After taking the new kid on the block to soaring heights of success with Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, the capricious fame gods brought Ranbir Kapoor crashing down to earth with Rocket Singh. On paper the ingredients were all there; Chak De India director Shimit Amin, successful screenplay writer Jaidev Sahni, the hottest ticket in town to play the lead, and an interesting story. But Bollywood is the ultimate gamble; no one can quite explain why weird movies like Wanted do well while competently made movies fail to capture the imagination of the audience.
Rocket Singh, Salesman of the Year, is a throwback to the light-hearted, low budget movies of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. Like many movies of their oeuvre, the hero is a simple-minded, optimistic, and cheerful middle-class guy with modest dreams. Barely B.Com pass Harpreet Singh Bedi (Kapoor) wants to be a salesman, since he feels this is an area where his academic shortcomings won’t matter quite as much. His outlook on life gets a serious jolt when he realizes the compromises he has to make to get ahead. After a disastrous mistake on the job, he decides to moonlight at his own venture, not realizing that for all his brilliant planning and maneuvering, he has left a backdoor open for the whole structure to come crashing down.
Rocket Singh is a pleasant movie, but with 20/20 hindsight one can see the flaws. They are minor ones: The academically challenged dude with his two wise friends…hmmm…where have we seen that before? Perhaps audiences who loved Wake Up Sid felt a sense of déjà vu and could not connect.
Also the pace of the movie feels really rushed. Too much happens in too short a timeframe; the initiation into the mysteries of salesmanship, the fall from grace, the success of Harpreet’s new endeavor (named Rocket Sales after his unappreciative colleagues at his day job throw paper rockets at him), its collapse, and even the denouement, which wraps up too quickly to be satisfying. The entire romance with Shereena (newcomer Shazahn Padamsee) is taken care of in a song. The moral superiority that we are invited to share with Harpreet as he eschews the dirty practices of his firm is undermined by the fact that he is operating out of its premises at night and poaching its employees.There is really no soundtrack to pre-sell the movie; indeed the entire feel is that of a independent film made on a small budget. No harm in that, but perhaps Ranbir Kapoor’s emerging stardom set the expectations too high.
It is a pity, because the performances are just excellent. Kapoor gets into the skin of his character, and he gets terrific support from Naveen Kaushik as Harpreet’s boss Nitin, and theater actor Manish Choudhary as the owner of the firm. Prem Chopra as Harpreet’s grandfather is unrecognizable from the memorable villains he used to play. Gauhar Khan as Koena, the receptionist whose talents are unrecognized, is fantastic. Padamsee has a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it role but she is sweet and adequate for what little the script demands of her.
I think Rocket Singh will turn out to be one of those movies that people will enjoy watching on DVD and wonder why the movie never succeeded in the theaters. And I would love to see a uncut director’s version of the movie, perhaps an hour longer than the screen version, which fully explores the story at leisure. Asking for a Bollywood movie to be longer is perhaps the highest praise you can give and Rocket Singh deserves it.
My rating : 3 stars out of 5.