Kanishkaa Balachandran finds Rock On 2 mired in needless complexities
With movie sequels, comparisons with the original are inevitable. After watching Rock On 2, I was compelled to relive the original Rock On (2008) a day later. It was in part to brush up on the lives of the four rock musicians and their emotional travails over nearly two decades, during which time they rocked the stage, disbanded, reunited, lost a member, stayed in touch every weekend, went their separate ways, before reuniting. It was also in part to watch a more engaging story unfold, something the sequel lacked.
First, the music.Shankar –Ehsaan-Loy have maintained their standards with some uplifting, peppy tracks suited for stage performances and rhythmic ballads. However, tracks from the original Rock On are woven in, more to stir up some nostalgia and remind everyone of the band Magik’s glory days. But the film isn’t tagged as a musical, so the songs are secondary. Ultimately, it’s the script that weakens the movie after a strong, captivating beginning.
The story is set eight years after Magik’s last live performance as a collective, which happened shortly before band member Rob’s death due to a brain tumour. Joe (Arjun Rampal) partly manages a popular nightclub in Mumbai and judges a singing talent reality show; KD (Purab Kohli) composes ad jingles; Adi (Farhan Akhtar) makes the most radical move among the three, chucking his lucrative investment banking career in Mumbai to settle in a village in Meghalaya to practise cooperative farming. Like in the original movie, Adi has all but given up on his music, but a surprise visit by his former band members rekindles memories of their glory days, with hopes of a revival.
But Adi is repeatedly haunted by nightmares of the suicide of a young singer who earlier doggedly pursued him to listen to his demo CD. Whether Adi’s radical relocation was entirely due to this tragic incident or simply a mid-life crisis we don’t know for sure. But another tragedy, one that ruins Adi’s hard work over five years and displaces thousands in the village, forces Adi to move back to Mumbai to rejoin his wife and son.
Destiny brings Adi and another young musician, Jiah (Shraddha Kapoor), together. They are drawn to each other because of their insecurities and fears. Adi and his former mates decide to revive their music, and they invite Jiah and her friend Uday to join in. Jiah is mortally afraid of her father, a famous classical singer, a stickler for traditional forms of music and disapproving of the fusion music she wants to specialise in. The thought of performing on stage freaks her out, fearing her dad would find out. The band’s in a dilemma to work around this predicament, determined to not let go of Jiah.
The script then takes a complicated turn, just as complex as the lives of Jiah and Adi. What made the original Rock On stand out was the relative simplicity in its plot. The sequel needlessly packs in one too many coincidences in the story, and we keep getting reminded of the inner demons of the two characters above, thereby adding more melodrama. Unlike in Rock On, the wives only make cursory appearances. It’s a pity that Shahana Goswami, who plays Joe’s wife and delivered a powerful performance in Rock On, was hardly seen here.
One redeeming feature is the film’s attempt to showcase the beauty of the North East. Mainstream Hindi films are rarely ever set in these parts, with the exception of films like Mary Kom. The issue of neglect is highlighted in the delay in getting relief supplies for the ravaged village. Meghalaya gets significant airtime and deservedly so, as Shillong is considered to be the ‘unofficial rock music capital of India’.
Rock On 2 is a bit too complex for its own good. It’s still very watchable, at least for its individual performances. Unlike in the original movie, one can’t feel the “Magik” in the sequel.
(Kanishkaa Balachandran is a Chennai-based freelance writer on films, music, travel and cricket)