2011 was an interesting year for the Hindi film industry, with Rockstar contributing to it. Rockstar – a movie that would shift the discussion, especially in terms of what we understood about Imtiaz Ali as a filmmaker and Ranbir Kapoor as an actor.
Even while Imtiaz Ali’s scripts and storylines were not always about love, this film gave rise to the ‘Imtiaz Ali Love Story,’ a genre all its own. Except for massive triumphs like Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and Rajneeti, Ranbir Kapoor’s filmography has seen more flops than hits up until this moment. Rockstar was a career-defining role for him, allowing him to demonstrate his acting prowess and grow as an actor.
For a decade, Rockstar was the picture that sparked discussions about the film’s gaze and representation of toxic masculinity that we as viewers may not have been aware of or paid too much heed to. The picture was not without its detractors. Even now, people either think of Rockstar as a life-changing picture or as a film they despise. There’s no in between.
One of the most common criticisms of the film was the disparity in treatment of male and female characters. Janardan Jakhar, or Jordan, played by Ranbir Kapoor, was seen as a poisonous man-child persona who rose to notoriety and became the film’s ‘Rockstar’. However, it is one of the few films that, in my opinion, got the representation correctly. The plot was meant to be about a tortured artist who is preoccupied with suffering and loses everything in the process, including the thing he lived for – music.
When talking about toxic masculinity in movies, it’s impossible to avoid mentioning the female characters. The casting of Nargis Fakhri as Heer was one of Rockstar’s worst flaws. When we have a talent like Ranbir Kapoor on the opposite side, the discrepancy becomes even more obvious. To begin with, that did a lot of damage to the female character. But I attempted to persuade myself that it was probably on purpose, since Heer symbolised a notion of love rather than the person with whom the protagonist was in love. She was nothing more than a notion to Jordon, and she served no other function. Since we view the movie via Jordan’s eyes, it made sense. Probably not.
However, the movie is remembered more for its soundtrack than the story. A.R.Rahman has done a wonderful job since all the songs are sung by everyone till today – Phir Se Ud Chala, Jo Bhi Main, Kun Faya Fun, Sadda Haq, and many more.
Rockstar works because it is a true tragedy rather than a glorified love tale. The film does not have a joyful conclusion. He’s still a miserable, self-destructive rebel without a cause. In practically all of Imtiaz Ali’s works, the topic of desire and separation is present. Jordan has become the essence of Ranjha to his Heer even before she dies.