Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani: Inclusivity In Karan Johar Style

The director subverts some of his own themes from his previous films; a case in point being how fear is looked upon as respect in our culture.

Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani is everything that you expect from the filmmaker. There are larger-than-life sets and exquisite costumes among other things.

At the same time, the director subverts some of his own themes from his previous films; a case in point being how fear is looked upon as respect in our culture.

The film also makes a strong case for inclusivity through Tota Roy Chowdhury’s character who loves Kathak which is looked upon as a female dance form. It also makes a strong case for inclusivity between two vastly different cultures — Punjabi and Bengali.

Synopsis

Rocky Aur Rani ki Prem Kahaani begins with the introduction of Rocky and Rani (Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt respectively).

Rocky is introduced through a dance number where he is surrounded by many women, including Janhvi Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, and Ananya Pandey (in special appearances).

He is dancing his heart out; but as soon as his grandmother Dhanalakshmi (Jaya Bachchan) appears, he scampers away because he is afraid of her and also his father.

Dhanalakshmi is the owner of a sweet shop — Dhanalakshmi Group. Rocky is the future heir to this business venture.

After the introduction of Ranveer, we move to Alia Bhatt’s Rani Chatterjee. She is introduced as this firebrand journalist who isn’t afraid to take on the Jugular.

The viewers see her grilling a minister about the rising rape cases by uttering a powerful dialogue: “Nazare Kharab Aapki Parde Kare Hum” (You ever tease us and we have to hide behind the curtains).

This sets the base for the drama to follow.

Rocky’s grandfather Kanwal (Dharmendra) is bedridden most of the time because of paralysis. He suffers from memory loss, too.

He has half picture of a woman in one of his books and Rocky believes that this woman might be the key to his grandfather regaining his memory.

The woman turns out to be Rani Chatterjee’s grandmother Jamini Chatterjee (Shabana Azmi). She is a cultural icon known among her intellectual gatherings.

Rocky arranges a meeting between his grandfather and Jamini through Rani.

Real kahaani

Rani initially treats him in a patronising way. But after some flirtation and through some old Hindi songs, they both fall for each other.

Rani isn’t sure about getting into a relationship with Rocky, given the many differences. But she eventually gives in.

However, things are far from easy as both families are contrastingly different from each other.

While the Chatterjees are woke, the Randhawas are as rigid as you get.

Taking the Telugu film Bommarillu (2006) route, the couple decides to go for a swap. Rani starts living with the Randhawas and Rocky with the Chatterjees.

Rani initially treats him in a patronising way. But after some flirtation and through some old Hindi songs, they both fall for each other.

Rani isn’t sure about getting into a relationship with Rocky, given the many differences. But she eventually gives in.

However, things are far from easy as both families are contrastingly different from each other.

While the Chatterjees are woke, the Randhawas are as rigid as you get.

Taking the Telugu film Bommarillu (2006) route, the couple decides to go for a swap. Rani starts living with the Randhawas and Rocky with the Chatterjees.

Rani faces severe opposition from Dhanalakshmi as she doesn’t like her firebrand nature. on the other hand, Rocky faces cultural issues. In a hilarious scene, he thinks that Rabindranath Tagore is Rani’s grandfather because of his long beard.

Whiff of nostalgia

The best part of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani is how the director uses old Hindi songs at important junctures.

For example, Dharmendra sings “Abhi Na Jao Chod Ke” for the first time when his character regains his memory.

Some of the other songs include “Yeh Shaam Mastani“, “O Saathi Chal“, and “Do Dil Mil Rahe Hai“. These old songs are a character in itself.

However, the best usage has to be “Dola Re Dola” from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002). The song starts off with Tota Roy Chowdhury performing in Durga Puja.

Ranveer’s Rocky joins him much to the delight of Alia Bhatt’s Rani and to the horror of Jaya Bachchan. Here the director is clearly subverting gender stereotypes.

Alia and Ranveer hold the fort

What also works for Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani is how Ranveer and Alia play off each other’s energies. Their contrasting personalities work for the film.

Ranveer Singh as Rocky brings the house down with his faulty English and uninhibited performance. The actor equally shines in the scenes showcasing Rocky’s fragile side.

The best example is the emotional moment that he shares with Alia’s father Chandon Chatterjee (Tota Roy Chowdary).

Alia Bhatt plays the firebrand journalist with the finesse that you expect from her. She more than holds her own opposite the veteran actors. She is first-rate in the dramatic bits like the showdown that happens between her and Rocky post the “Dhindora” song.

Veterans steal the show

Another thing that works for the film is the bonding between Dharmendra and Shabana Azmi. Their scenes bring a smile to the viewer’s face.

Dharmendra doesn’t have many dialogues, but the actor is still quite good. Shabana Azmi is a picture of grace and poise. Some of her dialogues are truly wonderful.

For instance, there is a scene where Jamini opens up about why she fell in love with Kanwal and how she doesn’t regret it.

Jamini also adds that she got more love from Kanwal in just seven days than she got from her husband in their entire marriage. Further, she talks about how her grandfather wasn’t as polished as Rani thinks him to be.

Tota Roy Chowdhury is in a wonderful form as the man who loves Kathak and takes pride in being a dancer. There is a heart-touching scene where he talks about how he was the only male student in his dance class.

Jaya Bachchan as Dhanalakshmi is more or less a personification of all patriarchal characters, including her husband. She seems to have taken revenge on behalf of all the women characters who have been subjugated by them — Sweet Vengence.

Technical crafts

Pritam’s music isn’t exactly a blockbuster but still, it works on the big screen. “Dhindora Baje Re” and “Ve Kamleya” are easily the best of the lot.

Dhindora Baje Re” is further enhanced by the intense scene which precedes the song.

What Jhumka” makes for a perfect Sangeet number. Alia’s dance moves in sarees particularly stand out.

The cinematography by Manush Nandan is appropriately glossy. He captures the wide canvas of the film well through his lens. Having said that, for some, the canvas may come across as too glossy.

Final take

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani does remind you of 2 States (2014) and Bommarillu. However, this cultural and family clash is hugely enjoyable if you buy into Karan Johar’s world.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

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