[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.