Bollywood Film Review “Rock On 2”

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First, the Recap:

The life and times working in a rock band.  When things click, everything’s in synch musically, professionally, and personally, all needed attributes when planning on being the top level performers everyone expects.  For the band, Magik, one go around seemed like enough. Once differences arose and clashes between members became too common, the band broke away from each other, all participants going their separate ways. For lead singer Aditya (Farhan Akhtar), escape has come via a farming village in the mountainous regions of Shillong, Meghalaya, helping to develop a thriving community while simply embracing a quieter life. However, a surprise comes on his birthday, when old friends/bandmates Joseph “Joe” Mascarenhas (Arjun Rampal) and Kedar “KD” Zaveri (Purab Kohli) along with Aditya’s wife Sakshi (Prachi Desai) drop by, wanting him back in Mumbai to return to music.

Resistant to do so thanks to the past and a nightmarish sense of responsibility he holds over himself for a grievous error in judgement,  things seem to stall in getting Magik back under way.  But, thanks to an unexpected run-in with aspiring singer/keyboardist Jiah (Shraddha Kapoor) after things in Meghalaya take a tragic turn, Aditya comes home and, with new bandmates in Jiah and bass player Uday (Shashank Arora), Magik looks to have a fresh start.  The past, however, never wants to stay in its place. When a connection between Jiah and the harsh instance from Aditya’s life that still haunts him is revealed, it threatens to undermine everything new created with the band. Yet, when a benefit concert is decided on to aid the Shillong village, old hurts are buried, fences mended, and newfound belief in the power of helping others and themselves is discovered.

Next, my Mind:

It’s been 8 years now since Abhishek Kapoor’s original “Rock On!!” debuted and the sad truth is that, while this reviewer freely admits not having seen the first installment, I cannot help but glean that the gap in time between films may have been just a tad too long. With this being his debut feature film, director Shujaat Saudagar’s two hour twenty minute sequel honestly just came across average at best. While the themes of overcoming the odds, past mistakes, and personal differences will always be solid and often necessary elements to explore in dramas, here it just fell too much into that “been there, seen that” mold. It is the music itself that saves this film from complete obscurity, giving the viewer at least the chance to feel some sense of connection and the intended pathos as only music can invoke, which there’s never a doubt Bollywood films are massively adept at doing this. Yes, there’s entertainment to be had here, nothing wrong with that. But, with the standards of Bollywood films being raised to such a high bar this year, some just don’t measure up, and can seem disappointing.

The actors still give it their all, and performances were still effective for what the film is, especially given at least four of main cast were returning characters. Akhtar presents Aditya as a man on the run from what he feels was a circumstance of his own making and the ramifications of which devastated his self-confidence. Trying to find means by which to “redeem” himself is a central plot point here, and Akhtar plays this well. Rampal’s Joseph, now a successful club owner and reality show host, initially lives within the confines of his own ego, not wanting anything to disrupt that. He learns differently, has a change of heart, and again, Rampal displays this adequately. Kohli’s “KD” stands as the ultimate voice of reason amongst the friends, trying to help them see that standing together and putting any past or present mistakes is needed for them all to go forward and find new success. Kapoor’s Jiah is the fresh talent brought into the fold by “KD” and Aditya, struggling with her own familial issues and self-doubts, but who ultimately confronts these obstacles and discovers a new freedom.

Supporting efforts are turned in by Desai as Aditya’s wife Sakshi and Arora as Uday, the other new face in Magik who really gets to mainly be a background presence relative to the other characters. In total, “Rock On 2” might be one of those films worth waiting for on DVD or OnDemand, as it just doesn’t quite capture the Bollywood magic like so many other efforts in 2016, even with its fun music numbers and relevant overall themes.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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