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Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani Review: Soch Nayi, Swad Wahi

Last updated on: July 28, 2023 13:03 IST
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Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani packs in abundant entertainment and hat tips to the KJo brand, observes Sukanya Verma.

Karan Johar has tried something new in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani.

On the surface, it appears to be a boisterous parody in the body of a soap opera and the soul of a musical.

Dig deeper and you'll discover a shrewd subversion of traditions and values by the same man who popularised and glamorised its virtues to the hilt.

When a wealthy Punjabi family running a mithai empire, specializing in shuddh desi ladoos, crosses paths with a Bengali household of liberal elites and old money, friction is a foregone conclusion.

Individuals, ideologies and cultures clash over Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani's relentless quest in the art of living.

How to be and not to be and free oneself from the clutches of social conditioning and its malicious tendency to offend and attack anything that challenges its belief?

Can our person be removed from our politics?

Sounds heavy for a frothy fashionable romance replete with over-the-top shenanigans and larger-than-life showmanship, but it's these very out-of-the-box impulses to convince the hidden culprits in the audience into dusting off the cobwebs of their mind that drives KJo's tenth film in the 25th year of his career.


Overly showy and deliberately simplified, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani's excessive flamboyance (even a wrestling ring looks like a recycled Bhansali set) and incessant allusions to KJo's films come in good supply.

It takes some time to ease into its dialled-up tone, hodgepodge of accents and cocky display of wit while the tug-of-war between parampara, prathistha, yadda yadda and Ekla Chalo Re is under way, something Vicky Donor achieved in minimal effort.

Life is grand albeit passive at the Rocky residence or what Ranveer Singh calls the 'White House' run under the tight rein of the surly matriarch Dhanlaxmi Randhawa (Jaya Bachchan) responsible for turning their modest business into a money-spinning company.

'Keh diya na, bas keh diya,' she declares in a thundering tone, rejecting any possibility of autonomy, quite like her significant other's in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

An amnesiac husband (Dharmendra), compliant son (Aamir Bashir, always effective), docile daughter-in-law (Kshitee Jog) and their two children (Ranveer, Anjali Anand) on two ends of the health spectrum complete this dysfunctional family picture.

The Chatterjees fare a lot better.

They may be a whimsical lot, but have enough chill pills in their system to live and let live.

Alia Bhatt plays Rani, a fiery news anchor with a fashion editor's vibe.

Rani shares the roof of her ancestral haveli with her mom, a la-di-da English literature professor, the in-house Shashi Tharoor (a hysterical Churni Ganguly), her uppity Kathak dancer dad (Tota Roy Chowdhury) and grandmother Jamini (Shabana Azmi), the source of all the sophistication and refinement running in the family.

On discovering a past connection between Rocky's Bade Papa and Rani's Thakuma, they band together to play a go-between the oldies.

Nostalgic buttons are unabashedly pressed on as a fragile but adorable Dharmendra and serene Shabana Azmi throw caution to the winds.

How exactly it happened I am not sure, but soon enough Rocky and Rani are an item as well.

Before we know it, he's tugging her blouse strings, she's drooling over his rippling torso and they're romancing in the rain against a medley of old Hindi numbers. Saregama Carvaan's brazen product placement here could put Korean dramas to shame.

But it's a dreamy original song by Pritam in Kashmir that seals the deal where Rani's haute couture attendance at an NGO gig (Turkish dancers in the midst of a Kashmiri folk music recital) comes to realise between the workplace buffoon Somen (a droll Namit Das) and Rocky, the workout beefcake, the latter is a keeper.

Love stories rarely bother to find out if they can survive outside the sway of affection.

Rocky's rich romantic swears by the kuch kuch hota hai mantra, but hard nosed Rani knows the desi family syndrome is the buzz killer of all I do's.

So they decide to swap places like Saudagar's lovebirds and endear themselves to the senior citizens. After all, 'Rani ki uthani hai doli to banna padega Rajamouli.'

When the world of jamdanis and zardozi collide, Rocky learns self-sufficiency isn't the same as self-service at food courts and Rani's Rekha-like revolution resonating Khoosburat's Saare Neeyam Tod Do sentiments locks horns with Dhanlaxmi's dour daadi.

Clocking at nearly three hours, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani packs in abundant entertainment and hat tips to the KJo brand.

Wondering if a South Delhi type can glug a glass of lassi in the same vein as Shah Rukh Khan questioning Oxford-returned Rani's roots, on stage embarrassment salvaged by the heroics of the leading man following suit, unrequited love as recurring motif, large-scale funeral and functions, WhatsApp group Guts and what not packaged around limitless luxury.

Writers Ishita Moitra, Shashank Khaitan and Sumit Roy combine pop culture gusto with eclectic humour ranging from farcical to innuendoes to laugh out loud, including a unlikely Miss 420 reunion when Baba Sehgal's Gaadi rap, Sheeba's cheek and husband and film-maker Akashdeep Saigal as a bigot politician pop up at various intervals.

Give us these cult cameos over an overexposed roster of star kids any day.

Unlike the mandatory accents that appear and vanish at whim, Rocky's corny one-liners enjoy a constant presence.

'Overfamiliarity breeds contempt,' quotes Rani's mom.

'But why? I am double waxed,' replies Rocky.

Covered in brand logos and bling from head to toe, Ranveer Singh's glitzy clothes horse and 'garden of the galaxy' sensibilities mildly amuse both -- us and Rani.

But to hold our rapt attention while lamenting on cancel and shaming culture, another exasperated monologue close on the heels of Barbie, in a tota green sherwani is no easy feat.

The 'hunar ka koi gender nahi hota' exchange between Ranveer and an excellent Tota Roy Chowdhury is one of the most tender moments in the film.

More than the warmth in their romance, it's the heat in their fights that renders Rocky and Rani the bearing of a couple.

Alia's supremacy shines through every time she transforms into an angry young woman while her dishy styling is gorgeous to a fault.

It's fun watching the usually subdued Jaya Bachchan sportingly straining her facial muscles as Lady Scrooge. Having said that, it's a feebly written part that neither wants to explain her grouchy temper nor give her a real chance at redemption.

Except the cliches and culture appropriation of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani's opulent, exuberant voice is determined to achieve just that -- undo the adverse effects of popular imagery by speaking up on body shaming, racism, sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, toxic masculinity, bigotry, elitism and conservatism in ways that may not seem like a big deal to the enlightened ones but influence ones in need of desperate intervention.

It's the age of influencers, after all.

There are times though when the film appears to be dictated by social media, not storytelling.

As far as prem kahanis go, I am still rooting for Team Rahul and Anjali, but if we are talking subversion, Rocky and Rani's fully filmi revolution could truly be a start of 'soch nayi' if 'swad wahi.'

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahani Review Rediff Rating:

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