11 Years Of ‘Rockstar’: Revisiting Imtiaz Ali’s Masterpiece On Its 11th Anniversary

It’s been 11 years since I first saw a movie that made me love cinema on a whole other level. Yes, I’m talking about “Rockstar.” The movie has a cult following; however, when it came out, I remember it being considered a “bad” movie that would affect the youth in a negative light. Fast forward to today, and we now know how much the soundtrack and cinematography of the film are appreciated by cinephiles. It is truly one of the best films directed by Imtiaz Ali, who also happens to be the film’s writer. A.R. Rahman’s album is the icing on the cake to the masterpiece that is “Rockstar.” I cannot help but think about artists like Kevin Parker (indie, synth-pop singers) when I watch the movie. The level of dedication Ranbir Kapoor has put into his role is commendable. Today, on the day “Rockstar” was released 11 years ago, let me tell you, I was bawling my eyes out again!

The story follows Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor) and his journey to becoming a world-famous rockstar. We see how, in his early days, he was influenced by Jim Morrison. We all know Jim Morrison and his story! How amazing he was in The Doors. Well, we see similarities between Jordan’s and Jim’s styles in the film. He is so obsessed with the idea of being Jim Morrison that his friends tease him by calling him “JJ.” He later comes up with the stage name “Jordan.” His real name is Janardhan Jakhar, and JJ is a very normal college-going boy with big dreams. Relatable? Definitely. 

Why I Think ‘Rockstar’ Is Timeless

I really think “Rockstar” is a movie that can be watched by any generation, even though the movie is surrounded by controversies around the character of Ranbir Kapoor, Jordan. Anyway, without digressing much, I want to bring attention to the fact that I have read how Ranbir Kapoor spent hours in A.R. Rahman’s studio to practice his role and read about the life of Kurt Cobain. Oh, Lord, don’t we all miss Nirvana?

The movie starts with a small montage and a track called “The Meeting Place” from its soundtrack. This montage is so beautiful that it reminds you of Nirvana, the band. Maybe that is why “Rockstar” is so close to the Indian fans who adore Nirvana and miss Kurt Cobain. I also want to point out how the movie is still relatable, even after 11 years. It is a rare talent that the director, Imtiaz, has. His movies have a way of always reaching the hearts of the audience with great depth; for example, a great movie by Imtiaz Ali is “Tamasha,” and the bonus in that movie too is Ranbir Kapoor, of course.

The Visual Aspect Of ‘Rockstar’

The cinematography in “Rockstar” is beyond words and cannot be described merely in phrases. The way the transitions are done between two different periods (the past and the present) is amazing. Remember the very first fighting scene? Jordan is seen fighting in Italy while he has a show at a very famous venue in Verona. This venue was built in 1913 and is very prestigious. It is an actual location where big music festivals are held every year.

A thing worth noting about Arena Verona is that the foundation’s objective is to carry out non-profit cultural activities, and “Rockstar” teaches us how you can become a world-famous star even if your background isn’t “Kapoor.” Also, it is amusing how Bollywood reached Italy back in 2011 and made “Rockstar,” which beats a lot of the good musicals I have seen offered by Hollywood. It is beautiful how metaphorical the movie can get at times. The blue and green synth added to the visuals, the music, the venues, and the acting skills of Ranbir Kapoor keep everything in balance—not too much, not too subtle.

The name of the “Wings on Fire Tour” gives you a hint of the “Icarus” reference. Why? Well, we all know the story of “Icarus” and how he flew too close to the sun. In the same way, we see Jordan destroying himself by not handling the fame and powers he gets after becoming a rock star. I think people in their late teens relate to the story of Jordan so much because, somewhere, they crave the same freedom Jordan obtained by becoming a recluse. There are actual studies that say being a loner can give you happiness (everyone’s time to shine! ), and you can actually sit and be creative.

In today’s world, where everything is about marketing and speed, being slow and taking your time to actually look inside yourself is something rare. It is exactly what “Rockstar” preaches: finding yourself. I do not see “Rockstar” as just a romantic musical; it is a blend of theatre with romance as a minute part of the same. The film teaches the youth their “haqq” (rights) and what they can actually become if they just stop and think about their creative powers.

“Rockstar” is a mysterious movie, and Jordan’s character dresses the same way a typical indie artist would. In a way, Jordan’s clothing style is very typical, but somehow you feel a connection to his aura. It is commendable how Ranbir Kapoor has played the character of a singer so well that we actually feel like he is indeed a singer; the veins on his neck show how hard he has practised method acting.

A.R Rahman’s Contribution

I feel that A.R. Rahman’s work should also be complimented in the same way we praise Ranbir Kapoor or Imtiaz Ali. Because without the mesmerizing Sufi album, “Rockstar” feels incomplete. Every track has a story, and every scene is magical in A.R. Rahman’s work. “Jo Bhi Main Kehna Chahun” is sung by Mohit Chauhan, like all the songs in the album, and it is one of my favorite tracks from the album.

In the movie, this song is the first track we get to see when JJ is beaten up by the police for merely performing at a bus stop. The significance of it is so strong because right at the beginning of the film, we see Jordan getting beaten up and traveling by bus. This shows Imtiaz’s power of direction. He perfectly connects the scenes with the lyrics of the song, and nowhere do we feel like complaining!

Talking about my favorite song ever, “Kun Faya Kun,” it definitely deserves a separate fanbase. But what does the term mean? Let me break it down in simple words, the word “Kun” means “be”, and “Faya Kun” means “so it becomes,” which means when God (Allah) gives an order, it happens. It is a very beautiful song where the singer talks about getting lost and trying to find the truth. The line “Koi bhi le rastaa, tu hai tu le hastaa” means that whichever road you (the singer) take, you smile. These lines show how content you can become if you just have faith. Here, the faith is in God, but one can have faith in himself because God is inside, even according to the song!

The other tracks like “Tum Ho” and “Tum Ko,” “The Dichotomy of Fame,” etc., are all amazingly produced. 

Final Words

Even though I have read comments that the movie is controversial because it propagates separatist ideologies, I beg to differ. The movie is a mirror of our society and is actually timeless. In one of the scenes, you can see a poster of Pink Floyd on Jordan’s wall, which caught my eye specifically. It is because Pink Floyd’s idea of music broke the rules during their era. It was a time of cold wars and brutality. Even though our situation is not quite the same, we can still relate to their songs, even today. For me, “Rockstar” is the personification of Pink Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of The Moon.” The ending of “Rockstar” is perfectly in sync with the song “Tum Ho,” and how it ends with a quote by Rumi is just mystical beyond words. Like JJ’s manager says, there is no success without suffering, and nobody can become big without struggling; “Rockstar” gives the youth inspiration to find solace in pain too. The movie is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

“Rockstar” is a 2011 musical drama film directed by Imtiaz Ali.

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Tarushi Patali
Tarushi Patali
Tarushi is an English Literature graduate, who is currently doing master's in mass communication from Mumbai. She loves making lists and is an avid reader. Also, she likes judging people by their movie taste. In her leisure time you would find her digging random conspiracy pages on Reddit!

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