When the script is truly king and direction taut, you might forgive the other aspects of a film. Or it could be when stellar performances carry a weak script through. But, true cinematic art happens when all aspects transcend themselves, and come together to create magic on the big screen.
Magik, the band from Farhan Akhtar's 2008 film, Rock On, returns in this 142-minute sequel which is adman Shujaat Saudagar's mainstream directorial debut. The band, minus Luke Kenny (he dies in the first film), has added Shraddha Kapoor in a fitting role and Titli star, Shashank Arora.
The film looks at what the members are doing eight years on. Joe Mascarenhas (Arjun Rampal) runs a live gig club and is a celebrity judge on reality shows—the film touches upon how participants' emotions are manipulated by show producers to crank up TRPs. KD (Purab Kohli) is mostly just excited to make music each time the friends get together, while an incident has led to a darkly-bearded Aditya Shroff (Farhan Akhtar) plugging a burden of guilt into a search for meaning. Living in a village in Meghalaya, he helps run a farming cooperative with the locals, while continuing to write poetry. As events unfold, the band gets together for a big charity concert to help farmers after their village was gutted in a forest fire. It touches upon local corruption, and how the state turns people against their own. Jiah Sharma (Shraddha Kapoor) faces stiff opposition for her kind of music by her purist father (played by Kumud Mishra), a classical musician, who must cross over his own blocks.
The film, shot in Shillong and other parts of Meghalaya, weaves a reflective tone in its camera work. Thankfully, without a touristy eye. The story has the Farhan Akhtar trademark urban themes of friendship and finding the self. It also looks at an individual's unburdening of guilt and human bonds as opposed to easy romantic relationships.
The filmmakers' hearts are in the right place. They have attempted to bring India's northeast to mainstream cinema. Shillong is known as the country's rock capital. However, Saudagar has not been able to dig in deeper or long enough to spring forth what would have made a musical film pulsate on the big screen. There isn't much context to the politics of the region or why it's known for its music.
The story of Magik sticks to the script (which tries to pack in too much) and the performances are competent (the trio, now older, look tired though). The cinematic elements, however, stop short of transcending themselves to create magic one hopes from a film like this.
Film: Rock On 2
Director: Shujaat Saudagar
Cast: Shraddha Kapoor, Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Prachi Desai, Shashank Arora
Rating: 3 / 5