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Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani - changa bhaalo

Kangana Ranaut, eat your heart out ! After the abjectly dismal performances, both acting and box office wise, of her last few outings such as Simran (2017), Judgementall Hai Kya (2019) and Dhaakad (2022), it would behoove her to not opine on the likes of SRK and Pathaan (2023), Christopher Nolan and Oppenheimer (2023) and now KJo and his latest offering, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. Even in the wildest fevered dreams of all her multiple personalities combined, she won't come anywhere close in her present unhinged avatar to making blockbusters that embody everything that is unabashedly ISO-9001 certified, full of seetis-and-taalis masala Hindi cinema.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and thus incredibly, two distinct but narrow strata of society are aligned - one is too frou frou and snootily looks down upon Hindi cinema as an inherently inferior product, and the other that belongs to the newly formed, social media trolls of the boycott gang that reflexively hates upon anything modern in outlook. For both of them, these movies are persona non grata, but the vast majority of the audience just wants to be entertained (the theater I was in was whooping with delight) with song and dance, music, comedy, drama and emotion worn on the sleeve. And on that front, Karan Johar is the undisputed champion.

You don't, and shouldn't, go to a KJo movie expecting a treatise on Marx, Engels and the evils of capitalism, or a Bimal Roy or Mrinal Sen inspired arthouse cinema. You have to walk in mentally sporting your designer Armani clothes, Manolo Blahnik shoes, and Prada swag swooping in in your Lamborghini, and imagine you inhabit a world that doesn't exist anywhere on Earth other than his rich imagination. Once you surrender to that vibe, you will answer an emphatic "Yes !" to the question posed by Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator (2000), "Are you not entertained?" From his first movie 25 years ago, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) to Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) to Student of the Year (2012) to now with RARKPH, he has had zero qualms about being the purveyor of those rose-tinted Gucci glasses.

And who better to carry that devil-may-care attitude than the actor who personifies that in today's industry, Ranveer Singh. The man has charm, charisma and chutzpah that he can give away in bulk at Costco. He plays Rocky Randhawa, the scion of a wealthy Punjabi family that lives in a house, nay McMansion, in New Delhi that makes Buckingham Palace look like a fixer upper. His grandmother Dhanlakshmi Randhawa (Jaya Bachchan) is the iron jawed and fisted matriarch ruling over everything from the mithai business to the family affairs. His grandfather, Kanwal Lund (it's pronounced with a double o sound not an u, I swear) is played by Dharmendra. Through a quirk of fate, Rocky meets Rani Chatterjee (Alia Bhatt), a TV news anchor from a bhadralok Bengali family. She is intrigued by his attitude and bearing which is completely at odds with hers. Her father Chandon Chatterjee (Tota Roy Choudhury) is a Kathak dancer and her mother Anjali (Churni Ganguly) is an English professor who would put Shashi Tharoor's rodomontade in a state of fervid discombobulation. Her grandmother Jamini is played by the elegant Shabana Azmi. The chalk and cheese duo of Rocky and Rani and their equally oil and water families take on the challenge of swapping lives for 3 months (it's in the trailer so I am not giving away any spoilers). What follows is not just the expected comedy (the Emraan Hashmi reference to Dharmendra had me LMAO) and emotion, but a look at patriarchy, misogyny, ageism, class and gender politics. The songs scored by Pritam are quite good especially "Tum Kya Mile" and "What Jhumka?". There is also a neat twist on a rendition of "Dola re dola" from Devdas (2002). There's also a boatload of golden oldies guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings.

At 2hr 48 mins, it could have been shortened by 15 mins and not lost its charm or essence. But that's a minor quibble in an ajab prem ki ghazab kahani.

July 31, 2023

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