Karan Johar scores a full 10 in Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani

From the moment they meet the screen is ignited by their combustive chemistry and we know instinctively that Rocky and Rani are meant to be together. Don’t ask how, we just know

Rocky aur Rani ki prem kahani poster (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)
Rocky aur Rani ki prem kahani poster (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)

Subhash K Jha

Rating: *****

Wait! Do we see an upsurge in the number of men joining kathak classes after Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani? Among the many things that writers  Sumit Roy, Shashank Khaitan and Ishita Moitra tells us in this  kaleidoscopic view of life on Malamaal Hill, is that it’s okay for men to adopt traditionally female roles.

And if you like kathak dancing it doesn’t mean you are effeminate or gay. Tota Roy Chowdhury converts the boorish Punjabi loutish epitome of toxic masculinity Rocky, played with lipsmacking relish by Ranveer Singh. Before we know it the two men are dancing together to Sanjay Bhansali’s Dola re dola re without being least conscious of the feminine expressions.

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani is a riot of informed entertainment. It has a breathless pace, probably to match its leading man Singh’s energy level.  Alia Bhatt playing his significant other is equally electrifying. Together Rocky and Rani are as dynamic as fuel and fire.

From the moment they meet the screen is ignited by their combustive chemistry. Though poles apart in temperament and cultural values, we know instinctively that Rocky and Rani are meant to be together. Don’t ask how, we just know.

But hang on. This is not only about the love between Rocky and Rani. It is also a charming chronicle of the unfulfilled love between Jamini (a moving homage to Shabana Azmi’s silently eloquent act in Mrinal Sen’s Khandhar) and Kanwal (Dharmendra).The unfulfilled love in the past gets a befitting closure in the present.

Karan Johar’s direction is exuberant, sometimes dizzyingly so, when  it wants to be. He then suddenly reins-in the riot of colours and drama, as though to remind us that the insulated, affluent lives that these characters lead also need to self-gaze once in a while.

For Singh’s Rocky, the  party never stops. He is an unabashed patron of patriarchy. His father (Aamir Bashir, excellent as ever) is an unapologetic MCP who body-shames his daughter (Anjali Anand) and shames his wife (Kshitee Jog). The wife wants to be a singer and belts out Aap jaisa koi in the kitchen when no one is listening.

Among the many achievements of this very special film on under-achievers is the use of vintage music, from Abhi na jao chhod kar (as the signature tune for the Jamini-Kanwal love story) to Suno suno Miss  Chatterjee (from the film Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi) used here by Singh to woo  Bhatt because… well she is Rani Chatterjee.

Singh’s Rocky is  a masterclass in exuberant acting without heaving into the hemisphere of hamming. As for Bhatt, every time she has us wondering what she would do next. Every time she takes us by surprise. Among the supporting cast, Shabana Azmi as the grandmother who loved and lost, allows her silence to shriek her protest.

Jaya Bachchan plays the villain of the piece with a commanding grimace. Her character Dhanalaxmi reminds us that the  toxicity in a patriarchal society often amplified loudest by a woman. It takes another woman to remind us of this fact. As for the Bengali actors, they are so busy being Bengali we forget they are part of a film that gives every characters the freedom to be what they wants to. Even a male kathak dancer.

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