You know it's a Karan Johar classic when you see grand palatial homes, uber-rich families, spoonfuls of melodrama, an ensemble cast and well-dressed and good-looking actors onscreen. Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani is all of that and more.
When Karan Johar announced his special project on his 25 glorious years in the film industry with his muse Alia Bhatt as the lead, expectations were high. With Ranveer Singh's energy and Bhatt's acting prowess, it was sure to draw crowds. The film's marketing and promotion campaigns added to the hype and the fact that Karan Johar was returning to the director's chair after five years, (his last directorial venture was Lust Stories in 2018 and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil in 2016) made the film highly anticipated.
RARKPK strikes the right chord with the audience and goes on to show how Johar has matured and polished himself over his two-and-a-half decades in the film industry. One would almost call it a feminist 2023 retelling of his Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Almost every scene of the film attempts to deliver a message, at times it may feel too didactic. But layer by layer, it also peels away one's conditioning, questioning the workings of Indian society, its set norms, and stereotypical notions.
Rocky Randhawa, a rich Punjabi boy from a business-class family goes on to find the love of his grandfather's (Dharmendra) life in an attempt to rekindle his spirit. Rani Chatterjee, who is the granddaughter of Jamini (Shabana Azmi) meets Rocky, and a strong attraction between the two brews. Things get intense and they end up having a casual affair. When Rocky proposes Rani, the clear demarcation between their ways of life and their families and cultural backgrounds glares at them. To understand each other's culture better, they decide to live with each other's families for three months.
Jaya Bachchan plays the matriarch of Rocky's family and is a reflection of Amitabh Bachchan's self in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - the all-demanding and controlling leader of the family set in their ways and unaccepting of any change. The women in the Randhawa household have no voice and dreams while in the Chatterjee family, women stand strong. The film draws on the typical cultural clash between a pakka Punjabi and a polished Bengali.
Both Alia and Ranveer deliver apt performances while Jaya maintains her angry woman stance in the film too. The parallel love story between Dharmendra and Shabana Azmi entertains the audience and is a sweet value addition.
From questioning one's inherent notions of skin colour to giving women their autonomy back, body shaming and fighting orthodox ideals; from not perceiving men as the stronger gender to portraying a man happily following his dream of being a kathak dancer despite society questioning his choices - the film is a handbook on how to be a feminist.
One wonders if the film tries too hard to please the audience and be politically correct one scene after the other. The overall tone and the storyline, however, impress and entertain the audience. Johar seems to have learned and grown from his previous experiences, as he recently admitted that a lot of things Rahul said (in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) were wrong. Keeping in mind the simpler times of the day back then, no one seemed to have minded but Johar in 2023 knows better!
Film: Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani
Director: Karan Johar
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi