Rockstar: A Celebration of an Average Man with Average Problems Elevated to a God

Blech! I don’t like this movie. If you like this movie, DON’T READ THIS REVIEW. Why would you do that to yourself? Go about your life and continue to be happy and loving. But if you also hate this movie, come over here by me and we can hate it together.

I made up my mind to hate this movie 8 years ago when it first released, and I successfully hated it without watching it for 8 years. And then I finally sat down and watched it and now…..I hate it so much more! With a depth and understanding I did not have before, I used to hate it just intellectually, now my hate runs far deeper, I hate it with my whole heart and soul, I hate it as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky. I hate it in a kind of Sufi meditative haze of hatred. So, I guess, Imtiaz achieved his goal. I have successfully lost myself in his art.

My experience watching this film. Every moment took me closer to a full understanding of its horribleness

My original shallow hate was based on this being yet another film about the journey of a man towards enlightenment through art. Male artists always think these stories are fascinating, and I almost never do. Why should I care about your artistic pain? Everyone has pain!

You may be the most sensitive dying inside artistic soul in the world, but there are rape survivors out there, people with clinical depression, people with injuries that cause massive constant physical suffering. If we make this into a game of “who hurts worst”, the answer is not artistically unfulfilled healthy wealthy young men. And anyway, that isn’t a very good movie. Watching someone endure terrible suffering is either unendurable, or eventually just kind of boring. Or else you start to giggle.

No, the way to make a story of a hurting protagonist interesting, whether it is about a bad break up or artistic misery or anything else, is to make us care about the person outside of the hurt. They can be funny, or kind, or brave, or anything else, but we need a reason to like them, to want to spend time with them as an audience.

And this brings me back to the male artist problem. If you are a male scriptwriter, or director, or film reviewer, you will automatically connect with the story of a struggling unfulfilled middle-class over-educated young man. And because you connect to it, you will assume it is universal. And because you connect to it sooooooooooooooo much, you will not be terribly open to suggestions that it is not universal.

Do you know I have gotten more hate comments in defense of Ranbir Kapoor than any other actor? I can rip apart Salman Khan, even Shahrukh, and no one descends into swearing or incoherency. But if I take apart Jagga Jasoos for the steaming pile of stupid that it is, all of a sudden I get a comment about how I don’t understand, I have no vision, and it is all filled with the kind of abusive language that tells me this person has no perspective on this discussion. If you are a sensitive artistic type of young man, this sort of story and character resonates with you so much that it is hard to hear honest criticism of the story, the character, or even the actor playing him without taking it personally.

I’m not saying I got a ton of hate comments, but I don’t in general. Just out of the very small subset of angry comments I have received, Ranbir is the only actor who has been defended.

This is a film in which I never felt I had an answer to the “why should I care?” question. Our hero is unhappy, I believe that. But why should his happiness or unhappiness matter to me? We never see one moment of him reaching out and caring about someone else, he only seems to see others as reflections of his own needs and his own pain. Even his attitude towards his art is shockingly selfish. Instead of thinking of it as a way to reach out and bring healing to humanity, as a gift to others, he apparently sees it as only within himself, to satisfy himself.

Late in the film, there is a stadium concert that Ranbir walks out of at the last minute. The film frames it as his unspeakable pain that he is asking to forget in order to give petty pleasure to these people. But the pain he is in, surely at least one of the people at his concert feels something similar and can be healed by his music? Surely there is someone there whose mother is dying, who is recovering from trauma, who is looking forward to his art as a way to heal their pain. What makes Ranbir’s pain greater than theirs? And in reality, of course, performers do constantly make this judgement. The stories are legion of performers who went on after suffering terrible personal losses, aware that they have a duty to the people who can find solace in their art to give that art to the world. Come to think of it, Ranbir’s great-uncle Shammi gave his last performance in this film. Shammi’s beloved wife died in 1965, at the height of his career. Shammi didn’t miss a step, kept working and releasing films and continued to present a face of happiness and joy to the public, what the needed from him. If I know artists like Shammi Kapoor exist, ones who set aside their own pain in order to be what others need them to be, than why should I have sympathy for Ranbir in this film?

Shammi’s wife died the year before this movie came out, he had two motherless children at home and a whole world of pain inside, but he wasn’t going to let his fans know

The comparison that kept occurring to me was Guru Dutt and Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool. Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool are also about an artist who is tormented for pursuing his vision. But his art is merely part of himself, it is what drives him in the world, it is not who he is, it is not his heart. In Pyaasa, Guru Dutt made art for the people. He wrote poems for street venders and street walkers, and he delighted in their delight. I loved his character and cared what happened to him not because he was a Great Artist, but because he went to the red light district and cried over the pain of the prostitutes. That is what drove his art, the pain he saw around him, the humanity crying out whose cries he tried to amplify. In Kaagaz Ke Phool, the art is almost incidental. I care for his character because he is trying to be a good father and a good friend. Because he accepts personal suffering in order to help others to happiness. I loved the man, not the artist. I wanted the artist to be accepted and appreciated because I wanted happiness for the man behind him. In this film, there is no purpose to the art that will make me care about the artist. And there is no action of the man that will make me care about the man.

The frustrating thing is, this is a truly brilliant film in construction. The song sequences flow in and out across time while the story proceeds in a regular chronological fashion, giving the feeling of how music breaks past barriers of time and space and memory. There are flashes of poster art and cell phone videos that give the feel of a rock documentary along with a fiction film. And there are small innovative touches, like the way post-fame Ranbir can have a normal conversation without noticing the crowds around him because it has become normal to him. Of course the soundtrack is amazing, music bleeding through the screen into the audience. And all of this brilliance, all of this rare uniqueness, is in the service of a story that gives me nothing to care about, there is nothing there. It is like a gorgeous cloak wrapped around a dead body.

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We start in the present, with Ranbir arriving for a massive concert, chased through the streets. And then as he starts to play, we cut to a quick flash of all the times he worked on and played this song, in the streets, on smaller stages, through his whole artistic journey. It’s a legitimately wonderful opening, dropping us into that song sequence and making us feel like he feels, all those times he played this song suddenly bleeding together. Unfortunately, the rest of the story isn’t nearly as innovative as that opening.

This is the story of Heer-Ranjha. I read that in one of the early reviews by a reviewer wondering why that wasn’t more clearly acknowledged, and I have the same thought every time I run across this film. It’s not even in the wikipedia page. Heer-Ranjha is one of the epic Punjabi romantic tragedies. Ranjha was thrown out from his home and went wandering with his flute, ending up working for Heer’s family. Heer and Ranjha fell in love in secret and had happy days together. Then her family found out and forced her to marry someone else and threw Ranjha out. Months later, Heer’s marriage fails and she returns home, Ranjha returns and is welcomed by her family, they now approve of their marriage. But on the morning of the wedding, Heer’s jealous angry uncle poisons her laddoo and she dies. Ranjha finds her body, and eats the other half of the laddoo, killing himself.

What is different about Heer-Ranjha is that our hero and heroine did nothing to cause either their potential happy ending or their unhappy one. They are remarkably passive people. Ranjha is thrown out of his family home and does not protest, just wanders off. Heer is ordered to marry someone else, and does it. Her husband is the one who sends her home, her family are the ones who decide she will now marry Ranjha. And she dies through poison, the most passive of murder weapons. This is why in Jab Tak Hain Jaan, the song goes “Don’t call me Heer, I will be Sahiban”. Heer did nothing, let her life be stolen from her over and over again. Sahiban (and various other romantic heroines) fought back.

A painful moving version of the Heer-Ranjha story is about how women always suffer in silence and stillness, the poison that kills them is hidden in sweets, luxury is murder. And it would be a story about how the man who is truly able to understand and love a woman is one who is in a similar place, one who is thrown out into the world to wander alone with no power or support. And finally, how the simplest smallest things can snatch away happiness and all you can do is choose to suffer together.

This is not that version. This is the version of Heer-Ranjha where Heer only exists to cause suffering for Ranjha, not as a person in her own right. And where Ranjha is not a powerless poor wanderer who only has his love to cling to, but is an extremely wealthy and successful artist who should really just STOP WHINING.

Right, plot! Ranbir is a college student who loves to play music. His friend the snack shop owner Kumud Mishra tells him that he should give up on his dreams and work for the family business, but if he wants to be a great artist, he has to know heartbreak. Ranbir sets out to learn about heartbreak by announcing to Nargis Fakhri, the prettiest girl on campus, that he is in love with her in order to force her to reject him and break his heart. Nargis is amused and decides to use him as a friend who can help her have adventures before her upcoming marriage. Ranbir and Nargis go around together, she gets married, he joins the family business. And then his family throws him out because they think he stole money from the business. With nowhere else to go, he lives at a Masjid and plays music with the Sufi band there. He finally goes to his friend Kumud Mishra for help, and Kumud helps him to meet with a music producer. At first it seems unpromising, but then the brilliant musician Shammi Kapoor sees him and hears him and tells the producer to let him make his music his way. Ranbir is now a rising star and has a chance to go on tour to Prague, where Nargis is living with her wealthy in-laws. He goes to Prague and surprises her, Nargis is recovering from an unspecified illness, and she grabs hold of their old friendship for more adventures and distractions. But Ranbir falls in love, tries to kiss her, and finally convinces her to start an affair with him. His last day in Prague, he tries to go to her house to say good-bye and is stopped by her security guards, she tells him to leave. He is arrested and the scandal drives his CD sales. 2 years later he is a major international star and constantly getting in to trouble, doesn’t seem to care about anything. At a concert, Nargis’ younger sister talks to him and tells him Nargis is home and sick. He comes to see her and, miraculously, she starts to get better. Nargis and Ranbir again go off on adventures until she gets too sick. She ends up in a coma in the ICU because Ranbir got her pregnant (a death sentence with her condition). Ranbir runs out on a concert to come see her, her family curses him, he leaves and goes to one more concert where he has a vision of Nargis as he plays. The end. Blech.

The movie starts out with a joke about Ranbir being this innocent college student seeking out heartbreak because he thinks it is what artists need. But then it decides that it believes the joke, believes that great art means great suffering, that the suffering of an artist is somehow greater than that of a “normal” person. I want the film to see the joke, to laugh at the idea that art only comes out of suffering. Or, to put it another way, that suffering will inevitably result in greater art. Because I think that is a joke, I think it is laughable, and if it is not laughable, than it is infuriating.

Let’s take this theory to the inevitable conclusion. It means that, on the one hand, those who suffer the most will make the greatest art. If that is the case, than all great art would come from survivors of genocide, of torture, of other horrors. And on the other hand, it means that if you have not suffered than your art is not true.

What I would say instead is that an understanding of the highs and lows of life can add depth to your art. That doesn’t mean you have to seek out suffering, suffering is around us all the time, every where. It simply means you need to open your eyes and see it. This film argues that Ranbir becomes a great artist because his girlfriend dies and his heart breaks. Jim Morrison, who Ranbir’s character and the film itself tries to emulate, his initial understanding of human suffering came from when his family passed a car accident and he saw dead bodies by the side of the road when he was 4 years old. I suspect most people have a similar moment of understanding suffering in the world, just as you learn to understand hunger, love, fear. Was losing Nargis truly the first time in Ranbir’s life that he felt pain? He grew up in a country where children are wandering homeless on the street. That never touched his heart? His younger sister back home, she was never sad and scared and he comforted her? He never had a friend who died in the randomness of youth, never read a book that touched his soul, never heard a piece of music that made him cry? If you want to find suffering in order to deepen you art, there is no need to seek out a girl to break your heart, just walk outside and open your eyes.

There’s another part of this which I do believe, that art can bring with it suffering. In this film, Ranbir gives up his music and tries to be a good son and work for the family business and is thrown out of the family home under suspicion of stealing money. The artist biography with which I am more familiar is the one where they try to be easy, they try to work the family business and live a normal life, but their art drives them away from all of that. The fire of creation within them makes them unable to have that kind of a life. And I don’t see that in Ranbir’s character here. This film is arguing that his great magical suffering gives him the gift of art, not that art brings difficulties with it.

The biggest problem with the film is the whole “Rockstar” concept. It doesn’t really make sense, the film is presenting a version of music stardom that is very time specific, from back in the 60s-70s. Reporters chasing you, crowds swarming your car, and the big stadium concerts, it just doesn’t make sense now. Part of the reason it was so wild back then is that the world hadn’t adjusted. TV broadcasts, record companies, all of this stuff led to an inflated kind of crazy celebrity. And then security firms came in, and common sense preventative maneuvers, and all the other things that help regulate fame. It’s also a version that is very location specific. During that era, in the West, the baby boomers were young and wild and with disposable income and disposable time. And not for nothing, this was also the protest era, the rock stars were part of that whole rebellious feeling, musicians who could speak to them. A rockstar in modern India is literally not a thing that exists. The constant effort to make this form of fame fit into the wrong time and place is a sign that this is not a movie that should exist.

Imtiaz wanted to tell a story of a crazy musician, tormented by fame, larger than life. But instead of actually creating a character that was larger than life, he used the trappings of musical celebrity to make him feel larger than life. This is hardly the first film in Hindi cinema to address the price of fame and art. But the other films started with the story and the characters and added on the external fame later. Started with humanity, and then brought in celebrity. This film says that humanity does not matter, the only stories that matter are the ones that are larger than life, and it will bend reality to make that story big enough.

This is a song about a husband and wife performing team coming back together after her traumatic miscarriage. There is no showboating, there is no need for flash and glitter, we care about the characters enough that we don’t need anything else. Even though they are “just” a couple recovering from a miscarriage, not something truly tragic like their girlfriend breaking up with them.

If this had been the story of a small time singer who slowly grew as an artist and gained some modest recognition at the same time that his personal life fell apart it would be, well, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil! Two films with the same star and almost the same story. But ADHM has faith in the stories at the base of it to carry the film along. Ranbir’s story there is a realistic artistic journey, someone who gained a modest amount of fame but saw music as his job, not his identity. If you watch the film and enjoy the film, it is not because of some strange kind of Rockstar fantasy, it is because of the characters.

Let’s swing back to that Rockstar fantasy for a moment. Setting aside the racism at the heart of rock ‘n roll (you notice how the Rockstar fantasy is always some white looking dude, not Jimi Hendrix?), there’s also the misogyny. Ranbir comes close to raping a woman twice in this film. He forcibly kisses Nargis, she shoves him away, he kisses her again even rougher and then tells her “wasn’t it wonderful?” while she turns away, almost crying. Later, the journalist Aditi Rao Hydari and he have a fraught conversation, she kisses him suddenly (a peck on the lips) and he drags her into his dressing room and throws her down onto the couch and looms over her. It’s all very rockstar, powerful dangerous sexy behavior. That is, if you are at a distance. If I am the woman being grabbed and molested, or dragged into a room and thrown on to a couch, I am not necessarily finding it so sexy. Oh, there’s the violence too. All those police officers and reporters and security people that he lashes out at, hits and kicks. I am sure it is very cathartic for him, but if I am a reporter or a police officer just trying to do my job, do I deserve to be punched?

The whole idea of the “Rockstar” is this elevation of a man (always a man) to the status of a God. And a God doesn’t have to answer to anyone. He doesn’t have to answer to the women he attacks, the men he hurts, his family he abandons, the fans he insults, anyone. That’s what this film believes in. Ranbir is a God, he can do anything, say anything, be anything, and no one else matters. Even the woman he loves doesn’t matter, not really. He will force himself on her, he will embarrass her in front of her family, he will do whatever it is that he feels like doing in the moment.

This film says I should worship Ranbir, I should worship all these famous men who somehow suffer more and greater than I do, who deserve to have sex, drugs, fame, adulation, on offer to them at all times. That they should be forgiven whatever they do to whoever they do it. That the rest of the world exists to serve them. It’s a dangerously seductive way to live, especially if it has been half true all your life (doted upon upperclass/caste Indian men, for instance, are forgiven most things in life). I feared I would hate this film for showing me a tormented Great Man and expecting me to sympathize with him to the exclusion of everyone else; after watching it, I can tell you that I hate this film for showing me an average man with average problems and expecting me to worship him as a God.

Which brings me to Ranbir. Really? This is the performance that is supposed to blow me away? This over the top overacting? Any half decent actor could have done it, and the way Ranbir is worshiped for this performance tells me that the worship of average deeds from an average man is not limited to the character in the film.

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48 thoughts on “Rockstar: A Celebration of an Average Man with Average Problems Elevated to a God

  1. I also hate this movie so much. It’s one of the few movies that made me almost scream at the end.
    As you said it doesn’t even try to make me care or like for the protagonist. It’s all “you should admire him”. But the problem is that HE IS SO DAMN STUPID! And he doesn’t change at all durning those loooooong 3 hours. At the beginning he is stupid, and in the end he is still an idiot, but rich and angry. Angry with the world because his lover is dead, but it was only his fault! She was sick and he was like: let’s have unprotected, romantic sex like there is no tomorrow. Stupid moron! It’s been 2 years since I saw the movie but I’m still mad when I think about it.
    And yes, I also think Ranbir’s acting was nothing special. Especially in the beginning as an innocent, poor guy. such a bore.

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    • Yes! The movie sets it up as “they were in love, of course they had sex”. But, like, condoms exist! You can have sex and still be safe.

      I feel the same way about all of his problems really. Oh no, you are in trouble for missing concerts! Well, then maybe read your contracts more carefully and don’t agree to concerts you don’t want to do. You don’t like being chased by crowds in the street? Well, maybe don’t wear such distinctive clothes when you go out. Sure he is supposed to be this idealistic artist type, but you just need a speck of common sense to hire a competent manager who can arrange your contracts so you aren’t committed to things you don’t want to do. I mean heck, what was Kumud Mishra supposed to be if he wasn’t there to read contracts and say “really? 6 concerts a month, doesn’t that seem excessive?”

      If they had written the film to have his aggressive older brother running his career and abusing him and forcing him to sign contracts and stuff, that would be something else. But instead, we are supposed to believe he is just so innocent he doesn’t understand how contracts work or read what he is signing? Or else he does understand and did sign knowing he wouldn’t be doing those things? All of his problems are of his own creation, and I don’t understand why we are supposed to sympathize with him.

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 3:57 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • And not sympathetic stupid. If the film established him as a naive kid being manipulated and out of his depth, that’s fine. But instead we are supposed to be all “oooo, he’s so perfect!” without acknowledging how all his problems are his own making.

          Do you remember the scene when he meets his old college friends? It’s just a quick thing in the middle of a montage, he arrives and they all want pictures with him before sitting down and talking. Well, yeah dude! You’re famous, of course they’re gonna want pictures. And then things will calm down and you can have a real conversation. If you are disappointed, that’s because you were dumb and didn’t bother to think through what was gonna happen. Not their fault you are too stupid to be sensible.

          On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 8:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Oh thank god. I thought there was something wrong with me because Ranbir is presented as if he’s the greatest actor that ever existed by the industry. I have seen some people, without a trace of irony or humor, declare that he’s a better actor than Amitabh. All I see is a big boring face, boring acting, boring personality, such a bore on screen. He gets all these annoying manchild roles where he’s supposed to be displaying his great acting prowess and he manages to turn everything into a gigantic bore.

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      • YES!!!!!

        I have liked Ranbir’s performances in YJHD, Wake Up Sid, and even ADHM. But my reaction was more “that was a good performance” not “This is the Greatest Actor of All Time”. And those performances came from really strong scripts and strong directors helping him. I’ve never seen anything that makes me think he has the talent to elevate a weak film, or even the work ethic and skills to elevate a weak film.

        Shahid Kapoor, on the other hand, I have watched him grow as an actor and for about the past 10 years, I have been impressed by his work in any role in any film he has been given. Not just one it is perfectly crafted and directed just for him, he will always bring something to it. I don’t think Shahid is the Greatest Actor Ever either, I just think he is a good actor and that’s what I expect from a good actor. Ranveer Singh does the same quality of work, so does Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal, really every other working actor whose career hasn’t fizzled out. Ranbir can’t do that. If you put him in a weak role in a weak film, his performance will be weak. There’s nothing he can contribute on his own.

        But it goes back to that whole “upper middle class educated boys” problem, right? He is the one they have all chosen as their own, and that is the group that controls online discussion and stuff, so it has become accepted wisdom that he is The Best.

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        • Have you seen Besharam? That would show you how bad he is in a bad film.

          I’m seriously trying to figure out what these men online identify with so much? Is it the poor-pity-me characters Ranbir plays? Or are they all manchildren like him? Are they impressed by all the women he dates and dumps? Or that he seems to be the typical Indian mama’s boy like them? I DON’T GET IT.

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          • I have seen Besharam! And he is SO BAD. The movie was way bad besides him, but he didn’t do anything to elevate his sections. He probably did the role perfectly, exactly as the director told him to. That’s the thing, you have to be smarter than your director, at least about your own performance if nothing else. You have to think for yourself and bring something to the table.

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  2. I loved the music of this movie and how it reaches across the screen & really that’s the only thing I remember about it.I can imagine the outrage this review would have caused in the Filmcompanion Filmclub Facebook group.The urban Indian man of a certain age group is so much in love with this movie and will defend it to his death-this and other Imitiaz Ali movies with the exception of Jab Harry Met Sejal.Which makes me think that JHMS would have probably worked if the lead was a younger angsty actor with whom the male of the said age group could connect with.If not a commercial success ,it would at least be spoken of as underrated & cult classic. Anyways Rockstar sucks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do it! Post the link on the Facebook page! I am so mad at this movie, I am all ready to fight with fanboys.

      I was thinking about about this movie and Tamasha, both of which I absolutely hate, versus every other Imtiaz Ali movie which I love. I think it is the difference between a love story and not a love story. If he is doing a romance, he HAS to give some kind of personality and consideration to the female character along with the male, the format requires it. Rockstar and Tamasha I was just staring up Ranbir’s nostrils for 3 hours, there wasn’t a single other person who had anything to do. Friends, family, love interests, all just scenery in the Ranbir Kapoor Show.

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 8:17 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Karan Johar seems to have the same adoration for Ranbir that Imtiaz has. What is it with the constant close-ups? I see NOTHING. A big blank face doesn’t become amazing acting just because you focus close-up shots on it. And as you said, he is like an island onto himself. How do you do a love story with no or little focus on the woman? There is not even any chemistry. Why are we even supposed to care about this couple? I was so frustrated with Rockstar and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil that I wished he would die along with the girls and put me out of my misery.

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        • ADHM felt too Ranbir focused for me until I compare it with Rockstar, and then suddenly it seems like the most even-handed love triangle EVER. Aish and Anushka both had their own backstories and motivations and I felt something for them. Nargis was just a big emptiness onscreen.

          Same with Ranbir’s rise to fame, ADHM was frustrating with this quick shift from youtube videos self-released with club shows, but compared to Rockstars strange leap to stadium shows, it was super realistic.

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    • Imagine the movie this would be, if Ranbir left his home and moved to the temple, and then just stayed their as a Sufi musician forever. And that was the end. And maybe he took a vow of silence.

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 9:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh yes. He would take a vow of silence except when he praises the Lord singing sufi songs. A movie like this I would love!

        And really there is this moment durning Kun Faya, when he is enlightened and I hoped he will become a little less stupid, but no, it was only 1 minute.

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        • And the really weird thing is, the whole “Kun Faya” sequence ends up being meaningless. Like, I thought he was having this great artistic and spiritual moment and that was going to change everything. But no, God is useless, it’s all about True Love, that’s what makes an artist.

          On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 9:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Kun Faya Kun is one of the best song sequences I’ve ever seen. I remember when I got to that part I was like “here’s the amazing movie everyone was talking about! now the rest of it is going to be as good!”. It never did.

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      • Yes! It looked like this great moment of the film and the character realizing he had been a shallow idiot up until now, and now it was going to get good.

        And then, no. He went right back to being an idiot and the film went right back to telling us he was brilliant with no evidence.

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  3. God, I hated this movie. I detested Tamasha too. I don’t know what it is – whether Imtiaz is the problem or whether Ranbir is the problem. I think it’s Ranbir. I just do not buy this deeply complicated and internally pained man roles that directors try to give him. There is nothing there! I noticed the same problem in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Karan did these long close-ups on his face as if we’re seeing something amazing happening (especially in that one song, even the promo was dedicated to watching Ranbir’s huge face) and I see nothing there.

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    • I also think Ranbir is a problem in that he doesn’t actively advocate for the film as a whole. He talks about his preparation for a part and it is all internal, just about his character and his performance. He’s not an artist that is going to show up on set and engage his co-star in a discussion of their fictional relationship, or encourage multiple rehearsals until their dialogue is just right. I can see that in Jagga Jasoos, Tamasha, this movie, Bachne Ae Haseeno, and a little bit in ADHM. But in ADHM and Wake Up Sid and YJHD he had a strong director and a strong script that forced him to collaberate with other actors/characters instead of being in his own world. If the script and director aren’t pushing for that, his performance is going to stay totally internal.

      This is also part of the reason I think of him as a selfish boyfriend in real life, if he is so obviously a selfish scene partner in movies it feels like the same behavior would translate to romance.

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      • I genuinely think Ranbir is a high functioning sociopath in real life and it translates onto the screen. Whatever emotions he shows on screen always have a glint of fakeness to them like he’s putting on a show for us “Look at me, the brilliant actor.” His performances are usually so disconnected from the other characters on screen that it really makes you wonder why he can’t make a connect. If you watch him in real life, it is the same thing. I saw a clip of him attending an Ambani party the other day with Alia and she is all smiling and looking at him and trying to connect and he is so aloof and in his own world, prideful about being admired, but really concerned about the other person.

        There are very disturbing incidences that people have talked about also. His own mother mentioned how he pushed the maid in the pool because he wanted to see what would happen. Priyanka’s mother talked once about how they were filming in the ocean and he thought it would funny to push her in the water because he thought she didn’t know how to swim as the boat was moving away. He apparently got upset that she did know how to swim and wasn’t bothered by his behavior.

        I also saw an article just this week about Salman and SRK’s fight at a party and the author mentioned that it was Ranbir Kapoor who had gleefully called him up to inform him about their fight the very next morning. That’s nothing new because everyone talks about how Ranbir spreads rumors. Anushka outright said she would never tell Ranbir anything about her life because it would appear in the newspaper the next day.

        He has a very unlikeable and selfish personality and I feel sorry for Alia. Run away, run away, before he causes a mess like he did with Kat and Deepika.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t know if I would say sociopath, but there is definitely a strong trait in the Kapoor family of men putting their needs over everything else. Okay, really just Raj and Rishi and Ranbir. But they all have stories of just being shockingly uncaring about the people around them and expecting forgiveness. And that’s the kind of thing a boy is going to see his father do and just assume it is part of being a man.

          There’s also Ranbir’s truly horrific childhood, I have to wonder how much he might have shut down on his emotions and empathy just to survive that kind of situation? Or what coping mechanisms he developed?

          The end result is that I feel the same way about him as you do, but I would land more on the side of “he has the ability to understand the emotions of others but chooses not to use that ability because he thinks he is better than that” rather than “he does not have that ability”. And that comes through to his performance. I think both that he can’t really relate to his scene partners, and that he can’t dig deep and come up with an original emotional reaction for his own character. He just presents the emotions that the script and director tell him.

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  4. “It is like a gorgeous cloak wrapped around a dead body”
    You absolutely nailed it. This line is Rockstar in a nutshell. The only reason why it has received so much praise is because of the level of technique involved in it and people were so blinded by the brilliant direction that they never stopped to examine whether or not the story had a heart or even a brain for that matter. For a movie that’s been called “the greatest hindi film ever” by fanboys it’s shockingly superficial in so many respects. I kept on thinking maybe they would explore the psychological impact of stardom and how it effects his relationships with his friends and family but nope! Instead we got superficial ~tragic romance~ with a dying heroine because it makes good art???? And that was all they had to say?? There wasn’t really even an attempt to explore the nature of love or anything like that! The reason why I feel like ADHM is a more interesting film despite some similarities is because there is an attempt to explore unrequited love and friendship! I haven’t seen Tamasha yet but as of now Rockstar is my least favorite Imtiaz Ali film and the fact that so many people treat this film like it’s the second coming makes me despise it even more. The most overrated film from this decade.
    Also the person who dubbed for Nargis is Mona Shetty who has dubbed for everyone underneath the sun (Rani in Ghulam, Kajol in Dushman, Deepika in Om Shanti Om,etc). I’ve never been impressed with her dubbing but this movie is a new bad.

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    • Yes! ADHM is about people and the musician storyline is secondary. The characters have actual relatable issues. And none of the characters are forgotten or wasted, each story gets a resolution.

      I let Rockstar run all the way through the end credits because I kept thinking they surely must have more of a resolution for all the other characters. Aditi Rao Hydari, Ranbir’s little sister, even Kumud Mishra, they just rotated through the story and out again for no reason. Heck, Shammi Kapoor!!!!! We see him a few times and then not again. Instead of an actual ending, we just got Ranbir’s fantasy songs sequence thing about his stupid love story. How is this a movie????? A love story with no real conclusion, it just sort of drifts along and we never even know for sure what the heroine is feeling. And a rock saga that jumps around and doesn’t deal with the real price of fame or music or any of the rest. I would say it’s a 3 hour music video, not a movie, except music videos have more depth. A 3 hour magazine photo shoot of Ranbir in a series of strange clothes?

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 10:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • This movie would have been so much better if they just put the songs together like one of those music video movies instead of trying to add a story that pretends it has a deep intelligent point.

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  5. Also interesting you brought up Pyaasa. Yes Guru Dutt is a sad artist that can’t escape the Jesus imagery that keeps on following him around in the shots but he isn’t sad for the sake of being a tortured artist. He’s disillusioned with how capitalist society is and how everyone is just reduced to commodities and money is the only thing that’s of importance.

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    • Yes! And the film includes a whole world of stories too. Waheedaji gets a full plot, so does Mala Sinha, and no one is really blamed exactly for what they do. Or at least their motives are explored, it isn’t just random evil for the sake of evil.

      Also, the whole rejection of a capitalist society makes Guru’s inability to make a living at his art in an organized fashion into something noble. So far as I can tell from this movie, Ranbir didn’t mind being fabulously rich, he wasn’t skipping out on responsibilities as some sort of protest, he was just lazy.

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 11:13 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Thank you for this review…I did love the movie the first time I saw it…but I was a 21yr old angsty college student searching for a meaningful career…now when I watch it I cringe!

    I get why young male audiences love Ranbir…but why do Bollywood producers/directors also treat him like Marlon Brando?? Every time they rank actors on Koffee with Karan he is on top…they all consider him their first choice..why?? Can none of them recognize his one-trick style…or are they overlooking that and casting him for other reasons?? It makes no sense why the industry is supporting his god-like image…

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    • The fascinating thing is, they all say he is the “best actor” but he isn’t actually the first choice for directors. And I think if you said to a director, “why didn’t you cast Ranbir Kapoor in Gully Boy?” the response would be “he can’t play young and poor” and if you asked, “Why didn’t you cast him in Coolie No. 2?” the response would be “he can’t do comedy”. And on and on and on. People know perfectly well how limited his range is, what few things he can do well, but there is this strange disconnect between saying “he can’t do blank and blank and blank” and saying “therefore, he is a BAD actor”. Maybe it’s the “actor” label? When you say “actor” or “acting”, the thought is always some deep wrenching personal performance. If you say “performer” or “entertainer”, then your mind includes comedy and light romance and all the other stuff that every other actor in Hindi film can do and Ranbir just cannot handle. Sure, Ranbir can do well in this movie, but so could basically any other actor. And most other actors would also have been able to make a different kind of role work.

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 11:58 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh my god,yes to the deep wrenching stagey performance being hailed as the next Marlin Brando. On a different note,I think Alia also gets a lot of undue appreciation for her ugly crying,nostril flaring,breakdown performances. And gets the best actress title. Can she do the Deepika of Chennai Express,the Kangana of Tanu Weds Manu Returns or even the Tapsee of Badla. She is a good actress and hard working but to be hailed as the Meryl Streep of India is some reach. I feel Alia & Ranbir are good in a certain kind of role with a skilled director. Yet to see them show a range of performances or make a movie work with a lesser director.

        Liked by 1 person

          • YES! Weak director, weakly written character, and she just floundered around trying to make it work and failing.

            On Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 3:02 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • But I cut Alia more slack than Ranbir, because she is still so young and just starting out. She is just a year older than Ranbir was in his very first movie. She started out better than him and has been getting better with every film. Whereas with Ranbir, he was nowhere near as good as Alia in his first movie when he was the same age she is now, and he hasn’t gotten any better in the years since. I guess it’s that with Alia, I feel like she doesn’t buy into her own hype, she is still working and trying different things and trying to be better. Ranbir DEFINITELY buys into his own hype and has no interest in trying to be a better/different actor.

          Wow, now that I say that, that’s a real difference, isn’t it? Not just from Alia, but every other actor who is hailed as the best. Amitabh didn’t stop challenging himself just because everyone said he was perfect, neither did Irrfan Khan, or Ranveer Singh, or Deepika Padukone. They got the critics love for a role and were called great, and then went back to work the next day and tried to top themselves.

          On Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 2:53 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. I can’t stop comparing Ranbir in this film with Avinash Tiwari in Laila-Majnu, and I think Avinash’s performance was way superior. Seeing him become crazy was heartbreaking.

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    • Yes! The basic “innocent youth to madness” kind of performance is automatically showy, and also kind of easy. What makes the difference is what you bring to it as a performer. Ranbir gets credit for the showiness but he doesn’t actually deserve it and the difference is clear when you see an actual good version of that kind of character.

      On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 3:06 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Avinash was so good in Laila-Majnu. Not only did he convey the maniac insanity so well at the end but he was able to do so much more than that. Whether it was being confident and cocky or a bashful young man in love, there was a huge range of emotions in his performance. His break down shortly after the interval when he sees Tripti post-marriage gets me every time. Truly what separates an average actor with a good actor is how much nuance and variety in emotion they can incorporate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t care much about Quis for more than half of the movie, he was just another young guy in love. But when I saw the scene, already in the mountains, when his friend tells him he will go to the city for business, and it’s obvious Quis doesn’t understand those things anymore, I became a fan. I’m sure Ranbir would play this scene with his usuall constipated “I don’t know what is happening” face he uses often.

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        • I didn’t like him immediately either in fact the beginning of the movie is pretty cringey. But during the entire “Tum” song sequence I found him really endearing just because of how shy and flustered he was. The second half however is when the movie really takes off and gets really interesting and unique

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      • YES! When I look at Ranbir’s performance in really any of his films, I don’t feel his acting is telling me anything about the character that I could not have already gotten from the script. When I look at even someone like Imraan Khan in Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, who isn’t the greatest actor in the world or anything, but there were moments in the film when his expression told me “he’s feeling guilty” or “he’s actually in love with her”. I never have that from a Ranbir performance. He does what is in the script and nothing extra. He does what is in the script very hard, so we notice it, but he still isn’t really giving of himself to the story.

        On Thu, Sep 5, 2019 at 3:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Interestingly Laila Majnu was also written by Imtiaz Ali and is so much better a movie than Rockstar in all aspects,including lead actors,the character motivations,performances and even music to a certain extent. If only they hadn’t given it the spoiler full doomsday title and gone with a cheesy title like Ae Pyar Hai Mushkil,ppl would not have shied away from watching it.

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        • This brings me to my other post, on how I think Ranbir actively poisons Imtiaz films, makes them different/worse than they should have been.

          On Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 3:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • You know I would have posted that post also in the FC group ,if only I had not exited out of it.There was too much drivel going on in that group.

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          • Oh that would be so much!Just have a drink or two before to deal with the amount of coma inducing (non)logical discussion that will follow. The funniest part is when they start tagging Imtiaz Ali or Anurag Kashyap’s official IDs as a way of threat. Like calling the headmaster to discipline the stupid girl who has no understanding of pain & emotion and superior filmmaking. I don’t have enough eyes to roll.

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          • Oh, that reminds me of Bombay Velvet! That movie is sooooooooooooooooo bad! And another one that I have liked the director’s other films and somehow this one was just a disaster. Let’s chalk that up to Ranbir too, somehow.

            And you may have convinced me that I should best avoid the Ranbir fanboys. Although you are also reminding me of the Jagga Jasoos comment I blocked for obscenity which included an argument that he had shown Ranbir films to friends in film school and they all thought they were great. Like, why should I care what your random film school friends thought? Why do you think that is a good argument? Were any of those people you showed it to women (ha-ha, of course not).

            On Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 8:22 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I often joke that LM is my third favorite Imtiaz Ali film and that he ghost directed the second half! But in seriousness LM is an interesting film that actually explores how reaching “enlightenment” through “divine love” can be harmful and how it actually damages people that aren’t just the hero. It makes me so sad that they pulled it out of theaters super quickly and that it never got an international release.

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  8. I didn’t like this one, nor did I like ADHM, which seemed so similar. It really seems like he takes up the same kind of roles again and again. I avoid his movies as much as possible.

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    • Yes, Ranbir is the actor I think of as being typecast the most. Or perhaps every role he takes, somehow he turns it into a variation of the same old thing. Can you imagine his Don, for instance? Suddenly instead of this evil confident gangster, we would have a whiney little boy who lashes out when people hurt him and just needs love to heal him.

      On Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 2:10 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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