‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’ Review: Alia Bhatt & Ranveer Singh Led Karan Johar Film Is Pretty Good!

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It’s difficult to say if Bollywood movies need good trailer editors or if the act of releasing bad trailers is doing a good job of setting your expectations to zero so that you can be surprised while watching the film. To give you some context, every piece of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani‘s promotional material was absolutely atrocious. The marketing team probably thought that they didn’t have a lot to work with because the songs functioned properly within the narrative only, and the film didn’t have a ton of sweeping visuals to choose from. But the fact that they selected a bunch of bad jokes and the screechiest moments to sell the film felt bizarre and really killed any kind of anticipation that I could have mustered. At the same time, I was unprepared for its take on patriarchy, matriarchy, feminism, male empathy, and more. Is this a case of “mission failed successfully”? Possibly, yes.

Karan Johar’s directorial film opens with Rocky Randhawa. He is the grandson of Dhanalakshmi Randhawa and Kanwal Lund, the son of Tijori and Poonam Radhawa, and the brother of Gayatri. Rocky is supposed to be the CEO of Dhanalakshmi’s empire of sweets, even though his interests lie in bodybuilding and dancing. The plot is kicked into motion when the amnesiac Kanwal utters the name Jamini, and with just one Google search, Rocky finds out that this Jamini is connected to one Rani Chatterjee. Rani is a journalist who obliterates male politicians within seconds. She is Jamini’s granddaughter and Chandon and Anjali Chatterjee’s daughter. In an attempt to reunite the long-lost lovers, Kanwal and Jamini, as you can guess from the title, Rocky and Rani fall in love. However, Rani isn’t open to marrying Rocky because she thinks they are too different, and more importantly, their families are too different. That’s why Rocky suggests Rani stay with his family while he goes and stays with her family and hopes to bridge the gap before deciding about their future.

I know, that is a lot. But it’s a Karan Johar film. If it’s anything less than this, then something is wrong with it. Everything between Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and My Name Is Khan had a lot going on. But, along with his writers, Karan managed to craft satisfying conclusions while sending a somewhat relevant message to his target audience. In Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, writers Ishita Moitra, Shashank Khaitan, and Sumit Roy were tasked with crafting a quintessential Karan Johar Bollywood movie while staying updated with the times and not playing out like every other inter-cultural story. And I have to say that they have done a great job. If you see it from the perspective of each of the families, the Randhawas personify regression, and the Chatterjees personify progressiveness. Yes, yes, I am aware that these are still upper-caste Hindu cultures, but if change is sparked amongst the majority community, I guess they’ll seek to rectify their vices and reflect upon the oppression they’ve inflicted upon minorities. Anyway, the issues that the Randhawas cover range from patriarchy, internalized patriarchy, fat shaming, sexism, and their general pride in passing down those values from one generation to another. The Chatterjees’ issues are largely limited to snobbery.

When the aforementioned families cross paths, the process of self-correction is what makes up the meat of the story of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. The Randhawas being forced to reckon with their toxic practices is obvious but not flaky. Every time Rani clashes with anyone from Rocky’s family, the writers highlight a regressive practice that has become the norm. Without spoiling anything, there’s an extensive monologue by Gayatri, who has borne the brunt of her family’s oppression, and it’s so riveting that it should be played in every single house where a woman’s potential to be self-sufficient is being squashed. However, when the focus shifts to the Chatterjees, they are forced to answer the burning question: if they think they are so educated and culturally superior, why don’t they impart their values to people instead of othering them? Of course, it’s impossible to enlighten a person who doesn’t have an open mind, especially at a time when being bigoted is being championed. But the writers put forth the argument that if someone has even an inkling of interest in learning and becoming better, they should be guided by those who are knowledgeable. Or else, what’s the point of being educated? And I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. So, kudos to the writers for succinctly presenting the many messages in the film.

One of my biggest concerns about Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was its pacing. It’s a 3-hour movie. Yes, Karan Johar has made movies of that duration in the past, and let me tell you something: regardless of my love for the ones that I like, I have to admit that they do test your patience. His latest directorial effort, though, is impeccably paced. Every single scene leads into the next in a very smooth fashion. They have a beautiful rhythm to them, and you are never taken out of the viewing experience. The humor, the emotions, the occasional sleaze, the sensitivity of certain moments—all of it has a degree of sincerity and earnestness that has been missing in Bollywood films. And it’s good to see Hindi movies embrace the corniness that they are synonymous with. There are two dance sequences involving Tota Roy Chowdhury, whose opening beats are shot (by Manush Nandan) and edited (by Nitin Baid), like the bit where Tom Cruise revs his bike before jumping off a cliff in Mission: Impossible 7. The Dutch angles and the quick cuts between Tota’s postures are cinematic, and hence epic. That’s what we need more of. The self-awareness should be in the text. Everything else should be fully committed to immersing us in the narrative.

Okay, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani isn’t without its flaws. There’s a point where it becomes a Saregama Caravan Radio commercial instead of digging deeper into the romance. The costumes aren’t inspirational and too inspired by what people wear in real life. The closing credits sequence seems like a jewelry commercial, and it looks nothing like the rest of the film. Talking about looks, the film’s cinematography is lackluster. Yes, Karan Johar does employ a couple of long takes to emphasize Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt’s acting chops. But, overall, it’s so devoid of texture and proper lighting. There is a scene involving the Randhawas where the rain pouring outside is meant to create ripples across the room and echo the rivers flowing down the eyes of the characters. However, the use of shadow and light isn’t dynamic enough, thereby putting all the responsibility on the actors to pull off that scene (which they do). I’ll admit that the subpar projectors and the inefficiency of the employees who use them can be at fault here too. The songs don’t work on their own. When the plot gives them the necessary build-up, you can understand why it’s there. Otherwise, it’s a big no-no. The only memorable song is Lover by Diljit Dosanjh, which Dharma Productions has evidently licensed. Like every other Karan Johar film, it is a little indulgent when it comes to references and callbacks. The only one that made me point at the screen is when Jaya Bachchan does a version of Amitabh’s very toxic and purposefully triggering line from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum. The rest neither bothered me nor generated any kind of interest.

Coming to the performances in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, everyone is amazing. Jaya Bachchan has the right flavor of intimidating and conniving. Shabana Azmi is so tender and welcoming. Dharmendra, despite his limited screen time, manages to make an impact. Tota Roy Chowdhury is unbelievably good. I mean, as a Bengali, I know that he is one of the best actors, and yet he shocked and awed me in the most elegant way imaginable. The same can be said of Churni Ganguly. Her character is just on the brink of caricature, but she manages to make her a beacon of wisdom and grace. Aamir Bashir is the exact opposite of that, in terms of the role he plays. His imposing nature is scary, and his flashes of introspection are gut-wrenching. Kshitee Jog is brilliant as she transforms from a woman who makes excuses for the oppression she faces to a woman who celebrates her talent. Anjali Anand is Karan’s secret weapon, as she slowly builds her presence and then burns the screen with her monologue. You’ve got to be chronically online to know why Namit Das’s Soumen is there, and I hate it on a personal level. He didn’t need to be there, and yet there he is, stinking up every scene he’s in, much like the real-life person the character is likely based on.

The stars of the show, Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh, truly deserve the spotlight they get. Both of them are playing to their strengths. Ranveer is as loud, brash, flirty, and overwhelming as he is in real life. Alia is as loud, eloquent, cute, charming, and astonishing as she is in real life. So, there’s nothing surprising about the fact that they shine in the moments where they are essentially playing themselves. It’s in the moments where they are acting against the stereotypes that they are boxed into that you get to see their range. There are several instances where Rocky is so out of his depth that he can’t express himself. He stutters, he can’t stand straight, and he can’t look people in the eye. And Ranveer stuns you with his nuanced portrayal of Rocky. Rani is the most intelligent person in any room that she’s in. Alia has garnered quite the reputation for being the exact opposite, and you can sort of blame Karan Johar for that. However, in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, there’s not a single second where Alia fails to convince you that Rani can take you down in a battle of intellect. Ranveer and Alia’s chemistry is scorching hot, and they are amazing in the scenes that they share with the aforementioned talented folk.

In conclusion, Karan Johar’s film is pretty good. Contrary to my belief, it doesn’t repackage traditionalism as modern values. Instead, it unpacks everything that has defined traditionalism and replaces it with very tangible modern values. It echoes a sentiment that I’ve stated many times in my life: elders in families cannot expect respect just because they are old. Respect needs to be earned in order to forge a sustainable and healthy relationship. So, it makes total sense why I like this film so much. I have to warn you, though, that the CBFC has worked its magic on the film by censoring certain words that undercut the entire point of those scenes. If you don’t want to support censored art, it’s totally up to you. In this case, I think the stuff that’s in the film is more important than what has been idiotically cut out. Therefore, I think you should give it a chance. Watch it by yourself or with your friends and/or family, form your own opinion, and share it with all of us.


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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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