner: in fact, the first couple of times it happened, I thought my player was “skipping”.

But this is a tiny quibble. On the whole, the Rock On!! disc-set is worth the price (Rs 390; hopefully it’ll reduce further in a month or two). It helps, of course, that the film itself is a definite keeper.


  1. From what you mentioned Rs. 390/- is definetly worth the buy.

    Taare..was priced at s.500/-..

  2. Depends on the basic fact 'if one liked the movie'. I somehow could not connect with Rock On. The movie seemed too pretentious at most times. I could not understand why successful people like 'Farhan khtar'were shown as perpetually morose on account of some 'Rock band being disbanded'.No surprises I guess when you have a horrible lead vocalist.

    The whole cast could have done with a boost of 'chavanprash' to bring more energy into their performances and music.

  3. Depends on the basic fact 'if one liked the movie'.

    Shwet: well, of course - that goes without saying. Why else would someone bother to buy the DVD? Especially when the film will probably be shown on some movie channel or the other within 2-3 months.

    I could not understand why successful people like 'Farhan Akhtar' were shown as perpetually morose...

    Depends on your definition of success, no? I think the film makes it clear that Aditya would have considered his life more successful if he'd had a chance to see his passion through rather than abandon it midway.

    Karthik: haven't seen the TZP DVD but have heard very good things about it - this is the one with the children's game or something such included, right?

  4. Yes! At least they could have come up with a convincing Aditya than the one shown. Why was 'Aditya' always in a sad mood? Just because his rock band failed in some way. Tough to imagine such a person going on to build a successful career with such hidden inner demons.

    Frankly speaking making a movie just due to the main lead failing to build on a Rock band is highly idiotic to me. People don't build longlasting grudges due to the fact that their 'Guitar Mumbo Jumbo' failed in their youth. If they do, they rarely develop the focus and vision to become successful people living in plush four bedroom apartments. Also the director could have worked towards making the whole Rock band concept more believable with some solid music aimed at showcasing the talent of his 'Grand Band'. Needless to say the music was dreadful and the lead vocalist seemed to have a bad case of largynitis.

  5. shwet awasthi, I am not standing up for the film here, haven't watched it. Just writing to tell you that some of us CAN be 'perpetually morose' over things that might seem very weird to 'happier' people. Not being able to do wat you are passionate about seems a very, very valid reason to me to be low about life. And let me assure you, sometimes worldly success is easy to come by, it doesn't necessarily make you a happier person.

  6. People don't build longlasting grudges due to the fact that their 'Guitar Mumbo Jumbo' failed in their youth. If they do, they rarely develop the focus and vision to become successful people living in plush four bedroom apartments.

    Shwet: with all this "guitar mumbo jumbo" talk, I think you're greatly underestimating the passion that some people can feel for their music. Personally I thought of the whole rock-band thing as a Macguffin anyway, a stand-in for anything you're passionate about in your youth, and which falls by the wayside as the business of hard living takes over.

    Also, isn't Aditya already from a privileged family? I didn't get the impression that he built his plush lifestyle from the bottom up. But even if he did, so what? I know of people who have done extremely well for themselves in their chosen career, without ever feeling like they've followed their heart's true calling. Part of the point in this character-driven film is that people respond in different ways to a given situation (ref: the different trajectories of the lives of the Akhtar and Arjun Rampal characters).

  7. Waiting for your review of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!

  8. I found the movie a little too melodramatic. Jai hit the nail on the head about the MacGuffin. It's not a movie about rock bands, there was hardly anything 'rock bandy' about it.

    And who thought of such a lame band name 'Magik'?
    And the songs were lame to say the least, it was disconcerting to see them wear tees of 'The Doors' and yet belt out cringe-worthy numbers. Ironically I found 'Yeh Tumhari Meri Baatein' to be the best track :)

  9. and the way the dialogues and the predictable plot carried on! more thought was given to the couch in their living room. did no one notice, when the prachi character whatever, invites her husband's friend for his surprise birthday party and then asks farhan why his friend joe hadn't turned up! and the tumour-stricken luke actually says, "yeh ab mere brain ka hissa ban chuka hai". but then maybe i'm nit-picking, like i've been told that i am.

    i find films like rock on are the kind that sell so that the film-makers, producers and sundry stylists can lounge about cosily in pools and laugh at all those who bought their pathetic excuse for a film on music/ friendship/ whatever. this film stunk, but unlike one of the only (aborted) attempts at a story or characters, joe and his fishmonger wife.

  10. ReturnoftheAsh: not sure if it'll happen. Even assuming I do find time to see the film soon, I won't be blogging about it unless I have to officially review it.

    Shiny tiny satellite: needless to say, I respectfully disagree with your overall assessment of the film. But I did find the brain tumour subplot somewhat annoying (not sure about the specific dialogue you cited though - unless memory deceives me, no one knew about Luke's tumour at that point in the film).

  11. sorry, my bad. awkward sentence break. the luke thing was a separate issue. i guess the previous party reference ran into it.

  12. I am very passionate about music in general.

    And I was very disappointed by this film. If I have to put my finger on the very reason - it was that I did not feel A-NY-thing for the band, its members, its gloom or joys. and yeah, there were very very lame explanations for their 'journey' all along the way. lamer sub-plots notwithstanding.

    Yes, it had some moments - but they were just that.

    I wish it could have been more.

    ps: I watched 'almost famous' as soon as I got back for therapy!

  13. @Straight Curves:
    Yeah exactly what I thought, 'Almost Famous' is a rock band movie! Even if you assume there are no groupies and hippies in India, Rock On had nothing going on!!

  14. Kartik: but that's partly my point - I didn't think of it predominantly as a "rock band" film, so little juvenilities like Magik as a band name didn't flaw the film for me. In fact, if you assume that the rockers in Rock On!! are not particularly talented (or talented enough to make a serious career in music), that only makes the film more interesting in a way.

    ...I did not feel A-NY-thing for the band, its members, its gloom or joys...

    Straight curves: well, I can't argue with that as a criticism. As you can tell, the film worked for me, but maybe I just saw it on one of those good days...

  15. Kartik, Straight Curves - isn't 'School Of Rock' a better rock band movie to compare Rock On to, than "Almost Famous"?