Often I'll get asked this question: did you like (the 2008 Bollywood hit) Rock On? And right after I say with much honesty, "Why yes, I very much did" I'll get asked "What is it about that movie that people like so much?"
After acknowledging that there is a legion out there that was left cold by the movie, I always come up with something inarticulate and muddled. But I recently watched the DVD with my sons that seemed to clear my thoughts. The reason is entirely because I was able to connect it to another piece of entertainment I had consumed just a week before.
A few weeks ago I picked up Sean Murphy's graphic novel Off Road - a helter skelter retelling of a spiraling, madcap road trip. "Off Road" is the story of three long-time friends who take a newly acquired Jeep into the wild and end up stuck in the woods with no help in sight. Along the way, there is the somewhat rote subplots of friendship being tested and selves being discovered. But what makes the whole thing super entertaining is that Murphy allows us to wallow in the dude-ness of his tale. Its a book about men and men behaving like boys, period. No compromises.
Sean Murphy - who has credits like Batman and Star Wars - is a terrific artist. Operating in black and white, switching between the urgent scrapes of an ink nib and the more lush lines of a brush, Murphy is able to portray a gamut of emotions on his characters faces. When he pans out upwards to depict a scene from overhead - something he does quite often in his book - coolness abounds!
So back to Rock On!!, which I decided to screen for the family after having seen it once before. A quick note - RO is a reasonably safe movie for kids to watch. There are two minor infractions - a gesture that mimics copulation and a reference to drug abuse. They are fleeting - I don't think my sons picked up either.
You could say RO is about a lot of things: about holding on to your passion, about second chances, about never giving up, about music, about friendship. I'd like to make the case that RO works entirely because of its dude-ness.
There are four guys at the heart of RO. All of them reject the straitjacketed life they have been socialized into to connect back with their friends and their dude-ness. And they go do exactly what they did before they were shackled down into being family men.
Farhan Akhtar (Aditya) resolves a marriage on the rocks by going back to being a dude. Luke Kenny (Rob) rises momentarily above his impending demise by embracing the dude life again. Purab Kohli (Kedar), well, never stops being a dude. Arjun Rampal (Joe) walks away from a steady paying job and his wife to let his hair loose and stroke his guitar (metaphor alert!) among friends. Lest we forget, just as his ball buster of a wife crumbles (it is to Shahana Goswami's credit that she manages to pull everyone in her corner in a thankless role), he is egged on to reclaim his back slapping dude-ness by his son - clearly a dude in the making.
The movie itself ends slyly. Life ends well in dude-land. Everyone lands somewhere safe and profitable (except poor Rob who bites the dust - well someone has to die otherwise there is no lasting bittersweetness.) Yes, everyone is married and has responsibilities - but every weekend those can be forgotten as dudes romp around like they did before.
Fair enough, you may argue - but how does that explain why women loved the movie? Despite the fact that Prachi Desai (Sakshi) provides a tried and tested hook for women (supportive, loving sati savitri out to save her husband from himself), I'm not quite sure they organically did.