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Rock On!! – Movie review

August 31, 2008

This is one of the most pleasant movies I have seen this year. Even though Rock On!! (directed by Abhishek Kapoor) is almost three hours long, I didn’t get bored at all. But I guess it helps if one is a rock music fan like I am. Music is what this movie is about.

The story (no spoilers)
The story is about the music band, Magic. And it’s about four guys who create some inspiring music and have dreams of making it big. But that is the past. The story takes place when these guys are in their thirties and the movie traces their relationship (and life) over the previous decade. We see them change as their life changes…from a free-spirited student existence to a life where earning a living and supporting their families becomes all-important…

Aditya (played by Farhan Akhtar) is the worldly wise one, willing to make compromises to become successful, even when it comes to his music. Joe (played by Arjun Rampal) is the idealistic one, unable to come to terms with the idea of changing his music to suit anyone else. Rob (Luke Kenny) is obsessed with their band Magic and KD (Purab Kohli) is the least serious of them all, and manages to ease tensions between the four.

This movie is essentially about two things…about relationships and about music. It shows us the strong bond that music creates between the four. Music is what brings them together and it is what almost breaks them apart.

There are two significant women characters – Sakshi, Aditya’s wife (Prachi Desai) and Debbie, Arjun’s wife (Shahana Goswami). Both are shown to be strong characters. It is interesting to see how one woman manages to play the catalyst in the relationship between the four friends even though she is a new entrant into their lives. And the other almost tears them apart even though she is the one who has been with the band ever since they began.

Characters and actors
I thought Farhan Akhtar as Aditya was great in the movie, and this is the first time I have seen the lead actor belt out his own numbers. I could see the veins in his neck literally stand out, it is so obvious that he is the singer! I think it makes a big difference to the songs. In a music movie like this one, it can be critical. I loved his voice, and his acting. Arjun Rampal as Joe looks perfect for his role and acted well too. However I felt that all these guys look too old in the flashback scenes where they were supposed to be in their early twenties.
Shahana’s performance is wonderful.

About the music (by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy)
It was a little odd to hear Hindi lyrics set to rock music, even though there is such a thing as Hindi rock today. Indi-rock however is not mainstream. The way the movie was shown I thought that they weren’t really talking about Hindi rock, but English rock. All the four friends are shown to be very westernized, in their dress, their attitude and their look. The Hindi lyrics are interspersed with a lot of English and I guess it was necessary to set the tunes to Hindi lyrics or the mass Indian audience will not be able to relate to it. In fact I wonder if they will be able to relate to rock music at all, something people of my generation grew up listening. There was no Indi-pop or Indi-rock during our time (it came with the advent of MTV) – just film music. For us bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were the gods of rock.

I do hope this movie is an inspiration to Indi-rock bands and I hope it brings about some popularisation of this genre of music in India.

In conclusion
I loved this movie and perhaps it is because I could identify with it instantly. For two reasons. The story is about going back into the past and reminiscing with old friends, it’s about bringing the magic back into one’s life, and it’s also about rock music. The movie tells us all something, that life is not worth living if it’s just about making money. Life has to be about passion.

(Photo taken by me of a hoarding near Juhu)

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51 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2008 12:10 pm

    Thanks Nita, I am going to see it tonight. 🙂

    have fun! – nita.

  2. August 31, 2008 12:45 pm

    Arey aapne sunday ko post likha! 🙂 🙂 how come? And i want to see this movie too! Lets see when can i make it!

    I don’t like to post on sunday…so tomorrow will be my sunday! No post day tomorrow! – nita.

  3. August 31, 2008 1:51 pm

    Nita darling, hold on for a couple of more months (or so we hope) before we release our album. You might want to do a review yourself. 😉

    I loved your review and I’m going to see it tomorrow with a couple of friends of mine.

    (All of my bandmates loved the movie!)

    exciting! you are a musician…I have been wanting to check out your blog Kris, but though I had a brief look at it, I’ve been lazy. This week definitely you will see me there. – nita.

  4. August 31, 2008 1:57 pm

    @ Nita:

    Can’t help but think which “4 people in a band” might have inspired the film, where 2 independent and strong wives were also in the mix. John, Paul, George, Ringo? With Yoko and Linda? Hmm. 🙂

    true…the thought had briefly crossed my mind! 🙂 I worship the Beatles btw. but this story is different. – nita.

  5. August 31, 2008 2:47 pm

    Ok now I have decided to watch it after reading Sandeep’s, Amit’s and now your review.

    it’s a different sort of movie…worth catching! – nita.

  6. August 31, 2008 2:47 pm

    And oh Wall E has been released in India. Watch it!!

  7. August 31, 2008 5:23 pm

    Nice review Nita. 🙂 And watch Wall E too if you have time. I saw it today and its very good. I won’t be writing a review as I am feeling very sleepy. 🙂 Its a pity though, that the theatre was half empty…

    yeah, in my case theatre was three quarters empty. I guess most people think that animation is for kids…but this movie is for adults as well. I might be writing a review, but not today or tomorrow. As it is, I wasn’t planning to write this review today (I wrote the Wanted review yesterday but didn’t publish it) but then I finally did! – nita.

  8. August 31, 2008 5:54 pm


  9. August 31, 2008 6:27 pm

    I found this movie quite slow and predictable…. but as you said, it was pleasant.

    Overall: ok 🙂

    agreed, it was predictable and that can get a tad irritating! – nita

  10. August 31, 2008 8:12 pm

    I am gonna watch this movie soon too 🙂

  11. Nitin permalink
    September 1, 2008 12:51 am

    well seen thats movie today n must say one of da best hindi movie that i eva seen, must be awarded. All da crew of rock on worked so superb. farhan voice is damn good, we not need to go for any idol when he sings so good 🙂 cheers

  12. September 1, 2008 1:35 am

    I am afraid I wasted my time seeing Wall*E this week and did not get time to see any more movies. By the way thats an excellent movie as well if you get time check that out.

    even seeing an excellent movie is a waste of time? looks like you are workoholic! – nita.

  13. September 1, 2008 10:56 am

    Hey Glad to hear you liked the movie too. I am going again for it 😀

    yeah, this is one movie I could see again! – nita.

  14. sandy permalink
    September 1, 2008 11:57 am

    true meaning of friendship.

    Is ROCK ON!! DIL CHAHTA HAI 2, one is tempted to ask. DIL CHAHTA HAI was a trendsetter when you look back, paving way for storytellers who wanted a new story to tell. Now, the DIL CHAHTA HAI team of Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar with director Abhishek Kapoor deliver ROCK ON!!, a film that makes you understand the true meaning of friendship

    In a nutshell, here’s a film you just can’t afford to miss. We’ve had our share of masala films week after week. Now have a look at a film that India can proudly showcase to the West. ROCK ON!! simply rocks!

    I agree, this is one film we can be proud of. We in India may not be technically as good as hollywood but I think when it comes to movie-making we can make the best. We have a lot of talent in our country and this movie proves it. – nita.

  15. September 1, 2008 12:13 pm

    Oops I came here to tell you that you’ve been tagged by the Rock On tag here –

    But you already wrote your thoughts nevertheless the tag remains 🙂

  16. September 1, 2008 12:54 pm

    whoa…!!! nita
    rock fan?

    “For us bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were the gods of rock.”

    coolest line in that post….
    on a personal note…i think would be even cooler if it included “The Who”.

    what market was this movie catering to…. english rock with hindi lyrics. a genre not known to much people.

    personally think “Almost Famous”[] is one of the best Rock movies ever made. but it kind of captures the later period of rock, “the death rattle” as one character says in the movie.

    know any movie which captures the 60’s hippie/counter-culture movement ? the so-called glorious period of rock.

    I missed “The Who.” you are right, they were “it.” I have no idea who this movie is trying to target, but I think our audience could still like it, because the movie has a sweet message and there is a sweet story to it as well although not much suspense. I don’t know any movie which captures rock music, perhaps some english movie does, but don’t know. – nita.

  17. September 1, 2008 12:56 pm

    This is the 3rd review for this movie i am reading today 😀
    I am going to see it right away.. 😉

    enjoy! I think I could see this movie again, and I can’t say that about many movies. – nita.

  18. September 1, 2008 1:17 pm

    Been hearing a lot about this movie! I have to watch it now! 😀

    good to hear that you’ve decided to watch a movie! 🙂 – nita.

  19. September 1, 2008 1:52 pm

    I want to see this movie !!! Great review.
    Nita you rock! 🙂

    Yeah I know. 😉 – nita.

  20. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 1, 2008 5:10 pm

    Oh No!Reading the review makes me want to go and see the movie,but I am just worried, it might not measure up!
    “For us bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were the gods of rock.”
    They still are I suppose.I truly think music died in the 70s.
    Also you can add to the list Pink Floyd,The Doors,Jethro Tull,Jimi Hendrix,Janis Joplin,Bob Dylan,The Rolling Stones ,The Who[As someone mentioned above]and of course The Beatles!Oh almost forgot Queen!
    For me the greatest rock movie [tribute to rock music]was “School of Rock”starring Jack Black.Love the soundtrack and love all the kids in it.

    I haven’t seen “school of rock” – thanks for that tip! And don’t expect too much from this movie, because one tends to compare it to most of the other movies going around currently and well, it’s far better than those. But it’s not a classic. it’s entertainment.
    And sad about rock music isn’t it! nowadays people prefer rap and hip-hop!! sacrilige, although I enjoy those genres too. – nita.

  21. September 1, 2008 5:19 pm

    Photo change. Good. This post had hit WP homepage too yesterday.

    thanks for letting me know Reema. – nita.

  22. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 1, 2008 5:51 pm

    Its the economy that influences art[music] to a great extent I suppose.
    I belong to the old school of thought[though I am not old at all!lol],that a true artist must experience pain and suffering to create works of exquisite beauty.Try explaining that to the current generation, who have an attention span of a nanosecond and in need of constant stimulation.No wonder hip-hop is popular,as any lyrics beyond “I am too sexy for my shirt” are impossible to comprehend for them.Gosh, I hope I don’t sound too cynical.
    Do try and see “School of Rock”though.It is quite a heart warming film and if you love rock n roll,you are sure to love it.Jack Black,in a role of life-time, brings this crazy mad-dog ferocity to the movie that is fun to watch.I would have loved to be in his class!

    thanks Nitin…I guess each generation has their own pain. A different kind of pain. I think this constant stimulation requirement is a symptom of it. – nita.

  23. September 1, 2008 6:33 pm

    Thanks for the review Nita. I didn’t get the tickets yesterday. Will try next weekend, or if possible in the middle of the week.

    I think this movie is going to be a hit! A little suprising. – nita.

  24. September 1, 2008 7:01 pm

    Saw this movie yesterday. Enjoyed it. Loved the music….
    One thing I noticed was they dressed the same way even ten years ago i.e. in 1997-98.
    Love the new pic on the header 🙂

    thanks. 🙂 – nita.

  25. September 2, 2008 12:27 am

    @ Nitin

    bro !!!
    “School of Rock” is one of my favorite movies too… Infact i got my hands on that dvd in my 3rd year in college just when my roommate bought a pc.

    And these guys where discussing what movie to play to officially inaugurate the coming of the pc to our room, i was like screaming “School of Rock” and even managed to convert a guy to “The Church of Rock and Roll” after making him watch the movie. :p
    ha ha !!!
    memories….am pumped[adding “the immigrant song” to the playlist] 🙂
    here’s plant screaming aaaaahhaaaa ah!!!

  26. September 2, 2008 3:31 am

    Music died in the ’70s?
    Jeez, I don’t think U2, Sting, Coldplay are any lesser than the earlier rock icon groups. History could even judge them better.
    Rock On was nice, and may be worth a second watch, I agree.

  27. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 2, 2008 4:21 am

    Ha ha.Ya mate.
    “We come from the land of the ice and snow,
    from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow”. “Valhalla,I am coming”
    U2 and The Police were formed in the mid to late 70s and are in no way a recent phenomenon.There have been a few good bands after that e.g.Nirvana and Pearl Jam are a couple that come to mind and Coldplay is definitely up there.But in the 60s and 70s music was a movement and a form of rebellion for social change.And the greatest lyrics and music were created in that era.One only needs to listen to a Janis Joplin number and tell that the pain is real and not manufactured.
    @Nita Thanks for responding to my earlier comment and apologies for taking the discussion away from the movie.But rock is something I feel strongly about and could not help myself!:)

    I enjoyed the little dialogue Nitin. And glad you explained the points to Rdoc. I agree, the greatest lyrics and music were created in that era. – nita.

  28. September 2, 2008 12:12 pm

    @Rdoc: Music didn’t die in the 70’s, it died on August 1st, 1981.

    Secondly, what yardstick do you judge good music by when you say, “History could even judge them better.” I always thought things like music, food etc were always subjective.

    @eh: As good as Almost Famous was, I would have to throw This is Spinal Tap into the ring; and original music that will “blow the school of rock out your butt”. That isn’t to say school of rock was bad, just to clarify.

    I agree with Nitin that rock and heavy metal has lost some of its meaning in recent times with almost a prophetic re-enactment of This is Spinal Tap. Having said that, I am not sure Rock and Heavy Metal were ever a “rebellion for social change”. That is not to deny some of the rock music that did intend to do that, but then again, every genre has their social change messages, including Rap and Hip-Hop.

    Talking about the decline of Rock, and music in general reminds me of a great movie, Before The Music Dies.

    I believe the download costs 3 Dollars.

  29. September 2, 2008 3:17 pm

    @ TDD,
    i was expecting someone’s going to mention it.
    yes, of course. heard of it .

    The torrent file of that movie is lying in my hard disk for more than six months now and I’m yet to download the movie.
    will try to watch it…this week.

  30. September 2, 2008 6:38 pm

    The story seems to start off like That Thing you do. Good Review, I will be watching it soon, yet to hear the audio.

  31. September 2, 2008 7:40 pm

    Nice review Nita.
    Maybe I’m too critical about the movie (in my blog)?

  32. September 2, 2008 10:45 pm

    This movie is essentially about two things…about relationships and about music.

    Agreed! Let’s extend the ‘music’ to about any passion (as you do in that last paragraph). *That* is the biggest message I got from the film, that it’s never too late.

    I’m starting to feel more confident in Farhan Akhtar and Imran Khan (and perhaps Ranbir Kapoor) leading the way for the next generation of actors. Rock On is fantastic, and we could use plenty more sensible and fun-filled cinema like this! Thanks for sharing that billboard picture..I miss Bombay 😥

  33. September 2, 2008 10:55 pm

    Its been about a week since I gave Rock On full marks in my review and I’ve been asking people about their opinions since then. Amazingly, most people I talked to have compared it with DCH. Trust me, it is very different from Farhan’s directorial debut.

  34. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:45 am

    Yes you are right.Rock probably did not begin as a means of social change but it got that form in the 60s and 70s.
    You are correct about rap having a social context as well. NWA,Tupac,Arrested Development and Public Enemy etc.were essentially about that.But it got taken over by these fakers and wannabe gangsters .The effect of this genre has watered down since then.
    Might check out your movie recommendation this weekend.Cheers.

  35. September 3, 2008 7:03 am

    Superb movie! I could relate to it so much… the nervousness, worrying about money, juggling with other things in life and at the end of it when you get to jam, its bliss 🙂

  36. raveesh permalink
    September 3, 2008 10:32 am

    WELL DONE magic,

    it’s ia a really nice movie, in this tye of movie presentation is so important and Abhishek do his awesome job. In this movie all charater do his good job. and director focus on every one too.

    Movie looks like a real story nothing is forced that is the good part of the movie.
    in this movie we can find the intelligent cinema which is the specialty of this decade, a story comes from real life and the way of presentation is very good that’s why people like it.


  37. gumnaam permalink
    September 3, 2008 5:04 pm

    bekaar hai bilkul 🙂

  38. September 3, 2008 5:34 pm

    Half way thru the movie, I feel its good but slow ..
    well, I am not so good in reviewing movies 😉 it takes minimum two days for me to finish watching one 😛

  39. Felix permalink
    September 4, 2008 8:49 pm

    Wow.. awesome… mindblowing… fantastic…. movie this was..!! I’m really happy that i watched a real good movie after a long time. Thanks folks for your reviews… it really made me watch the movie.


  40. sachin permalink
    September 5, 2008 7:05 pm

    good film to watch upto the end. i can only say good value for money.u wont be worrying about the time and money you spent…….

  41. Tina permalink
    September 7, 2008 6:46 am

    Rock On was dyamm good. Arjun can FINALLY act man. I used to think he was a log but he has potential. Farhan over acts I feel. The girl playing Arjun’s wife needs to stop overarching her brows so much. I thought she was OTT with her acting man. Didn’t like her at all. I like Luke. Man oh Man was he funny. Check out his take on “I will survive” FUNNY AS HELL. Prachi as Sakshi was SUPERB. Fitted the role perfectly!

  42. Suraj Singh permalink
    September 7, 2008 3:43 pm

    It is a copy of Still Crazy.

    In the seventies Strange Fruit were it. They lived the rock lifestyle to the max, groupies, drugs, internal tension and an ex front man dead from an overdose. Even their demise was glamorous; when lightning struck the stage during an outdoor festival. 20 years on and these former rock gods they have now sunk deep into obscurity when the idea of a reunion tour is lodged in the head of Tony, former keyboard player of the Fruits. Tony sets out to find his former bandmates with the help of former manager Karen to see if they can recapture the magic and give themselves a second chance

  43. September 8, 2008 9:39 pm

    Farhan Akhtar stands out. He’s really different. On the lines of Aamir Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker and a select few keeping respect alive in the Indian film industry.

  44. September 8, 2008 10:35 pm

    Good review. I have seen a similar movie like this in malayalam in 2001. Can’t remember the name.

  45. vinay sahu permalink
    September 11, 2008 10:51 am

    I watched it last night….movie was a big disappointment for me. it was not at all like 4 star. I think money was given to media for reporting it well. None of the charater was fitting the role. Sceans very not edited well. Every where loophole in story. Not at all inspiring. Now on i will not beleave times of India rating.

  46. Nitin Mahajan permalink
    September 13, 2008 6:38 pm

    Saw this one last night and all I can say is ,it is everything I had expected it to be.

    It was incredibly painful for me to watch the “Bollywoodisation”of rock.

    But I agree your conclusion above, that //”I loved this movie and perhaps it is
    because I could identify with it instantly. For two reasons. The story is about going back
    into the past and reminiscing with old friends,
    it’s about bringing the magic back into one’s life, and it’s also about rock music.”//

    I could partly identify with some of the characters as I have been part of a band in my college days and I can identify with the passion that makes people opt for poetry,instead of investment banking.

    Main problems I had with the movie:

    Where are the original rock songs?They have made a movie about rock music, without any rock songs whatsoever.

    The songs are so lame and Farhan Akhtar sounds like a frog.Lyrical content = zero.I do not know why we cannot write original poetry[or rock songs],perhaps because we have lost our language.Hindi has become as foreign as English.

    They could have got some original Indi rockers e.g. Parikrama for the soundtrack.

    Some parts of the movie appear to be lifted e.g. the part about the argument with the producer during the
    recording session, appears to be lifted from Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”.In this scene Jim Morrisson loses it,
    after watching “Light my fire”set to an ad jingle.

    Nitin, yes you are right, there is no real rock in this movie, the music is a compromise. But then I guess if there was the kind of music that you and me enjoy, not many others would have enjoyed it. I am crazy about The Doors.- Nita.

  47. September 14, 2008 5:21 pm

    How could you write this much… 🙂 …. 🙂

  48. Dienver permalink
    September 20, 2008 7:25 am

    “For us bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were the gods of rock.”

    Strong words there! I personally am a Metalhead, more than a rock fanatic, but i cant deny my love for rock. And its always a pleasant surprise to find a genuine rock fan these days. What with the invasion of rap, hip hop and “bollywood” out here, i hardly ever meet people who can in anyway relate to rock. I’ve just been avoiding watching the movie, knowing fully well that I’ll be disappointed with, as the above comment mentioned, the “bollywoodisation” of rock. It feels almost like blasphemy. But then again, i guess I’m being too picky as always, .. So will I watch this movie, now that I’ve read your beautiful review? Frankly, never. But I do hope the the rock lovers in here do something to get the deserving crowds back some music which has a soul 🙂 ..

    Awesome review, but I guess I’d rather skip the movie to avoid being disappointed n disgusted at the commercialization of the rock by people and for people who think its all about wearing a “rock star’s” clothes and having an attitude problem. It felt great to have met so many Rock fans here though. I doubt I’ll ever be back to this blog, not being a fan of Indian movies, but its been a pleasure reading these posts n that warm review 🙂


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