Somewhere near the end of Imtiaz Ali’s “Rockstar” (not to be confused with “Rock Star” starring Mark Wahlberg), Heer the heroine starts feeling faint and gets that I’m-going-to-die-soon look that veteran Bollywood watchers will recognise in a jiffy. At this point, she goes up to a room and starts rubbing her face in a dirty red T-shirt, which had in the past been worn by the love of her life, who is the rock star of the film’s title, when he was, apparently, sniffing her earlobe. If there was a screengrab for the reminiscing heroine, then I could have captioned it, “I had an affair with a rockstar [sic] and all I got was a lousy t-shirt.”
Actually, that’s not entirely true. She also got pregnant and landed up with some terminal bone marrow disease, which is the Bollywood equivalent of being smote by lightning. You see, Heer was married to someone else when she had an affair with the ‘rockstar’, a.k.a Jordan, whose real name is Janardan. Possibly to tug at our heartstrings, director Imtiaz Ali shows us the moment when Heer got pregnant. Since this is a Bollywood film, it wasn’t a carnal moment that the audience was made privy to but a conversation, which went something like this.
Heer: How do you like my world?
Jordan: I don’t want to ever come out.
Heer: You don’t have to. Stay inside.
Now, if you’re going to go around having irresponsible conversations like that under a bed sheet, while snuggling fully clothed with your loved one, you’re obviously going to get pregnant.
The most disappointing thing about “Rockstar” is that it could have been a decent film. Instead, thanks to some spectacularly bad acting by Heer (played by debutante Nargis Fakhri) and a script that’s so half-baked that it’s like raw blood pudding, “Rockstar” begins engagingly before chucking all notions of logic, sense and causality out of the window. It essentially becomes a series of bucket lists punctuated by songs that Ranbir Kapoor, who plays Jordan/Janardan, tries to salvage. It’s a tough job, not helped by the fact that aside from the task of livening up a bad script, he also has to convince us that MC Hammer’s dhoti pants and weird jackets can be a rock star’s costume.
Janardan is a college kid who wants to be the Indian Jim Morrison but he isn’t getting anywhere. The manager of the canteen he frequents tells him that to be a true artist, one must experience pain and heartbreak. On cue, Janardan sees Heer. After the usual antagonism, the two become friends. She has a list of things she wants to do before she gets married in two months. They complete the list. She gets married and goes off to Prague. Janardan comes home and gets into the family business (something to do with trucks). There’s some drama when the business loses money and Janardan is kicked out of the house. By this time, he’s figured out that he is in love with Heer however his immediate problem isn’t heartbreak but homelessness. After living in a mosque for two months, he comes to the canteen manager and starts living with him. A record company signs him and takes him to Prague for a mysterious event called “Eurojam”. We never really find out what happens in Eurojam because that’s not really the point of the film, is it? The point is to get him to Prague so that he and the much-married Heer can have an affair, which they do. Before leaving, he comes to say goodbye to her and because he was sneaking into her house, he sets off the burglar alarms. Her husband’s reaction is to pull a gun at Jordan/Janardan. Because that’s what you do in Prague when you see on your front lawn the man who had dinner with you in your house a couple of days ago. For some reason Jordan/Janardan is arrested and imprisoned.
He comes out just in time for the release of his solo album (there’s a suggestion that the recording company had him arrested as a publicity stunt). The album is a huge success. Jordan/Janardan is established as a bad boy because he behaves badly with people, disappears from time to time, and in general behaves like a “rockstar”. Then he learns that Heer is back in India, sans husband, because she is dying of a bone marrow disease and her husband has abandoned her because she had an affair with Jordan/Janardan. Jordan/Janardan and her rekindle their affair because having him around gives her more energy and improves her platelet count. Except in the process of this rekindling, the rockstar impregnates Heer, who dies because that’s what happens to adulterous wives who have dwindling bone marrow and active libidos. Jordan/Janardan is left with extremely bad hair, a terrible moustache, a cap that makes him look like he’s about to lead a postal workers‘ strike, and the fame and music that he had wanted back in the days when he was just Janardan.
I hope the problems of “Rockstar” are evident in that summary above because even if I just list the problems in the story, I’ll be ranting for hours and I will restrain myself from doing so because I still have my NaNoWriMo quota to write (I’m a mere 6,931 words behind). The only thing I feel compelled to point out is that Imtiaz Ali has some serious issues with marriage. In almost every film of his, the heroine cheats on her fiancé or husband, who is a doofus. The punishment for the romantic misdemeanour is getting increasingly brutal. Kareena Kapoor’s character in “Jab We Met” lost access to make-up, nice clothes and society. Poor Heer has to die. Someone send Imtiaz Ali a copy of “Sex At Dawn” (see below or Google).