Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year

I call it a toothpaste ad: meant to exude some hazy brightness, where the world of commerce is neatly divided into Robin Hood businessmen and the others, Rocket Singh poses a much more important question: why did the film-maker become a film-maker? To make this?

To take an average middle-class Indian and tell his story is not a sin; neither is to package all the grim pornographic realities of life into a giggle. The former is a necessity; the latter is a style. To tell a non-story is one; to preach is a greater one. The amazing feeling of contrast that one can see this film in with Khosla ka Ghosla is an eye-opener; the latter tells a story with the joy of a story, and doesn't ponder creakily over who's right and who's wrong. It is another matter that Khosla has really the clean men winning and the bad men losing; the win and loss are not fished out from MBA books or heavy history tomes or thou shalt not guides to moral characters, but they are the part and parcel of a life, of a pretence, of a hoodwink. Rocket only manages to pull the usual trick: of preaching; where it fails even worse is that after all the preaching, the preacher himself seems a black sheep!

The start is promising: a Doordarshan-like stillness, seldom seen today, on the different things of daily use in the namesake protagonist's house, with a background score immensely hummable and looking as if it also crept up with the sun in your or mine mind; what strikes you is the clean textures, bright colors. For an opening credits sequence, this only weaves in freshness, and makes you ready for the hours to follow; however, what follows is more horrific set design! The textures continue to be clean, as if every wall in the film was painted yesterday; the clothes continue to be spotless; even the roads seem to me very freshly woken up. It's debatable whether this kind of look was even intended by the director: if intended, he surely would've tried to bring in a decay somewhere? A story purported to be on moral decay of the business world, and glowing in bright, fresh colors: is it to show the optimism that Rocket Singh shares with no one about the world, about people? For that, first of all, it is the sketchily built character of Rocket Singh which would have to be explained, if possible.

Is he an innocent, a fool, a hypocrite, a smart man, or a do-gooder? The problems of the film go beyond the malaise of a stillborn character brought to life. It does not require rocket economics to understand that if a thing costs 20 units and instead of selling it at 25, thus earning something, if you sell it at 21 then the customers are going to come; that's how any small business in this world starts and competes with the larger names. How is that supposed to be virtuous? In fact, forget 21; I might even go for selling it at 19 just to build the business to a certain level. I believe that is the most glaring of sins; when I buy mangoes from the farmer, I buy at a different price than when I buy them from the vendor, and I don't expect the price to be same, nor do I want it.

Why the cloak of virtuousness? Do protagonists have to be? Show the story! Undercutting happens a lot in real life; people even siphon off their company's funds and equipment and tomorrow are business masters, there's nothing to be ashamed of telling a story. A story is what is believable; not a Rocket giving you lectures on honesty. Beyond an excellent understated performance from Ranbir Kapoor, considering that he's considered to be hot and is not much of an actor otherwise, and another one from Naveen Kaushik (as Nitin) till he has a change of heart, the film is only remarkable for the morning mint flavors it comes with; till the intermission, it does still seem like a good jingle, but when the heavy punches of what's right and wrong start landing soon after and a self-help guide of how to run businesses, including even the tea-giving boy having his own lectures to give, the film begins to feel a farce where you are not even able to laugh.

Note: I used "even" for the tea-giving boy. Not in my mind. But the director did use him like the pawn of an "even" and yet smilingly bared his teeth to say that oh oh for him all are "equal", no evens for him. This is where films and books and songs, almost everything in the world begins to go bad; when you think a teamaker a teamaker and you don't think you can say it aloud. Hush, hush, hush! An educated world of educated fairness, hush, hush, hush!